| We passed the white cliffs of Chalky Inlet and easily figured out how it
got its name. The chart marks the area with seabird, seal and penguin
icons. Though we saw no penguins or seals, we were amazed at the
number of birds...rafts and rafts of them. Dozens of albatross circling
above, gulls, terns, petrels and shearwaters. We gave Balleny Reef a wide
berth and headed into Preservation Inlet.
Preservation Inlet is the southernmost of the fiords and is about 20 miles
in length. It was named Preservation Harbour by Captain Eber Bunker on
his 1809 map of the area, but the locals just call it "Pressy".
|s/y Nine of Cups
Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua)
January - February 2011
|After one overnight stop to repair the alternator, two days of no wind,
two days of light winds in the wrong direction and heaving-to for 15
hours to ride out a gale, we managed to arrive in Milford Sound,
Fiordland , 785 nm from Whangaroa in less than record time of one
week. But...here we are, happy to be here and no worse for the wear.
Maori legend has it that the demi-god, Tu-te-raki-whanoa, with the
aid of his magical adze, Te Hamo, began in the south and sculpted the
rugged coastline. When he reached Milford Sound, he had perfected
his art. Hine-nui-te-po, goddess of the underworld, admired his work,
but was concerned that it was so beautiful, everyone would want to
stay and never leave. So, in her wisdom, she let loose the sandfly
which insured humans wouldn't linger too long.
Note that fiords are created by massive glacial activity through the
millennia and sounds are actually river valleys flooded as the land
sinks below sea level. Though the early Europeans named them
Sounds, in actuality, all of the rugged inlets are glacially carved fiords.
Several of the glaciers still exist, but unlike Patagonia and Tierra
Fuego, none wend their way down to the sea. New Zealand opted to
maintain the misnamed "Sounds", but renamed the area Fiordland.In
1986, the UN recognised the beauty and unique nature of this nearly
untouched wilderness and named it a World Heritage Site.
The red line on the Fiordland map shows our route. Check below for
another map for the far south fiords. Our cruising guide for the area
was "A Boatie's Guide to Fiordland" by the Mana Cruising Club.
|Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) Deep Water Basin - 44S40.61/167E55.14
|Annual rainfall in the Milford Sound
averages 5.5m / 18'. They've
experienced rainfalls of 24" in a 24
hour period. Hence the reason for so
many waterfalls, rivers and rivulets.
|Captain Cook and crew were the first
Europeans to explore the area and spent five
weeks in Dusky Sound in 1773. He named it
dusky because he arrived just before dark and
couldn't make the entrance. Dusky is the
longest fiord in Fiordland at 24 miles in length.
|Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) is the most
visited fiord because it is the only one with
direct road access AND because it is the
culmination of the world-famous walk, the
Milford Track. As we wended our way
through the circuitous inlet, surrounded by
high granite cliffs, we saw boats of every
size, shape and description filled with
tourists, fishermen and lobstermen. There
were dive boats; there were kayakers;
there were planes and helicopters. For
some odd reason, when we sail in, we just
never think of ourselves as tourists, but
we'll be mingling with them all in no time.
|After a night of gale-force winds, the
sunrise brought an exquisite view of the
snow-covered peaks that lined the coast.
|As we neared the entrance to the Milford
Sound, fishing boats began to appear.
|Though we had charts and the way in is fairly
straightforward, we could have really just
followed the other boats. It's a busy place!
|The dirt road to Deep Water Basin was lined
with wildflowers like the foxglove above.
|A graceful albatross swoops close to
the boat to check out our fishing lure.
|Stirling Falls, one of the multitude of
waterfalls spilling over the granite
cliffs of Milford Sound. The depth
close-to allowed us to venture very
near the falls and I could feel the mist
on my face as we passed by.
|New Zealand fur seals sun themselves on a
rock as we pass.
|The Fiordland Lobster Company allowed us to
tie up in an unoccupied lobsterman's berth.
Unfortunately, though they thought there was
plenty of water, in actuality, we were in the
mud by low tide with a definite list to starboard.
|We were offered a mooring the next morning
and took advantage of it. No sandflies here
and plenty of water!
|One of the positives of tying up next to a friendly lobsterman was two lobsters for the pot!
|Other than tourism, lobstering and fishing
are the major industries in Fiordland.
Colorful fishing floats and lobster traps
were stacked high in the yard. Fishermen
and lobstermen work on a government
issued quota to prevent overfishing.
|We photographed this
Milford Sound map off
a DOC sign. We were
moored in Deep Water
Basin near the "X". We
walked the dirt road to
to the Milford Road (Rt
94) and walked the
2km to "town".
Actually, there is no
"town" as such, just a
few services/ amenities
to cater to hikers and
those wishing to take a
tour of the Sound.
There are two hotels, a
cafe which becomes a
pub after 4PM, the boat
terminal and a small
|The Blue Duck Cafe was expensive, but the
flat whites were pretty good.
|The boat terminal with queues of folks waiting
to get aboard for a tour of Milford Sound.
|We took the short, but pleasant Foreshore
Walk in the drizzle.
|My favorite photo with the iconic Mitre
Peak left background and palm trees (??) in
the foreground. Who would have thunk it?
|View of Mitre Peak from the Milford
Overlook in drizzle...the peak so-named
because it resembled a bishop's hat.
|Kayakers came in droves to the base at
Deep Water Basin.
|Big tufts of feathery pampas grass
|Time to leave...waving goodbye!
|George Sound (Te Hou Hou) - Alice Falls - 44S58.91 / 167E26.44 - 75'
|We left Milford Sound, passed by Poison
Bay, Sutherland Sound and Bligh Sound and
headed into George Sound for the evening.
|We took advantage of the fair, settled
weather and just dropped the hook in the
deep bay...about 65'. Less sandflies!
To the right, Alice Falls was looking a bit
sparse after nearly a week without rain.
|We couldn't identify this shrub/
bush which lined the shores and
displayed very showy, white, daisy-like flowers.
Anybody got any ideas?
|Mussels...available for the taking
|An anchorage like a mill pond
|In 1908, 18 wapiti (elk) were set free in
the forests of George Sound, a gift in
part from Teddy Roosevelt.
|Thompson Sound (Te Moenu) - Neck Cove - 45S11.36 / 166E58.63 - 32'
Bradshaw Sound (Kai Kiekie) - Precipice Cove - 45S15.78 / 167E08.47 - 40'
|The13 nm trip from Neck Cove in Thompson
Sound to Precipice Cove in Bradshaw Sound
was peaceful and scenic ... except for the part
where the engine died. Densely forested
slopes have replaced granite cliffs.
|After a 35-nm trip from George Sound with
35-knot unforecast winds from the South, we
gratefully dropped the anchor in Neck Cove,
Thompson Sound where there was no wind,
no waves and lots of sandflies.
|Expecting a 35-kt NE blow, we hunkered
down in Precipice Cove. David tied a stern
line to shore as a precaution.
|Thompson is one of four fiords that
connects from the sea with others fiords, in
this case Bradshaw and Doubtful Sounds.
|What Broke Today?
It's a game (?) we play, keeping track of
repairs under way. Here's the current list...
trip. Some things are inevitable!
|Though several explorers visited the west
coast of New Zealand's South Island, no
organized charting of the area took place until
1851. The HMS Acheron, a paddle- wheeler
steamship, undertook a systematic coastal
survey of Fiordland and its "sounds" which
was used well into the 20th century.
|After several days of bright sunshine and
clear skies, the rain was bound to come
and boy, did it ever pour. We stayed in
Precipice Cove for three days awaiting a
weather window to head out.
|Retrieving the warp required cleaning the
debris and sea grass off of it which took quite
awhile...like cleaning hair from a fine-bristled
brush. Then a scamper ashore over slippery
rocks to untie the line from around a tree.
|We bailed the dink intermittently as it was
constantly full of rain water. Bailing while it
was raining never quite made sense, but we
did it anyway. Finally a short-term clear
window and we prepared to move on.
|While waiting in Precipice, David decided to
repair the original alternator which he did and
then reinstalled. No project is worth doing
without shedding blood...note the bandages
and cuts on his hand...it was a good project.
|You can barely see Cups tucked away in a
little cove behind Macdonnell Island.
|Doubtful Sound (Patea) - Blanket Bay - 45S17.95 /167E58.83 - 83'
|With a short weather window, we motored
the eight miles to Blanket Bay in Doubtful
Sound. As luck would have it, a Fiordland
Expedition vessel offered us the use of their
mooring for our stay there.
|Blanket Bay, purchased from the Maori for
one blanket and hence its name, has a tiny
islet in the middle of it with the Blanket Bay
"hotel", a meeting place for fishermen.
Unfortunately, no one was in residence.
|We climbed onto the dock to explore a bit,
but the place was locked up tight.
|Three variable oystercatchers let us approach
fairly closely before "squawking" us off.
|A gorgeous sunrise, but we should have known better..."red sky in morning, sailor take warning!"
|Dagg Sound (Te Ra) - Southern Arm - 45S25.92 / 166E54.27 - 24'
|Dagg Sound is not a very popular stopping
place evidently; even the guide book gave
it short shrift. We found it just right for
sitting out a blow, but ended up staying six
nights here awaiting the next weather
window to head south. Above, the
entrance to Dagg Sound with clouds of
mists settled into the valleys.
|The weather which had been glorious for our
first week in Fiordland became fearsome with
daily gale and storm warnings, big seas and
adverse winds. We sat tight, held on and
finally made a break for it to Breaksea/Dusky
Sounds, a bit further south.Our worst night,
we recorded 60+ knots of wind with heavy,
heavy rain. Cups did fine, but the crew was
more than a bit concerned.
|Heavy rains made small riverlets into many,
major waterfalls which washed over the cliff
faces before us. The sound of the cascades
were a constant background noise and
reminder of just where we were.
|Breaksea Sound (Matuku-Waitai) & Dusky Sound (Tamatea)
Wet Jacket Arm - Stick Cove 45S39.63 /166E44.12 - 77'
|Once again, we noted
daisy-like flowers along
the shore. These did not appear to be
exactly the same as we had previously
seen. These leaves were smooth edged vs.
the serrated edges we had seen before.
|Cups sat comfortably in Stick Cove
with anchor in 77' and her stern, tied
to a line ashore in about 30'. The
forecast for 35-40 kt winds never
touched us being tucked so tightly
into this little cove.
|The anchorage in Stick Cove (Muscle Cove on the
chart) in Wet Jacket Arm was tucked behind tiny
Stick Island. A permanent stern line was moored on
a tiny yellow float and made it easy to tie ashore.
According to the Fiordland Boatie's Guide, Wet
Jacket Arm, just off Acheron Passage, received its
name from Captain Cook when Lt. Pickersgill got
caught in a storm while exploring the area and
"returned in no good plight".
|Preservation Inlet (Rakiturua)- Cuttle Cove - 46S03.92 / 166E39.52 - 42'
|Isthmus Sound - 46S03.06 / 166E41.18 - 37'
| A continued weather window presented itself and rather than stick
around in Dusky, we opted to take advantage of it and continue south to
Chalky and Preservation Inlets. Listening to the weather forecast, we
opted to give Chalky a pass and head straight to Preservation Inlet. We
were feeling pressed for time all of a sudden. Spending a week in one
location waiting for weather made a dent in our previously loose schedule.
We were intent on spending the bulk of our time at Stewart Island and
still had a ways to go to get there. Always a compromise, it seems.
|In 1773, Captain Cook named Breaksea
Island because it broke the SW swell at
the entrance to the Sound.
|Dagg Sound was named after Captn William
Dagg, commander of the HMS Scorpion, a
whaler which reached Fiordland in 1804.
|We anchored first in Cuttle Cove...a swing
anchorage just behind SingleTree
Island...and went ashore for a look-see. We
only stayed the afternoon then moved on.
|The area has a history of
sealing and whaling stations as well as coal, gold
and tin mining sites. Above, a plaque on the
beach at Cuttle Cove commemorating the
whaling station 1829-1836.
|A colony of feeding oystercatchers
squawked us away when we got a bit too
close. Their brilliant orange bills and eyes
were sharp contrast to the gray rocky beach.
|With a storm warning in effect for the area,
we opted to snug close to shore at Isthmus
Sound. We dropped the anchor then ran two
warp lines to sturdy trees ashore. David
found mussels in the process which provided
dinner that evening and chowder the next.
|Several days of rain and high winds kept
us in this anchorage for nearly a week.
We found several inside projects to keep
us busy. Above, a carved hook collection
from the South Pacific which David
mounted into a shadow box.
|Though heavy rains and high winds kept us
boat-bound for much of the time, several
short-term sunny respites had us out exploring
Isthmus Sound and beachcombing.
|The Birds! A strange occurrence...
While watching a movie late one night,
we heard a strange noise in the
rigging...the wind or perhaps a halyard
had come loose. On checking it out, we
found a bird, a fairy prion, sitting on the
coach roof. David thought he had flown
into the rigging and was stunned.He
carefully wrapped the docile bird in a
towel and put him back into the water.
Two minutes later, more commotion in
the rigging and a tapping on the
portlight. Same bird?
|It was pouring rain, but I wanted to get a photo
of the little fellow on the side deck. As I poked
my head out of the companionway, another
flew up and into the cockpit all of a sudden and
startled me...then another and another.
|Looking out the portlight, there was a little bird
face staring back at us...just pecking away with
a "let me in!" look on his face.
|We could hear them several of them
pecking at the portlights, the washboards
and the screens on the portholes. They
were talking in a strange "petrel-ese"
dialect and cooing in a way similar to a
hen that's roosting. Around 2am, David
armed with an LED flashlight, climbed
into the cockpit in an attempt to shoo
them away. Four were there pacing
around on their little webbed feet.
| We weren't sure if it was mating season
which accounts for animals doing strange,
strange things in which case Cups had become a
veritable "love nest" OR if we were playing our
roles in a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
We did a little research in our bird books
aboard. They were definitely fairy prions, a type
of petrel. About the size of a park pigeon, these
birds are soft gray with white underparts and a
white chin, black eyes and a black beak with a
bit of an overbite. Discussion of their behavior
confirmed that they are night feeders, breed on
small islands in the Southern Ocean, utter soft
cooing calls and walk clumsily on weak webbed
They disappeared by morning and though we
heard a few of them on subsequent nights, we
never saw quite the number of them again.
|It appeared that once they landed there, they
were not able to get out because of the confined
space and lack of traction of their webbed feet
on the teak. After a very brief discussion of their
possible food value for our diminishing larder,
David wrapped each of the four in turn in a
towel and carefully let them go over the water.
Docile and not seeming to mind photos, they
were okay with our plan.
|Finally, a weather window which would allow us to
go the 100+ miles from Preservation Inlet around
the South Cape and to Stewart Island. We're
anxious to share more with you. Come along to
Stewart Island with us...home of the brown kiwi!
|Interested in more about New Zealand?