Saturday, February 23, 2019

Passage to Stewart Island – Port Pegasus

[Kyle]Our sail to Stewart Island from Otago’s Retreat went pretty much as expected. Maryanne’s back was much better and we had enough wind to sail fast with way less canvas than we needed. That meant she was fine to conduct her night watch normally. She had no need to adjust the sails. She even deviated from the strict “Don’t do anything unnecessary” policy to make me a nice cup of coffee to start me through my night watch.

Departing Preservation Inlet - farewell to Fiordland

I had it mostly easy until we got in the lee of the island and the wind shifted, Then I had to tack for a few hours until daylight. Maryanne slept through most of it, but was awakened by the noise of the last one. She knew it was supposed to be pretty dark when her day watch started, but it was clearly later than that. I was tired, but I had promised her she only had to do one watch, so I let her keep sleeping. I was too excited about our impending arrival to sleep anyway.

Our sail had started with five to six-meter seas. They gradually decreased to three to four by the time we rounded the southwest corner of Stewart Island. We would consider that a lot in the tropics, but here, we’ve come to think of it as mild. Still, we were pretty sick of it when we arrived. It was a great relief to go through South Passage into the flat calm of Port Pegasus.

Port Pegasus is beautiful! The wide bay is dotted with rocky islets and rimmed with tiny, picturesque little coves. Surrounding the whole thing are high, tree-covered mountains whose tops have been scoured away to bare rock by erosion. As we threaded our way to our intended anchorage, fur seals and Yellow-Eye penguins played around our boat. The place looks primeval, looking as if humans had not yet arrived.

Passing Solander Islands and on towards Stewart Island

Except that they had. A few hours earlier, we picked up an AIS target tucked way up in the farthest reaches. I had assumed it would be some dirty fisherman in his dirty fishing boat, hiding from the upcoming storm. Instead, it turned out to be a sailing yacht. It was the first one of those we have seen in weeks!

We pulled alongside to say, “Ahoy!”, but there was no answer. Civilization, such that it is, is WAY on the other side of the island, so we doubted the boat was being stored there. We scanned the shore and could see no signs of a tender. We moved off and set anchor.

Then an aluminum boat powered by a small outboard appeared from behind the corner of a small cove and started toward us. They were Kay and Gary. They and their boat Hornpipe were from “Up North”. That had originally meant Auckland, but they were both retired now, so they were taking it slower than we are. They had already been in Port Pegasus for three weeks.

Maryanne kindly told them I needed some sleep, but we all agreed to have them over later to hear the whole story.

Gary had been an accountant in Canada. He took time off to sail to New Zealand. Once he got there, he met Kay and decided to change his plans. He was fortunate to be in a profession considered desirable by Immigration, so he was able to apply for residency status. He got a job that got him some New Zealand experience. With that, he was able to obtain citizenship. He retired last year and they went sailing. Their boat is their only home.

Their journey seems like it has been a bit harder than ours, although they still seem optimistic. They sailed the same leg we did to Milford from Tasman, but their trip took seven days to our four. Most of the time, they were going backwards hove-to in gales. By the time they had endured that and other such delays, including one waiting in Milford for a month for a part, their “Clean Vessel” permit for the area expired. They were unlucky enough to get boarded by the authorities (we never saw anyone) and were told to go directly to Bluff, Do not stop at GO! They got everything sorted out there and made it to Port Pegasus, only to be pinned down by the weather until we finally arrived to brighten their day. They said we were the first people they have seen since they got there. AND, they don’t have heat! Ouch!

{Maryanne: It was lovely to meet some people spend time chatting, but I really shot myself in the foot with that invite. This was to be the ONLY nice weather we'd get in Port Pegasus, and I should have spent that time exploring ashore. But Kyle needed a nap after sailing much or the night, and then we had guests. Next time!}

That said, I kinda envied them. I think I would rather like to spend three weeks or even more in Port Pegasus. It is incredibly beautiful and wild and serene and remote and, best of all, NO SANDFLIES!! I LOVED being able to stand on deck in the freezing wind and take it all in. What a place!

Entering Port Pegasus - Plenty of bird life and some amazing geology

Unfortunately, I knew a little too much about the weather and, as such, knew we would have to be moseying on soon. We made tentative plans to meet up the next day, but the wind was WAY too crazy to think about going out in either of our tenders. We had to settle for a “How’s it over there for you?” chat on the radio. It was such a shame, because the place looked like the perfect place to spend a day in a kayak. Unlike Fiordland, I wouldn’t rule out Stewart Island for a return visit, so maybe someday, we’ll be back.

As we were inside marveling at the strength of the gusts, a third boat came in and anchored next to us. It was Polaris II and on the side, it said “University of Otago”.

Hmmm… Maryanne called them up to say “hi”. The Captain answered and after a bit of chit-chat said that they were doing survey work. Maryanne’s eyes lit up! Their work was using very similar technology to what she had done while studying Marine Biology at the University of St. Andrews.

{Maryanne: Alert - what follows is only understandable if you know Kyle has a 'sense of humour' of a special sort}.

She started in with the questions. The Captain realized he was in over his head and handed the radio to the Professor in charge of the operation. They then had a long technical discussion about how they were using a Quad-Beam Multi-Phase Ensonarator Array that maps the bottom using elliptically polarized David-Schwimmer waves. They then went on to talk about how mud gooification ratios effect p-values in silt studies. The gist of it seemed to have to do with Stewart Island’s special position at the Southern bad weather/really bad weather interface. They were studying long-term north/south movements of the zone to see how it is being impacted by XXXXXX XXXXXXX. <-REDACTED!

Huh‽ Okay. …impacted by XXXXXXX XXXXXX. <-REDACTED!

Alright, Let’s try this: …impacted by the upcoming warmey time of which we must not speak. HA! Your search engines didn’t catch that one, did they? Stupid XXXXXXXXXXX <-REDACTED!


One sunny afternoon in Port Pegasus. Visit from a Fur Seal (who seemed to like scratching on the anchor chain) and research vessel

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