s/y Nine of Cups
Nelson & South Island, New Zealand
March  2010
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The movie, Lord of the Rings, was filmed in
the craggy mountains of the South Island known
as the Remarkables.
Nelson Marina - 41S15.68 / 173E16.89
We pass the beautiful Nelson Lighthouse which
stands on a  natural boulder bank as we head
towards the well-protected Nelson marina via a
circuitous, but well-marked channel.
We arrived in Nelson early on a gorgeous
afternoon. We found to our delight, this was
one of many, many beautiful days in Nelson.
The Nelson Marina was crowded, but luckily
our friends from Manaroa III were hauled
out and let us use their berth.
The tides are significant here...up to 4.5M...
leaving several boats in the mud at low tide.
The overnight trip from New Plymouth to
Nelson across the Cook Strait was
boisterous, but uneventful. We saw 30 knots
of wind coming across and when we
mentioned this to a local, they laughed and
said "just like a mill pond". We had met the
Holmes family on
Manaroa III in Puerto
Montt, Chile and saw them several times
across the Pacific. Nelson is home for them
and we were pleased to be able to see them
again. We could not have had more generous
hosts. They provided us with their berth, a
car, veggies from their garden, meals, lots of
local information and hospitality that was
unsurpassed. Needless to say, we loved
The city is small and easy to get around. There
are several parks like the Queens Gardens
above and lots of walkways and paths.
We strolled through the picturesque Queens
Gardens and watched mallards, gray teals and
paradise shelducks swim lazily through the
horseshoe-shaped lagoon.
Trafalgar Street, the city's pleasant main
street, is lined with shops and cafes.
Christ Church Cathedral dominates the
south end of the street.
Peter Glocker, a US friend we hadn't seen in
over a decade, stopped by to visit us on his
way from Singapore to Sydney (it was on the
way??). We had a perfect excuse to explore
instead of doing boat chores. With the loan
of a car  from Pat & Clare, we drove as far
west and north as we could one day along
the coast towards Cape Farewell Spit,
stopping at every opportunity to enjoy the
view and the walkways. There is no
accessible public road all the way to the end
of the spit, so we "settled for" beautiful
Wharariki Beach on the Tasman Sea.
Wharariki Beach offered a fun hike, sand
dunes and fantastic views of the Tasman Sea.
Fur seals aka kekeno or sea bears were
hunted to near extinction until NZ gave them
full protection in 1894.
A New Zealand fur seal colony provided  
some fine entertainment. Above,  a tiny,
scruffy seal pup takes a nap in an unusual
spot, but when you're tired, you're tired.
The flatland expanses of Golden Bay at low tide
were a mecca for black swans and gray teals.
A carved tiki arch marks the entrance to one
of many walkways in Kahurangi NP.  The
signs throughout explained the "resurgence
of the Riwaka", an underground river.
We headed east on our second day of
touring and stopped for coffee in
Havelock to enjoy the marina views.
The sign says it all!
The road was up, up, up then down, down,
down around countless switchbacks. The
views were stupendous.
Timber piled high at Shakespeare Bay waiting
for transport.
We drove along the Queen Charlotte Drive for
panoramic views of the Marlborough &  
Queen Charlotte Sounds.
A view of Picton Bay as we descended
from the heights of Queen Charlotte Drive.
Downtown Picton was scenic and afforded us
a chance for a walk around and some lunch.
We took a sidetrip into the Sound to Te Mahia
just for the views, but found that the mussels
were plentiful and harvested enough for dinner.
That ain't all.... Come with us for more exploration
Marlborough Sounds and the South Island.
Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park - 40S57.24 / 173E03.48
All too soon, it was time to leave Nelson if we were to see any more of the
South Island. The original plan was to visit Fjordland on the South Island's
west coast, but our visit to Picton via the Queen Charlotte Drive made us
reconsider missing Marlborough & Queen Charlotte Sounds. So....once again,
a change in plans and we headed first to Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman
National Park.    
After a calm night at anchor, we headed to shore for a walk. The campsite
ashore, called "The Anchorage", offered a lovely beach to land the dink and a
well-illustrated map of the area walks. We chose the Pitt Head Track which
afforded a lookout over the bay. The track wound its way up through dense,
sweet-smelling forest and tunnels of thick ferns including silver fern. Bird songs,
seemingly hundreds of them, entertained us with melodic trilling as we climbed
up towards the high point for promised Tasman Bay views.
We managed to leave Nelson without taking any
photos of Pat & Clare Holmes, good friends
and the SSCA Cruising Station Hosts in Nelson
and for this, we apologize. Anita, Kathryn, Clare
& Pat Holmes at Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands
NOT in Nelson. Poor Michael was at university.
A tiny glimpse of "Cups" in the background as
we pass a dried riverbed at low tide in Torrent
Bay. The tides were significant at 3-4+M.
A panoramic view of Torrent Bay from
Pitt Head Lookout.
Silver fern, one of many native ferns in the
area, is a national symbol of New Zealand.
D'Urville Island - Greville Harbour, Mill Arm - 40S50.60 / 173S50.31
Above, a river scene in the Kahurangi National Park. The
area was mountainous as we made our way up, up, up and  
then back to the coast at Takaka along the boundaries of
the Abel Tasman Park heading for Cape Farewell.
Abel Tasman (1603-1659), a Dutch navigator was employed by the Dutch East India Company
to explore the South Pacific. In 1642, he sailed southeast from Batavia, Java (now Jakarta,
Indonesia) and became the first European to reach the island now called Tasmania and to sight
New Zealand. On the same voyage, Tasman explored the Tonga and Fiji island groups and
sailed completely around Australia without sighting it! Thus, the question of whether Australia or
New Zealand were parts of a great southern continent remained unanswered until the voyages of
Captain James Cook
Abel Tasman is New Zealand's
smallest national park.
New Zealand Birds
North Island
The Marlborough Sounds are described by geologists as
"drowned valleys", formed millions of years ago by the
mountains sinking and allowing the ocean to flood into the low
lying areas. A maze of deep coves and secluded bays, these
fjords are fringed by native forest. The Sounds encompass 1/6
of New Zealand's total coastline and are comprised of  four
main waterways: Queen Charlotte Sound, Pelorus Sound,
Kenepuru Sound and Mahau Sound.

The Maori have a different variation on the creation of the
Sounds. Legend tells of Kupe's struggle with a giant octopus,
and how he grabbed onto the South Island for support,
carving out waterways and inlets with his fingers.
We departed the Torrent Bay anchorage
early morning with nary a cloud in the sky
nor a ripple on the water, heading east
across the Tasman Bay to D'Urville
Island.  By mid-morning, the wind had
freshened from the north and we were
sailing on lumpy seas at 6 kts making good
progress towards our destination.
Approaching Greville Harbour (on D'Urville
Island)....the entrance was not as daunting as the
guide book had warned.
Tiny Araiaka Island stands sentry at the
entrance to Greville Harbour.
The passing of the natural boulder bank which
separates the outer from the inner harbour,
however, did get the adrenaline flowing a bit.
We approached just after low tide. With a
push from the incoming tide and lots of the
boulder bank exposed,  we hugged the port
marker and saw least depths of 11' and had no
difficulties. Interestingly enough, the local
guidebook mentions this natural boulder bank
in great detail, but neither the chart plotter
(Navionics software) nor C-Map showed its
existence. Thank goodness for local
After the boulder bank, a rather tortuous route
led us to our final anchorage in the Mill Arm.
Except for the NZ courtesy flag, we could easily
have been anchored in the Patagonian canals
once again. Above,
Cups in the morning mist.
Pied shags were our only neighbors at
the Mill Arm anchorage.
The Marlborough Sounds and French Pass
French Pass or Te Aumiti, a narrow pass between the mainland South Island
and D'Urville Island, leads into the heart of the Marlborough Sounds and avoids
going over the top of D'Urville around Stephens Island. Its passage known for
its eddies, >8 kt current and a big whirlpool named Jacob's Pool, can be tricky.
We followed the advice of the
New Zealand Nautical Almanac in order to
negotiate the pass as safely and easily as possible. Timing was crucial since we
also needed to consider the passing of the boulder bank once again when
leaving our anchorage and exiting Greville Harbour. French Pass certainly lived
up to expectation and its reputation. We approached just before slack water
with light winds and the current in our favor. Approaching the narrows from the
Current Basin, there was no problem. As we neared the narrows, however, the
water on the other side of the markers looked alive. It  was roiling and boiling
with huge eddies and whirlpools everywhere...a sheer tumult. "Cups" rocked
and rolled her way through the mess, but we couldn't help think what it would
be like to transit this pass with winds, waves and/or current against us.
The water was like a mirror until we hit the middle of the
narrows, then it started roiling and swirling...eddies and
whirlpools everywhere. During our transit from D'Urville
to Homestead Bay, we saw NZ fur seals, dolphins,
gannets and the most blue penguins we've ever seen.
Homestead Bay, Port Ligar/Pelorus Sound - 40S55.69 / 173E57.75
We entered Pelorus Sound and exited
from the Sound into Port Ligar. Mussel
pens lined both sides of the wide bay
entrance.  Homestead Anchorage is
just a mile or so from tiny Port Ligar. The
anchorage is quite deep, 50+ feet close to
shore, however there was a mooring
available which we gladly picked up. We
dinghied over to close by Waterfall Bay
and climbed the steep gravel road to top
for a great view of Homestead Bay below
and Cups content on her mooring.
We stopped at
the Waterfall Bay
Lodge and visited
with their friendly
hosts. We got a
kick out of  their
"break glass"
There was lots of active birdlife here. We saw
shags, gannets, shearwaters, gulls terns and
shelducks (above) in the bays and bellbirds,
lapwings and our first weka ashore. To view
more of the
birds we've seen in New
Zealand, click here.
The weka is an odd-looking flightless bird
about the size of a chicken with long
reddish-brown tail feathers which he
spread like a peacock for me when he
posed for his photos.
The bay is also full of stingrays...huge ones that
evidently come here to seek refuge from the orca
whales in the Sounds that seem to find them tasty
treats. Glen , the fellow from the lodge, said many
a stingray is without a tail here, having been just a
bit quicker than the orca chasing it, but not quite
quick enough.
We tramped 4km up a steep gravel road for spectacular views of the Sounds' bays and inlets below.
Pukekos congregated on the shore nearby.
Marlborough Sounds & South