Anchors Aweigh!

Just a LITTLE bit queasy, no big surprise!

Flea Bay, Banks Peninsula

Diana has put in some epic kayak explorations already, along the rocks in Flea Bay on Banks peninsula where the cute little Blue Penguins perch under the rocks and baby Fur Seals flop about in confused excitement. 

The rugged coastline of Banks Peninsula!
There is a fabulous Blue Penguin recovery project in Flea Bay.
Moulting Blue Penguins (also called, ‘White Flippered’)


Look for the brand new baby fur seals!

Takamatua Bay, Akaroa

Our friends on Blue Goose – the calm after the winds.

After a day hiding from the southwest wind and rain in Takamatua Bay, we spent a sunny day in Akaroa walking up a hill lined with small wooden houses to the “Giants House,” where a purple haired mosaicist and sculptor (don’t they all have purple hair?), Josie Martin, spent a lifetime creating a magical inspired garden. The expressiveness and joy of her work was dazzling, full of color and peopleness.

We’re still adjusting to the sea again. Remembering little things about Allora that we forgot. Relearning things we may have come to take for granted. The first leg of our first passage in two years, the winds were light but steady and graciously allowed us to sail to windward with out tacking. The shelter of the shore, never more that twenty miles away, kept the seas mild. It was chilly, but our foulies are pretty bomber and it was a lovely day.

Royal Albatross!

A fisherman came out in his short sleeves to take a picture of us as we sailed closeby downwind and he pounded homeward into it.

Galley antics!

The wind died to nothing under a full moon, after some mechanical glitches right at dusk. At dawn the wind returned for a nice broad reach and then wing and wing downwind all the way to the end of the south island passing “the Nuggets” to enter Foveaux Strait. 

We motored through the night, anticipating 15 to 30 knots on the beam by sunrise, but that never materialized. The famously rough Strait was calm – though with strong, swirling currents that confused our brief attempts to sail. The wind came up like a long slow meditative breath and then relaxed to glassy seas as the sun rose spectacularly and we approached Rakiura/Stewart Island.

The humble main town of Oban, Stewart Island
Sandy beaches but muddy seabed.

We’re learning that anchoring in mud and weeds isn’t the same as sand. Diana used to say we should package the fine, fine powdery pink stuff that came up with the anchor in the Gambiers, and sell it to spas. I haven’t heard that comment about the pungent muds of Rakiura (Stewart Island). Maybe a different brand (“Glory Bay Green Lipped New Zealand Muscle” brand) for the truly hardcore mud bather. It also hasn’t been holding us quite the same way. Not sure to do with the full anchor of weeds that came up the first time our anchor did a little dragging in 30 kts wind. 

Becoming more familiar with these mid latitude winds is going to take a while, too. The basic idea is becoming apparent — fronts every few days followed by strong SW blows, and then they spin around and do it again. Locals have been complaining about a dearth of rain with these fronts, the filmy ferns in the understory are feeling it, rolling up shop and hoping for a change. It’s possible that La Nina is to blame. That doesn’t mean summer is warm here on the edge of the Southern Ocean, even when the sun shines.

Here in Paterson Inlet, after the wind blows itself into a calm, it has been glassy as a lake sometimes. Ninety-Eight percent of Rakirua is conservation land, with trails and huts along some of the bays and coves, and otherwise, lush wilderness. The bush grows slow but lush, and the winds carve a limit to the canopy.

One of the sweet DOC (Department of Conservation) huts along the Rakiura Track.
What do YOU see?!

Blue Cod, with their delicious white meat seem to be ridiculously easy to catch. A little jigging provided us, after quite a few small fish, with a keeper for fish tacos. Reminded me of the one taco, two taco, three taco sea bass of the Sea of Cortez. 

We’re re-learning, too, that it is not, and never has been, all fun and games. The carburetor on the outboard has used up a few hours on a couple of different afternoons. Despite being ‘fixed’ at great expense in Christchurch, the gummed up high speed jet closed up and our outboard carburetor is compromised. We’ll have to be extra careful and baby it. Since we depend on that motor so much, I’m afraid to try to drill out and replace it with the spare jet we have. If it doesn’t go right, we’d be stuck. The closest replacement carb is in Japan and weeks away. 

The classic – making repairs in exotic locations!
Whaler’s Base, Paterson Inlet

Mussels for miles!

Predator free Ulva Island was a particular treat. We walked with a guide, a woman who came here in the 90’s as part of the effort to rid the island of predators, particularly rats, to save the birds. Kiwi, Robins, Bellbirds, Riflemen, Kaka and Kakariki (including one rare Yellow-Crested), huge Wood Pigeons diving and soaring in noisy acrobatics for mating season, and a beautiful extremely rare Saddleback with russet shoulders. Ulva Island has never been logged, and the native trees were breathtaking, Rimu, Totara and Miro . One grand old giant estimated at 1200 years old, with a whole ecosystem of her own thriving in the higher branches. ~MS

These pics were all taken with my iPhone, as one of the first things I managed to do was tip my kayak and lose my beautiful Sony. A lesson in attachment for sure.

This will be our last cell coverage for at least a month as we head further south, down to Port Pegasus and then on to Fiordland. Starting tomorrow (28/2/22), we’ll move over to our Inreach and Iridium systems to communicate! (You can see those details on the Contact Us page.) Be well, friends and fam. We’ll be breathing you into our hearts! ~DS

New Zealand – ‘SWEET AS’

This is a placeholder for the past 2.25 years! Somehow I have managed to accumulate umpteen pictures and not post one, but I still have full intentions of sharing our wild good fortune to have landed in New Zealand before Covid changed everyone’s plans.  BUT, before I get around to that, Allora is going to ‘get around’ the South Island! A clockwise circumnavigation – the first sailing for her rusty crew in waaaay too long, but it feels sweet and right and our awesome boat seems to be showing us what she clearly knows in her bones. We should be out and about for 2-3 months as we explore Stewart Island/Rakiura, Fiordland and Marlborough Sounds. Sometime in early May we’ll haulout in Picton and roll up our sleeves to do a couple big boat jobs, but until then … read our Contact Us page to see how you can shoot us a hello! Be well friends and loved ones, we sure MISS YOU!

 

Minerva North, Haven in the Pacific

©s/v Taurus

Of all the places Allora has taken us, North Minerva Reef, is a stand out. The reef literally emerges only 90cm at low tide, and when walking on what feels like the Pacific’s very precipice, we had the surreal sensation that we’d been transported to another world. I urge you to read this article from New Zealand Geographic, which lays out the inherent hazards and contentious history of this fascinating ‘land:’

empire-of-the-sea

We, like many others, made a stop at Minerva North, to break up the often difficult  passage between Tonga and New Zealand. Most boats poise themselves to try to stop, but the weather conditions have to be right to enter the pass and take the time in ‘pause’ mode as opposed to continuing onward, so we felt lucky to manage 3 days in the fold of the protected lagoon. We weren’t alone, though! The 30 boats at anchor around us were dubbed, ‘The Minerva Yacht Club!’

Wyatt and I freedove the pass and found a wonderland of color and life.
Marcus sought some Giant Trevally in the surf, but the surf almost sought him!
Remnants of a less positive interaction with the reef.

Sweet Tuamotus, Last round through …

 

The majestic Humphead/Napolean Wrasse. This guy is 3.5 feet!

I’m going to ask Marcus to wax poetic about our final weeks in the Tuamotus. Suffice it to say that this region of French Polynesia is most definitely a favorite of ours and I even heard Marcus say he could live there. If fresh produce was available, I might be on board! For the time being, these pics can be a placeholder. These are shots from Tahanea, Fakarava and Rangiroa.

I shot a gazillion shots to finally snag this one! Thanks, Katie, for holding such enthusiasm!

 

 

Visitors in the Gambier and Fakarava

“This time is hard to find heaped under a mountain of machines and motivations all founded on hours and minutes.” ~Wyatt Stevens

The decision for Shannon, Josh and Wilder (3, almost 4) to visit came down fast, and within a week and a half we were picking them up at the little motu off the eastern side of the Gambier Archipelago. They dove in, they played, they pushed themselves. We laughed, we learned, we loved. It was a 3 week plan, which, in  hindsight, should have been simply spent in the lagoon, but Josh was keen to take an ocean passage, so we gave it a shot. Shannon was facing some real demons by even considering the feat. There’s a superstition in the sailing world about not undertaking a passage departure on a Friday. Well … not only was it a Friday, but guess what the date was?! Yep, the 13th!! Needless to say – we ended up shifting gears; they flew instead and we met them with Allora in Fakarava, 5 days later. Plan B worked out great! The memories from this adventure have been distilled into flashes of Wilder being wonderfully true to her name, snippets of her remarkable imagination with words (notably ‘Shit Bullet’) and scores of her laughter as she’d commune with the fishes. We were struck by a force from which we will never recover. Oh, and yeah, her parents are sensational, too!

“To see the world as it awoke in its own defenseless candor.” ~WS

Haraiki to Hao, Tuamotus

“Today” is a song my mind sings to itself.
~MS

“I am neither happy nor sad, neither really tense nor really relaxed. Perhaps that’s the way it is when a man looks at the stars asking himself questions he is not mature enough to answer.”
~The Long Way, Bernard Moitessier

Swept Away

Ian likes to plan and he has a knack for thinking through the details, even when the boat he’s planning for is not his own. He’s also devilishly persuasive. Long before we’d given any real focus to the question, he’d figured out that we needed to know where Maddi would fly in and out of when she came to visit in December. His suggestion turned out to be Fakarava, where by incredible coincidence, Makara (Ian and Erika) and Starlet (Jennifer and Mark) both intended to be for Christmas. We regretfully explained that while we didn’t really have a plan, per se, we would be much too far east by then, well on our way to the Gambiers. But every once in a while, he’d gently ask if these poor, confused American sailors had a plan yet. After luring us to join them in Moorea for an unplanned (by us) detour, we burned up enough time that, as predicted by Ian, Fakarava actually did make the most sense.
Lo and behold, we found ourselves Christmas eve, faced with an unusual northwest turn in the weather, sailing upwind and backwards (as in north and west), to get to Fakarava according to Ian’s plan, for a delicious Christmas dinner with Makara and Starlet. 
This was only the beginning. Jennifer and Mark had their own devilish ways of derailing our plans, mostly involving Mark’s boyish grin and sentences like,”Let’s sail to Kauehi, dive the pass!” Why not? More north. Then all voices raised the call, “On to Toau!” West.
Ian, meanwhile, had been doing some more scheming. He was willing to concede that we did indeed need to start logging some south and east miles but… rather than sail back to Fakarava in April after visiting the Gambier (as planned?) it would make much, much more sense for us to sail north and meet them in Hawaii to join them for a northwest cruise up to Alaska and down the coast of North America. Back to our beloved Baja and from there, almost a year later than planned, we could hit the Palmyra and the Line Islands on our way to Tonga.
We actually got out Jimmy Cornell’s World Crusing Routes to check it out. Ian’s plan was diabolically clever (it sill sounds a little tempting).
It was only an extra 12,000 miles.
It was difficult indeed to finally turn southeast (as planned?) and leave our friends to continue their northwest journeys. This is the very hardest part of sailing. These goodbye’s feel so sudden and irrevocable. We will almost certainly see Starlet more, which is great, as they are circumnavigating along the same route, more or less, that we will be. But after Alaska, Makara is headed back to the Caribbean and then home to England.
And that’s a long way around for Starlet and Allora.

~MS