February 20th, Departing George Sound
We’ve had some remarkable weather, a stretch of warm days with bluebird skies since we came back to Banyan. Fiordland is known for being a bit wetter and cooler than our current experience, so we are bracing ourselves.
A few days ago we arrived into George Sound, a 42nm journey from Deep Water Basin in Milford Sound. It was an uneventful passage due to light winds and quiet seas. We did see several albatross as well as, what we thought were the illuminated jellies, which were actually some sort of sea cucumber as we found them to be quite hard and a translucent pink in the light of day. We also caught a tuna which we are still working on consuming.
As we pulled into George that afternoon the daily on-shore breeze was pretty strong. We headed toward Anchorage Bay where we would do our first Fiordland style anchoring/mooring/tying. As the fiords are so deep, anchoring can be impossible. The depth will go from 300′ to 10′ in a matter of feet. To deal with the problem of having a solid place to sleep, fisherman have installed huge hawser lines at the back of many a cove, creating a line from one side to the other, cutting off the shallow end of the cove and creating a line that a boat could either side tie to in good weather, or use a stern line after laying their bow anchor deeper in the bay. We decided to side tie to the hawser line that, in this case, was tied between a small island and the shore. As we approached it with a powerful onshore wind at our backs, having never done anything like it before and looking dubiously at the very small area we were meant to maneuver in… I lost my nerve and suggested we anchor over in the fair weather anchorage for a bit until the wind died down. Cameron agreed and off we went to the other side of the bay where we anchored.
We dropped the dingy and headed over to the island to check it out and make sure we had a good game plan. We zipped over to the island and within seconds were completely bombarded by sand flies. They were up our noses, in our hair, everywhere. We checked out the line as efficiently as we possibly could, checked that the reported water line was actually flowing (as we needed to fill water tanks – one reason we wanted to go into this little spot) and got outta there as fast as we could.
Back on Banyan we prepped the girls, got our mosquito head netting on, our gloves on, pulled our socks up over our pants, and sprayed our fingertips with mom’s homemade mosquito spray. The wind had died down and we headed the mother ship over to the island. Adelaide stood at the bow, I hopped in the dingy and as Cameron nosed Banyan toward the agreed-upon loop in the hawser, she passed me the line, I snaked it through the loop and back to her. With a little reverse, Banyan’s stern prop walked toward the line and Cameron was able to grab another loop to thread the stern line through while Isa then used the boat hook to pull up a mid-ships line. Boom, we were secure…and completely COVERED in sand flies. We all flogged ourselves with a towel and got the flies away as we slipped into the companionway down to the relatively sand fly-free interior of Banyan. We all laughed with hilarity at the intensity of the flies, thanking our lucky stars we were prepared and live in a time of DEET. While in Nelson some friends had given us some hand-drawn maps and a little cruising guide of Fiordland/Stewart Island. They had rated each anchorage with a sand fly rating of one to ten, this anchorage was just listed as “BAD”. We were hoping that was an eleven
The next morning they were out in force, but we were ready with our face nets. As we tried to disembark from the line we realized that we were sitting on the bottom and no amount of pushing or pulling from the dinghy or tipping the boat using the halyard was going to move her. So, we took a walk on the beach to kill some time and came back to Banyan floating and ready to depart with the rising tide.
We headed deeper into George Sound towards Alice Bay, a spot that a few people had said was their favorite in all the Fiords. As we pulled into the hidden cove we could see why. We were greeted with a beautiful tumbling waterfall on one side of the bay and the stern line hawser on the other side. This time we tried our hand at using the line as a stern line. We found a spot to drop our anchor based on the depth and subsequent length of chain we wanted out and how close we wanted to get to the stern line (it was only in 10 ft of water). We backed up away from our anchor and toward the hawser line. With Cameron in the dinghy, he took a line from the stern, looped it through an eye loop on the hawser, and brought it back to the boat. We did this one more time so that the boat was secured at three points, two off either side of her stern and the anchor at the bow. Then we brought in the anchor chain a bit to create a bit of tension between the three points. This brought back memories of Cameron’s Sunsail days as this type of mooring is also called a “med moor” and used a lot in the Mediterranean when tying stern-to. For our first time as a team, it really wasn’t too awkward.
We headed out to explore the waterfall, do some bushwhacking, and hiked up to Alice Lake. We had our afternoon tea sitting on the rocks at the top of the falls. The flies weren’t tooooo bad, the previous guide had a sand fly rating of 9.5 for Alice.
With good weather, it’s hard to stay still. We have heard that it isn’t unusual to get “stuck” someplace for a week or more due to the weather. So, despite Alice Bay’s amazing beauty, we are off again this morning. Cameron and I cracked the companionway at 6:30 am to be bombarded by hungry baby sand flies as we easily slipped our lines and headed out. Once in a little breeze, they mainly blew away. Now we are on ‘the outside’ heading from George Sound toward Doubtful Sound where we should arrive in the afternoon. The Doubtful Sound was named by Captain Cook, he was Doubtful if sailboats would ever get out as they relied on a rare easterly wind to push them out. We’ll spend the next week in the Doubtful Sound complex while a nasty little low pressure comes through with some more Fiordland-like weather.
Ciao for now!