Milford Sound Reflections

 Superted V

Blog & Photos - February 2014

This was the first leg of our circumnavigation of the south island - going down the rugged west coast to Fiordland then southeast across to Stuart Island (venturing into roaring forties and the southern ocean at 47 degrees south) then back up the east coast and back to Nelson via the Marlborough sounds.

After waiting for south westerlies to abate we finally set off from Nelson on 31st January. We spent one night at Able Tasman to let the wind settle, then set off around Cape Farewell down the west coast on the first leg of our 3 month trip. We logged in with 'Good as Gold' Meri (see flotsam) on SSB each night. After one night at sea we stopped overnight in Westport (a one horse town but with good restaurants) infamous for the sand bar at the entrance where many a boat has foundered and lives lost. There was going to be a 24 hour period with strong south westerly winds which we wanted to sit out so we contacted the harbour master for current conditions. He had just finished his twice weekly survey of the entrance and confirmed we would have plenty of water to get over the bar. He then put us alongside his pilot boat for the night which was really well protected but with rather a large gap between it and the dock when the wind was blowing. Fortunately he had a couple of large boat hooks for us to use to pull in the boats to get ashore. We had a good hike around the headland but were sobered by the commemorative plaques dotted around the rugged rocks in memory of seafarers who had lost their lives along this bit of coast. A good dinner at the ‘Dennisten Dog' and we were off the next day at 10am for a two night sail down to Milford Sound. No problem getting out over the bar, we headed out to the steeple rocks and Cape Foulwind and had a good sail for the rest of the day. Sighted a solitary Hector's dolphin and many albatrosses. Unfortunately as we sailed down the coast the fog came in and we had no view of the spectacular scenery of the southern alps. Had a fabulous show of bio-luminecence during the night - what we believe are Salps - the sea was full of them!

4th Feb - Fiordland - see flotsam. We arrived at Milford sound at 9am together with a large cruise ship! Several tourist boats were already taking customers around the sound and bay. We had been tourists on one of those boats about 15 years ago and the weather just looked exactly the same – drizzle, damp and misty! It does lend a somewhat mystical aura to the scenery though and is quite spectacular when the clouds part to reveal sheer cliffs rising out of the sea and looking down the sound a series of bluffs in the mists. We anchored at the inner end of the sound in Deep water cove – managing to find a spot which wasn't too deep (27m) and taking a stern line ashore. We didn't have to wait long for the weather to clear and had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Did a couple of walks around the area but were mugged by sandflies and overrun by tourists! See flotsam Milford Sound.

7 th Feb – A day sail to George Sound – picking up a mooring line in Anchorage Bay . The fishermen in this area have really got it sorted – They string a hauser across a tight snug cove to which you can tie bow and stern. In some places they even have water hoses attached which provide fresh water from a nearby stream. We were to discover that there are many of these little bad weather retreats in the Fjords and we were always welcome to use them. I guess they are so organised because the weather can turn nasty very quickly. Met a boat full of men on a ‘boys hunting/fishing/diving outing' and we spent a day and evening with them diving for crayfish, and ultimately having a few drinks. See flotsam George Sound .

12 th Feb – Sailed to Charles sound and explored both ‘arms' Gold (with the twin falls – one of which we bush-beat our way to the bottom of the falls) and Emelius, where we took a dinghy ride 5 miles up the Irene River and came across the spectacular Marjorie Falls. Full of trees and bush down to the edges of the river with occasional small shingle beaches where the only sign of life are the deer footprints.

15 th Feb – in the pouring ran we headed out for Thompson sound (which is linked to Doubtful sound) – only 20 miles further south but in a rolling swell I took a tumble in the cockpit and badly injured my ribs, resulting in a helicopter evacuation – see Flotsam on Thompson/Doubtful sound.

20 th Feb – had a flattish sea and a North easterly breeze so took the opportunity to get down to Breaksea sound which is linked to ‘historical' Dusky Sound. Weather not very good so we found a couple of protected anchorages in Breaksea and Wet jacket Arm – had a couple of hail storms which left snow on the mountain tops. Got a sunny day to hike part of the Dusky track – a bit water logged but good fun and interesting. Another couple of days and we got a clear day to get down 'nine fathom passage' to Pickersgill Harbour and anchored in the very same spot as Captain James Cook anchored the Resolution in 1773. Even though we've been following in Cooks' footsteps across the pacific there was something very magical about being in this spot! See flotsam Dusky Sound

Position on 28th Feb S45.47.73 E166.34.45

(Cook's anchorage for 5 weeks in the Resolution in 1773)