Monday, February 18, 2019

Edwardson Sound (Fiordland)

[Kyle]Our getaway from Astronomer’s Cove was easier than our arrival. We untied one end of each stern loop and pulled the other end home around the tree. Done! The only tough part was pulling in a lot of line in a real hurry. Without the lines, Begonia had a tendency to head for one riverbank or the other. Also, the current was flowing forward, so as soon as the loose line hit the water, it wanted to stream forward past the boat. Our propellers were both turning in reverse to keep some tension on the anchor rode during the procedure and we were both very aware that fouling a prop with a stern line would mean disaster.

Once the anchor was retrieved, we left the relative protection of Pickersgill harbor and pulled into Dusky Sound. There, the flat seas and light winds turned into their more usual three meter chop with gale force gusts.

Our wind was supposed to be flowing south down the coast, but the inlet, like all of them, bent the winds toward the path of least resistance, which in our case was very close-hauled. The wind and seas were too strong to make any headway against under power. Our only choice was to bear off and raise sail to keep the boat moving forward through the water. This blew us closer to the leeward headland than I liked. I knew tacking would send us pretty much back the way we came, so I had a tense hour pinching as far upwind as I dared and trying to take advantage of every tiny wind shift so that we would keep moving forward and away from the rocks.

When I finally left them astern, it was a huge relief to turn downwind and let out the sails. The ride smoothed out, our speed tripled and there was nothing in front of us to hit for miles.

Then the heavy rains started and didn’t let up for the rest of the day. When we entered Edwardson Sound at Chalky Inlet, our nice tailwind ride down the coast turned into an upwind, up-current bash to our eventual anchorage at Lake Cove, way up at the head of Edwardson Sound. Lake Cove is reached by taking a couple of sharp turns from the arrow-straight Edwardson, which effectively subdued all of the chop had been fighting.

Lake Cove had the benefit of not only being very picturesque, but it was also a big, wide basin, which meant we could set our anchor in the middle and swing with the wind instead of having to run stern lines, etc. The two bends at the outlet eliminated the view to the sea, so it looked and felt like we were anchored in the middle of a big, tree-lined mountain lake, hence the name, I guess.

The rain kept us indoors for the evening, which was just as well, because I was getting a little worn down from getting up at 4:00am to download the day’s updated forecasts in time to be ready to depart at first light. I had us leaving early because the distances were long and we needed daylight to implement Plan B or even Plan C if Plan A didn’t work. The weather pattern was dictating that we keep moving, so once we arrived anywhere, we would have to cram all of our exploring into the same afternoon rather than making an easy day of it the next day. When I had a last check of the weather, I was actually relieved to declare that it would be a bad idea for us to go anywhere for 2 ½ more days.

We went to bed early and I was shocked when I looked at my watch the next morning. I was expecting it to read 08:00, but it said 12:30! It was still raining, so we felt no rush to go out and see anything just yet and took our time actually surfacing. I was still feeling especially listless, so after hoisting my mug of “morning” coffee to my face several times, I was ready for a nap. I held out a few more hours until an early dinner, but then it was all I could do to keep my eyes open, so it was back to bed for another 12 hours.

Aaahhh! That’s better! My sleep deficit was finally all restocked. The rain had stopped for the moment and we could even occasionally see a little patch of blue sky. It was time to get the dinghy down and do some ‘slporin’.

Exploring ashore and around

We started with the usual dinghy tour around the basin, including trips up both of the rivers feeding our part of the fiord. The second one, Cadman Creek, required several minutes of maximum effort rowing to overcome the fast current and get to a spot just downstream of the base of the falls, where we could land.

Our goal was to find a rumored trail up to the lake. There seemed to be nothing that even resembled a trail from our vantage point, but we decided I would scramble up the slope and have a look anyway.

The initial slope was one of those crazy climbs where all of the hand and footholds were really toe and finger holds. They were all slippery. I could feel each foot slowly sliding and each fern or branch I was holding was slowly losing grip of its roots. Below me was a fifty-degree slide and then rocks and then the rushing river. My strategy was to move onto the next step before the last one gave way. From a climber’s standpoint, this wet part of New Zealand has two kinds of trees. The first and best is the ridiculously hard hardwoods. I can’t say how many times I have been surprised to grab onto some spindly little one-inch branch to find it has about as much give as if it were made of steel. The second type is the rotten deadwood. These can be large and apparently stout tree trunks that are held together as if they were made of ash. During one stumble, I swiped a hand out to grab a four-inch tree and the middle came out without hardly slowing down my swing. The top of the tree just hovered in the air for a second like in a cartoon and then collapsed like a Vegas casino being demolished.

After a lot of crawling through a lot of undergrowth (why didn’t I bring the machete?), I found something that looked like it might have been some kind of a trail once. I Made my way back to the cliffs above Maryanne and reported my findings. To my surprise, she wanted to join me.

We carry two painters for the Pudgy for redundancy. One is the short regular one and one is comically long for those occasions when the thing we need to tie it to is far away. Running a long line is easier than carrying the dinghy to within reach of the short one. In this case, the long one was long enough that I was able to run it above the scary part of the climb to a good, strong hardwood tree for use as a fixed climbing line. I had to do the trip twice to set the line, but it was long enough to retrieve from down at the dinghy. Once that was done, the scariest part of the climb became much safer.

After we were both ashore, we re-acquired the trail and headed out. It was rarely used and it was often hard to know for sure we were still on it. It was good to have two sets of eyes looking for trail clues.

As we were climbing, we couldn’t help but notice that the trail didn’t seem to bother with time-wasting switchbacks. It was straight up the steep slope and then straight down.

After much longer than we would have expected considering the short distances that were involved, we finally emerged at the lake at the top of the falls. Wow! There was A LOT of water going over those falls. That lake must’ve been a little full from the rains. It was impressive to sit there and watch the fast moving water plunge off of the drop. The grueling walk had been worth it after all, but it also seemed like a perfect example of where not to fall.

We went a little further and found a calm patch of the lakeshore, where the trail finally seemed to come to an end. As Maryanne was traversing a large log, she twisted a little too much the wrong way and wrenched her back. I don’t think the event caused too much strain in itself, but when added to the injury she got from falling at Alice Falls, she was suddenly in a lot of pain. It seemed to be like the same kind of thing I get every now and then when I can’t even stand up straight.

It couldn’t have happened in a worse part of the walk. There was a lot of tricky up and down to get back to the dinghy and she was looking pretty sore. I definitely couldn’t carry her, what with my back and all, which was fine at the moment, provided I didn’t do anything stupid, so we decided it take it as slowly and easily as we could. Eventually, we worked out that the best thing to do was for me to stand downhill of her, whichever direction we were going, and act as the Human Walker. She could put her weight on me to save her back whenever there wasn’t a tree convenient.

We eventually made it back to the dinghy and even got her back down the slope, using the fixed line to abseil down. The dinghy ride down the river was a water park ride – let go and let the scenery whiz by. Soon, we were back aboard Begonia. We got Maryanne’s muddy outer layers off and got her propped up on the settee. Her new favorite word was “Ah”, usually said in threes, “Ah, ah, AH!” That ain’t good.

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

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