Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Doubtful Sound (Fiordland)

[Kyle]Thompson Sound and Doubtful Sound connect with one another behind Secretary Island. It is one of only two places in Fiordland where it is possible to take an inside route between fiords without having to go out into the ocean. Our plan for the day was to take our own private boat cruise and see as much of the area as we could.

Departing Thompson towards Pendulo Reach - will the sunshine stick?

We had a miserable, rainy start, which at least was as easy as untying a couple of lines. We motored up Thompson Sound until we reached the four-way intersection with Bradshaw Sound and the seaward and landward arms of doubtful Sound at Blanket Cove. At this spot, even though the weather was still pretty gloomy, we got wonderful views of all of the low clouds clinging to the edges of Bradshaw Sound. We then headed up Doubtful Sound to Hall Arm and broke off for a tour of its length.

A peak into Bradshaw Sound with the morning light

Moving East along Doubtful Sound towards the Deep Cove Entrance
The scale is impossible to capture by photograph (but we try...)

Hall Arm is beautiful and dramatic, with steep hills and sheer cliffs rising above the water. The fiord is even narrower than Milford, so it makes the effect even more dramatic. By then, the skies had cleared and we were treated to all of the amazing scenery, complete with waterfalls fed by all of the morning’s rains.

Hall Arm

Doubtful Sound is the only other sound besides Milford that is accessible by road, so we did see a couple of tour boats as well as a few kayakers as we went along. Of those, only a handful of the kayakers accompanied us up Hall Arm, which gave it a much more private and special feel than being in the conga line at Milford.

As we were passing by, one of the tour boats that didn’t go into Hall Arm called us on the radio by name. It turned out that two of the guests on the boat were from Carpe Mare, a boat that we had met in Maupiti that we have encountered regularly since. The last time we saw them was when we were walking past the Te Papa Museum in Wellington and they spotted us from the car they were using to tour the South Island. They recognized Begonia and asked the Captain if they could use his radio. That was a bit of a small world moment.

Returning Northwards along Doubtful Sound
The marker shows the boundry of the Marine Reserve area, they are beautiful and based on traditional Maori designs

We had much better light and scenery going the other way to our stop for the night at Blanket Cove. Blanket Cove is supposed to be one of those anchorages that needs lines run ashore. When we got there, we found three mooring balls along with pre-led stern lines to pick up.

At the little island there is a place called the Fisherman’s Hotel. It is not and has never been a hotel, but is instead a kind of general depot for the local commercial fishing community. A sign on the window says it’s a cafĂ©, but I think that’s supposed to be some kind of tongue-in-cheek fisherman’s humor. The local lobsterman drop off their catches there and it is then whisked away by a helicopter from a helipad barely wider than the skids. The helicopter also brings in fuel and provisions and can take crews on or off.

Arriving in Blanket Bay - Fishermen transfer their catch of Crayfish (spiny lobster) via Helicopter (br>ensuring they are fresh to market (bound for China for the New Year festivities)

Blanket Bay 'Hotel' and 'Cafe'

A boat was unloading at the dock, so we came alongside to ask about the moorings. They were super friendly and helpful (despite being busy at work) "We’re takin’ that one. You can have either one of the other two." was the response. They also pre-warned us they’d be making some noise in the morning as they had to go out at dark to be ready with the next catch in time for first light when the helicopter returned.

Again, we were pleased our guide was out of date and the mooring situation was easier than expected. That gave us enough time for a hike, which was really about 50% tumbling, to the nearby waterfall. We also took the dinghy for a lap around the little island before returning to the comfort and safety of Begonia’s cabin.

Enjoying Blanket Bay

Fellow cruisers? If you are thinking of a trip to Fiordland - see our Tips

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