Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Preservation Inlet (Fiordland)

[Kyle]It was back to my usual 4am wakeup for our next leg to Preservation Inlet. After hurting her back, Maryanne had spent the whole night wincing at the gentle motion of the boat so I decided she needed to stay in bed the whole day. I would be doing my stuff and her stuff while she convalesced.

We were lucky to be where we were. I had only the anchor to deal with, no extra lines and plenty of space to drift until I could secure everything and get back to the helm. Once out into Edwardson Sound, I was able to roll out ¼ of the jib. Shut down the engines and actually sail the length of the whole fiord on a single tack. When we got to the open ocean, the wind picked up. I was able to roll up the jib and sail along at five to six knots under bare poles alone while we made our way from Chalky Inlet to Preservation Inlet.


Departing Chalky Inlet and back to sea

It sounds easier than it was. Winds that strong make for big, scary seas and there were more than a few moments where I yelled inside my head to myself to “hold on!” I was glad Maryanne was wedged into her spot in the bed below, but I worried the motion was hurting her.


Relaxing and Recouperating at Otago’s Retreat

We had to cross several shallow patches where tide rips made the sea a confused and scary mess. The last and shallowest was the narrow gap between the South Island mainland at Point Puysegur and Coal Island. This little gap is the very end of Fiordland. There is nothing left except exposed coastline until the harbor at Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. From Fiordland, it’s about the same distance to Stewart. I was well aware that if it didn’t look good, I would have to turn tail and bash back upwind to safety, all without Maryanne’s usual assistance.

When I got lined up on the entrance, it looked choppy, but doable. The engines were running by then and the headwind was keeping Begonia down to 2 ½ knots, so I had more time than I really wanted to fret as we entered. Just as the sea was starting to calm noticeably at the shallowest point, a lone wave hit and broke over the boat. It wasn’t a big, scary one like the one in Kelefesia, Tonga, but it came out of nowhere and doused everything. I had managed to stay dry up until that point, and here we were ½ a mile from our anchorage!

We anchored at Otago’s Retreat, which is the name used for part of the area of smooth water between Coal and South islands. It had the same virtue as Lake Cove in that I could set a single anchor just about anywhere over the uniform bottom and have plenty of time and room to let it out and set it without the need to be at the helm to control the boat. When I got everything shut down, I went inside and announced to Maryanne that we were here, which of course she already knew because of the noise. I assured her she hadn’t missed much scenery other than waves and rain.

She was starting to get cabin fever down there and despite my insistence it was not necessary, she offered to move to the main cabin so I could complete my usual post-sail routine of removing the bedding and inspecting the engines to make sure no new leaks or other surprises had developed.

{Maryanne: While at anchor a passing fishing boat stopped by to check on us. They offered us more crayfish (spiny lobster) and Kyle declined.. He'd promised to cook that night and he just couln't face killing a crayfish. My softie!}

At Otago’s, we would wait for a weather window for the sail even further south to Stewart Island. We were fortunate, if you could call it that, that we had to ride out the rest of the day’s storm.

Without a functioning Torqeedo, I can only really make headway rowing the dinghy in winds less than about fifteen knots. We had way more than that and the long distance to shore meant we would surely be blown out to sea if we even tried. That took rowing and long, strenuous hikes off of the table.

Our next window for the trip to Stewart was a 48-hour period of twenty knot winds squashed between days and days of fifty knot winds either side. We would be leaving in the calm before the storm, which was also the calm after the storm. The latter had heaped up six meter seas, so we knew in advance it was going to be a rough one. Fortunately, that wasn’t happening until the day after tomorrow, so Maryanne would have more time to just sit and rest.

It would have been a nice luxury to stay At Coal Island until Maryanne was back to 100%, but the next fourteen days’ forecasts didn’t even hint at anything else approaching that would be suitable. Summers are short way down here and we needed to keep moving as best we could in order to avoid getting pinned down by increasingly frequent and violent weather. We focused on resting Maryanne as much as possible and I promised her that when we left, I would pre-do as much as possible for her so she could hopefully sit watch herself without having to do anything other than sit, watch and hold on for one watch only. If she needed to reef unexpectedly or something like that, instead of doing it herself as usual, she would wake me up and let me do it for her. Then I would come on watch and she could go back to bed until we arrive.

Her extra day’s rest helped her tremendously, though, and she was almost back to normal the morning we left, although we still stuck with the above plan.

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

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