Sunday, March 24, 2019

Cook Strait and Tory Channel

[Kyle]We had two problems with regard to the Cook Strait. The first was that there was a big storm coming which was only going to get worse by the hour. The other was the current at the entrance to the Tory Channel. Going into the Tory would get us into Queen Charlotte Sound in half the time to going the other, long way around. A LOT of water goes through the narrow entrance there as well as lots of big ferries. The current either way flows at six to eight knots, so we had to go in on the flood, preferably when it was mild and not too swirly. Since it’s dark half of the time, that gave us only one shot to get in before the storm hit.


We found our way out of Port Underwood in the dark the same way we found our way in in the fog – radar. We also had a nice, big moon and clear skies.

The Cook was pretty bad. The current was with us, which was good. The wind wasn’t, which was bad. The wind was going against the current, which was also bad, because it made the waves short and steep. Tacking into twenty-five knot winds going against a three knot current – bad, bad, bad.

It’s times like these that I’m truly thankful for what a well-engineered boat the Athena 38 is. I appreciate that somebody sitting in front of a drafting table on the opposite side of the world many years ago gave some thought to what could happen if an Athena ever left the comfort of a nice dock in a quiet harbor and went into the ocean – the real ocean, not just the bit a mile from Biarritz. I’m not so sure that’s done so much anymore with the heavy market demand for floating condos.

Our ride wasn’t exactly comfortable, but we were safe and Begonia was able to keep enough speed to ride upwind over the waves even with only storm canvas set. We did the leg to the Tory entrance in only two tacks, which took us most of the way to the North Island before we changed course and came back. We made it to within 2 ½ miles of the track we left leaving Wellington exactly two months before, so we have yet to close the circle on our South Island circumnavigation.

We got to the Tory entrance fifteen minutes before slack water changed to the outgoing ebb. We were just able to get through the pinch point into the bigger sound before we encountered a mild adverse current, which eventually peaked just under two knots.


We pulled out of the main channel and made our way to the tiny protected Tawa Bay, a small finger within Onepua Bay which apparently means “Stinking Wind” in Mauri. It was windy outside, but it passed right over us. Our little cove was flat water, trees and birdsong. I particularly enjoyed the evening sing-off between the Tuis and the Bell Birds over who makes the forest sound prettier. It sounded like a laser battle between R2-D2 and a pinball machine.

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