Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Whaler’s Base – Paterson Inlet (Stewart Island)

[Kyle]After our adventure in Adventure, we sailed the short distance up Stewart Island’s east coast to Paterson Inlet, near the main (and only) town of Oban.

It was a bit on the cool side, but other than that, we had a very pleasant sail the whole way, threading our way among the islands in between. When we got to Paterson, we skipped the anchorage near the town and headed for Whaler’s Base. Another big blow was on its way and it offered better protection than Golden Bay, by Oban.

We find a flock of Royal Spoonbills roosting nearby

The wind was already increasing when we arrived, but it was still mild enough that we decided to venture out and do some sightseeing before it arrived in earnest.

We landed on the beach near the remains of the old whaling station. It had a few foundations, a slipway, an old boiler and several big propellers which had been swapped out when they were damaged by Antarctic ice.

A well marked and well tended path ran up into the woods. We joined it and had a nice walk through the forest to a beach on the other side. It had a raised walkway to an island, the far end of which had a pier for offloading day trippers. They then follow the trail to the base on our end.

Enjoying a trip ashore (The bird is the New Zealand Tui - very common and with lovely vocalizations

On the beach, we found several very fresh deer prints, but never saw an actual animal. There was a shelter there, where tour groups ostensibly meet, that had a big tree swing out front. Well, I had to give that a go!

On the return walk, we took our time enjoying all of the little sights and sounds of the forest. There were lots of Tuis around. I just can’t get enough of them. They are all of the noises of the forest in one bird! I have no idea how they manage to make multiple noises at once. They each sound like three R2-D2s having a heated discussion.

While we were having fun trying to spot the source of the Tui noises, we passed through a grove of trees that was home to dozens of little Fantails all flitting about. They are wonderfully animated and gregarious little birds. We decided to sit for a while and were soon surrounded by lots of chattering showoffs vying for our attention. They zip around like hummingbirds, without any of the helpful hovering, which makes them really hard to photograph! They seem to delight in frustrating us and making us chase them around.

The wind still wasn’t too bad, so when we got back to the beach, we did a little tour of the rocky bay in the dinghy, inspecting its geology. At the end, as we curved toward Begonia, Maryanne got a closer look at some of the white specks on tiny Blue Gum Island. We thought they were either cormorants or gulls, but they turned out to be a flock of eighteen spoonbills. We later found out they are pretty rare, so we felt lucky to have seen them.

We made it back home just in time for the weather to start. It rained and blew like crazy for two days afterwards. On the first of them, the second leg of the Shorthanded Round New Zealand Race was racing into Oban for a scheduled stop. Our friend Dave, from Parera was out in it, co-skippering on Arbitaire with its owner, Murray. Dave’s favorite son, Ken was skippering one of the other boats as well. We followed the race’s tracking page as they made the miserable trip across the Foveax Strait toward the first port they had seen since setting off counter-clockwise from Opua, way up north. The reports sounded pretty bad. One skipper had reached seventeen knots boat speed in a forty-seven knot gust. Sustained winds out there were in the mid thirties. It was looking like it was going to be a neck and neck race between Arbitaire and the terminator – Earth’s day/night line. We were on the edge of our seats, refreshing the tracking page and watching them inch closer and closer. It was a great relief that we finally saw they had arrived safely in the last hint of daylight. Well Done Dave, Murray, Ken and everybody else who was out there in it!

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