Stewart Island

lies across the Foveaux Straits from the South Island. Despite only having one main settlement - Oban - it's a great cruising ground with many inlets and anchorages and very popular with tourists. However we did hear that the crossing of the Foveaux Straits can be a bit wild with many tourists feeling the worse for wear when they arrive! We spent the best part of a month here. After a good 12 hour sail from Preservation Inlet, we anchored at Easy Harbour on the west coast. The most striking feature of the south of the island are the rock formations with some great hikes to get to see them - more about those later!

We had found a great little anchorage in Easy Harbour totally out of the swell with a lovely beach - but with a brave young male sea lion protecting it! He chased us in the dinghy then chased us on the rocks and beach - Matt fended him off with a large stick - I just ran!

These are my rocks and my beach so get lost!

A day later, we had a good forecast for wind with us to sail around the south cape - the tide can run up to around 4 knots in the passage between the Stewart Island and Big South Cape Island so we wanted it with us. Started off with a good breeze of around 15 - 20 knots but as is very common in the area, the storm clouds appeared from nowhere and the wind speed increased to 30+ knots! We were in the southern ocean and we were roaring along! It did get a bit hairy at times as we still had a full main sail up. We were quite thankful a few hours later to get round into Port Pegasus and quieter waters.

Storm clouds gathering then clearing but still a bit windy!

We settled down for a couple of windy nights in Evening Cove - great clear water. At one stage the water was clouded by a red bloom (possibly plankton?) and we were visited by a large jelly fish.

Red bloom and Jelly fish

The cruising guide talks about a hike up to Fraser rocks "the track is very clear and well defined through the bush. Once in the open follow the ridge up - it's about 1 hour to the peaks." Although it was still windy, we had a lovely clear day so decided to give it a go. Well believe me the track was far from clear through the bush but we kept going and came out on a ridge then back into the bush to get to the top. The bush is Manuka - sometimes low growing - trying to get over it was like doing the ministry of silly walks - other times it was so high the only way through was on our hands and knees - several times the 'helarewee' tribe came to mind! 2 hours later and we came out on top of the amazing rock structures - well worth the effort.

We're the 'helarewee' tribe and finally on all fours through the manuka bush

Rock formations at Fraser peak and view back down to boat (you can just see the mast to the left of centre!)

Moving on we tucked in further up into Port Pegasus at 'Disappointment Cove' and waited for another clear day before we moved on to tackle the climb to Bald Cone. The day dawned bright and sunny and we had a great view of bald cone as we anchored. The directions given were to leave the dinghy along the right hand side of the stream where the track started. Once again the 'very clear paths' were a bit illusive so we fought our way through the forest and eventually came out on a ridge where we could see where we wanted to go. Unfortunately the mist had come down so we couldn't see the top. However we did find the path up from the bottom of chute where, much to our delight, we found ropes to help us get up. Shame that when we reached the top the mist was still obscuring the great views. On the way back down, Matt was able to navigate the route and we came out at the head of the stream where the track actually started!

Bald cone and Matt coming up the chute on rope

We had heard from friends Vicki and Roger on El Vagabond that they were in Stewart Island and eventually met up with them in Golden Bay across from Oban. We were back in civilisation! The first supermarket since Nelson and an internet connection - although it wasn't that good and no mobile phone signal. Once re-stocked with fuel and fresh fruit and veg we headed out across Patterson Inlet to Little Glory. One of the big tourist attractions is to take a trip across here at dusk and to trek across to the beach on the other side of the island to watch for kiwis who come out at night scavenging amongst the seaweed. There is a sign at the jetty of no public landing between 6pm and 6am so we went ashore during the day to suss out the track and the 'kiwi' beach. The next morning we were up before dawn and armed with torches and cameras we arrived at the jetty just after 6am! Across at the beach, we sat and waited and once our eyes got used to the dark, we sauntered along the beach and there they were - a couple of kiwis. Allegedly, most New Zealanders have not seen a kiwi in the wild but we have!!

Back at Oban we played a game of 'disabled' golf - Jean had cracked ribs, Roger had a bad knee and we gave Matt a handicap of a bad back because he had to carry Jean's clubs! Vicki doesn't have a handicap so she just walked round! The Ringaringa Golf course is the 2nd most southerly golf course in the world. Great course but very hilly - we only managed 2 rounds of the 6 hole course.

Matt, Jean and Roger at the 2nd most southerly golf course in the world!

Anchored off Ulva Island in the marine reserve and hiked around the island to see many indigenous birds - strangely enough we had not seen many birds on our trip so far so it was good to see the ones we had read about.

New Zealand wood pigeons and a tui bird

Our final destination on the island was in Prices Inlet at the old Norwegian station where the whalers were brought in to be repaired after being in the antarctic. The beach was littered with rusting propellers and remnants of old machinery.

Norwegian whaler base remains of jetty and rusting propeller

Back to flotsam................