Auckland, Bay of Islands, New Plymouth, Nelson, Marlb. Sounds, Akaroa and Careys Bay, Dunedin

Southern Star departure Auckland to Dunedin 11/24/2013
We departed Viaduct Harbour, Auckland on 16 November 2013, after taking possession of the vessel on 27th August 2013. 
We are now sitting in Carey’s Bay, Port Chalmers, Dunedin, on the South Island of New Zealand. It is a beautiful area, we are berthed in a fishing boat marina – which is very quaint! Moss covered, rotting timber boardwalks, no pontoons to speak of except two thin planks up high to clamber off the boat onto. A lot of WH&S issues every which way you look but its just gorgeous. Its a major expedition getting me on and off the boat, to say the least! I have to exit over the handrail, put my feet on the outside lip of the boat and jump over to a pole (that is all jagged and rotted) and then jump onto the moss covered thin planks, which are a few metres above the water. I get the shakes when its time to get on, or off and that doesnt help the matter. I am sure the fishermen and workmen in the nearbly industrial sheds have a great laugh at my antics. Poor Robbie is very patient 🙂
We will stay here until after we have been back to Australia for Scott and Sarah’s wedding on 1st February. Once we return to the boat on 10th February we will depart for Stewart Island, and then to Fiordland. Our journey thus far started back on 27th August 2013 with the purchase of “Southern Star” in Auckland. Due to work committments our plan was to begin our Journey sometime in September. However the project on Barrow Island, Western Australia that Robbie was completing was delayed so unfortunately our major journey did not commence until November. The other issue was that on one of our shorter jaunts to Great Barrier Island the main gearbox blew up on our return into Auckland Harbour. Luckily, it was only 5 miles from our berth and we were able to limp home on the wing engine, at around 3 knots per hour! After a lot of consultation, the removal & pull apart & inspection of gearbox & head scratching, there was no apparent reason for the problem apart from a broken split ring. We were able to source a new replacement gearbox through James Knight in the USA. This arrived a few days after Robbie returned from Barrow Island, so with Alans help Robbie installed the new gearbox and a temperature sender unit on the gearbox & a new temperature gauge on the dash in the pilot house. After a test run and a lot of shopping stocking up the boat we were ready to play. We departed Auckland on 16th November with Karen & Alan Davidson, owners of Nordhavn “Opal Lady” on board. Our plan was to get to Marlborough Sounds for some great sight seeing and fishing. Our first destination was to be the Bay of Islands. A minor issue on the way, the battery from the duck, which was sitting on the edge of the duck fell over and cracked – spilling battery acid on the top deck.(Lesson learnt) Upon our arrival at Kawau Island we noticed diesel in the water when anchoring, there was a leak in the injector pump. So we up anchored, started the wing engine and headed into Sandspit Jetty. Removed diesel injection pump, hired car, drove back to Auckland for the day, had the pump repaired and purchased a new battery for the duck. Returned to boat, installed the battery and pump and departed the following day for Bay of Islands. Jo was driving, under Karens instructions. We had an uneventful journey and anchored at Urquarts Bay, just inside the entrance to Whangarei Harbour for the night. Was a lovely anchorage and while the boys went fishing, Karen & Jo fished off the back of the duckboard with a glass of wine, very relaxing and peaceful. A lovely photo of Jo & the Snapper that was caught, by the boys, was posted on facebook, much to the amusement of Karen & Jo – who NEVER said who actually caught the Snapper!! Everyone just assumed Jo had caught the fish. 🙂 We departed on 23 November for Bay of Islands, great weather, good seas and the boys were trolling the lures for Kingfish. Just after departure Karen noticed that only one stabiliser was working. Robbie ran for the engine room to investigate. He came back up a few minutes later and said “its working – it was a motherboard problem”?? Karen, Alan & Jo all looked at each other and burst out laughing – Robbie had forgotten to take the pin out of one of the stabilisers before we left!! Great excuse we thought. sometime later the rods starting screaming -then the girls – its a “Double hook up”!! Alan was on the throne, Robbie was in the engine room – neither realised it was a double hook up and both thought the other one would look after it. After much shouting and yelling from the girls both boys eventually appeared and starting reeling in the lines. Long story cut short the lines got tangled up, as the first one was pulled in the second one was loose and got underneath one of the fishing rods on the bait board on the back of the boat, as the fish took off the line pulled out Robbies brand new rod & reel….. and he watched it sink. NOT a happy chappy at all. We arrived at Otaio Bay, Urupukapuka Island, in the Bay of Islands. a beautiful spot. We anchored up for the night. The following day Karen & Alan went fishing in the duck. Robbie & Jo ticked around in Southern Star to Waewaetorea Island and anchored up. We deployed the single man Kayak with both of us and paddled into shore. We climbed the hill, where we could see for miles, we saw Karen & Alan fishing, dolphins and had to rest for quite a while to get our breath back. We ticked back around to Otaio Bay for the night. Once Karen & Alan returned with our dinner there was a group consultation and after Karens weather review and it was decided to head for the Marlborough Sounds. We had a weather window of 3 days with the right winds each day in each area – a rare occurence. So for our first overnight voyage we departed on 25 November. We were so fortunate to have Karen & Alan on board with their vast experience and knowledge. We did 3 hour watches, and Jo and Karen shared their watch. All went well until the morning of the 27th when the temperature gauge started reading 200+ degrees, plus a gale warning was issued for South East winds in the Abel area where we were headed. We could have made a run for it but Robbie did not want to risk running the new gearbox too hard too soon so we headed for New Plymouth. Around the same time Karen & Alans good friend passed away in Australia so they decided to fly home a week early from New Plymouth. At this time the seas were quite flat and we saw seals sleeping peacefully on their backs in the water on the way in. We were allocated a mooring in the harbour, which was open to the sea so we copped the swell coming in but we were safely in the harbour. The weather deteriorated and became windy, rainy and choppy seas. It turned out the temp. gauge was faulty, so a new one was ordered from Auckland, along with 2 new thermostats at a lower temperature for the engine, which would also keep the gearbox cooler. Whilst going ashore we got talking to a couple of fishermen at the pontoon, they were going out crayfishing and said we will bing you one back. we got back to the boat that afternoon, and there were 4 live Crayfish on the back deck!! What a feast. We had a lovely last night dinner before Karen and Alan flew home to Australia on Saturday. Karen being the extremely organised person that she is, was ready nice and early so Jo & Karen went to shore to have a coffee in the lovely “Bach” cafe. Whilst sipping our coffees Karens phone rang, it was the airline saying your flight has been cancelled, can you get to the airport straight away and we will put you on the earlier flight! We were frantically trying to ring Alan & Robbie and neither of them were answering their phones – typical!!! Eventually we got hold of them and got them to shore with the bags and Karen & Alan got to the airport in time to catch the earlier flight. Phew! we were sad to see them go, it had been a tremendous help to us having them on board and we both learnt a lot, especially Jo. It was a shame that they didnt get to the Marlborough Sounds. We made the most of our time in New Plymouth and caught up with Jo’s aunty Ngarie and cousins Anna and her husband Tony and sons, and Kyle, Jude and Noddy and Lloyd. It was great to spend time with them all again. We departed for the South Island on 2nd December – our first overnight passage with just the two of us! We could not have had a better trip. Calm seas and fair winds, nothing over 8 knots of wind. We cruised into South Island waters at 4:30am in glassy conditions into Port Hardy. Wow what a beautiful spot – the place is near deserted only a few houses, mussel farms and lots of sting rays! The water was a beautiful teal blue colour and we could see large groups of sting rays gliding through the water. Robbie got chatting to one of the guys working on the mussel harvester and he gave him a huge bag of fresh green lipped mussels! He was in heaven! We spent two nights in Port Hardy and then moved around to Greville Harbour to a nameless bay. Another beautiful area, however when departing for Nelson we touched bottom at the narrows. What a horrifying noise and feeling that was. In hindsight, we should have waited for hight tide to navigate through these shallows. Another lesson well learnt! Luckily the damage was very minor, a slight scratch along the keel. We arrived in Nelson on 6th December – just in time for Jo’s sister, Lynnies birthday!! We secured a berth in Nelson Marina for a week. We had a lovely time and met Lyn & Don for a drink in the bar near the marina on their way to Blenheim and were able to spend Lyns birthday with her, having a lovely meal at the boathouse on the water on the Port of Nelson. Jo also had some lovely “sister time” during the week with a bit of pampering together. on 13th December we departed Nelson for Golden Bay. However not long after we left the wind changed and conditions worsened, the waves were choppy and messy and the wind was getting worse. We were concerned about the anchorages in Golden Bay, or lack of and the shallow depths so we changed course and headed for the Marlborough Sounds. We anchored in Oyster Bay, in Croiselles Harbour. We spent two nights here, with Robbie doing a lot of fishing and sourcing more mussels! We also had Jo practicing with the follow up lever rather than just using the auto pilot. Interesting lessons with some stress I might add! We came across some fisherman who had been scalloping and they very kindly gave us a bag of cleaned, ready to eat scallops! Yum! We departed for French Pass on 15 December. There are two choices to go from Nelson to the Marlborough Sounds, you can go around D’Urville Island, ( a long way)or you can take French Pass. French Pass is a treacherous stretch of water between D’Urville Island and the mainland. Jo spent a lot of time on D’Urville Island as a child on family holidays and remembers the horror stories well, about this stretch of water: quote:

French Pass (Te Aumiti) is a narrow and treacherous stretch of water that separates D’Urville Island, at the north end of the South Island of New Zealand, from the mainland coast. At one end is Tasman Bay, and at the other end the outer Pelorus Sound leads out to Cook Strait. French Pass has the fastest tidal flows in New Zealand, reaching 8 knots (4 m/s).[1] When the tide changes, the current can be strong enough to stun fish. A massive amount of water that has banked up in Tasman Bay gushes back out to Cook Strait once the tide drops, and when the tide rises, it rushes back in. Tidal currents can reach 2 metres per second in this stretch of water, making it very dangerous for ships. Jo had a sleepless night worrying about taking the boat through the French Pass. Would the current push us against the rocks? Would we get sucked into a whirlpool? Would the boat have enough power to go against the tide? etc etc. Well all those fears were unfounded. We had a great passage through, we departed Croisilles Harbour at 5:00am to reach French Pass at slack tide, at around 8:00am. It was a great relief! You could see the whirlpools ( or Eddies as the navigation charts call them), and the current but the boat just cruised through without any drama at all. It was a great feeling and it was a beautiful day with little wind and calm seas. I was happy to be approaching the Marlborough Sounds, near my hometown and birthplace of Blenheim. As we approached Cape Jackson we were surprised to see the waves breaking, or standing up between the old lighthouse, about 500 meters from shore, and the shore. We had read the cruising guide, and the paper charts, and the electronic charts told us there was 13 metres of depth and we should be able to get through there. We re-read the guides again and then very apprehensively went through the gap. It was scary, what caused the water to do this was the depth went very quickly from 200 metres to 13 metres depth, plus there is two bodies of water that meet at that point. This, along with some human error, was the undoing of the Cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov, quote:

On 16 February 1986 Mikhail Lermontov was cruising in New Zealand for the CTC cruise company. On that day it left Picton for the Marlborough Sounds, carrying mostly elderly Australian passengers. The Picton pilot, Captain Don Jamison (who was also Picton harbourmaster), piloted the ship out of Picton. His presence, and his knowledge of the area, should have assured the safety of MS Mikhail Lermontov.

Hugging the shoreline to give the Australian passengers a good view of the area, Jamison continued towards the cape. About one mile from the cape, Jamison made the decision to take MS Mikhail Lermontov through the passage. A Russian officer questioned the decision, but the harbour-master assured him it would be a safe course, and at the time the decision was made the ship was still within the harbour limits.


At 5.37 pm, travelling at 15 knots, Mikhail Lermontov struck rocks about 5.5 metres (18 feet) below the waterline on its port side.

The passengers were transferred to several ships in the area, including the LPG tanker Tarihiko (Capt. Reedman) and the SeaRail road-rail ferry Arahura (Capt John Brew). By 8:30 pm, passengers began to abandon ship, with the aid of the Russian crew and local rescue vessels.

As darkness set in MS Mikhail Lermontov listed further to starboard. Within 20 minutes of the last passenger being rescued, the ship had disappeared completely, sinking at approximately 10:45pm. The body of crew member Pavel Zagladimov was never recovered. The coroner’s report listed cause of death as unknown. 11 of those rescued had minor injuries.
We anchored at around 1.15pm in Endeavour Inlet, in Queen Charlotte Sound, near Furneau Lodge. This is a historic hotel/accommodation venue in a beautiful location that is very popular with the youngies on each New Years Eve. Furneaux also has interesting history, quote:

Olivia Hope, 17, and Ben Smart, 21, went missing at a party at Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year’s Eve, 1997. They were never seen again after being dropped off by a water taxi at a yacht.

Although their bodies were never found, in June 1998 Picton man Scott Watson was charged with their murder. He had been at Furneaux Lodge on New Year’s Eve.

The trial, during which over 500 witnesses were called over 56 days, ended in September 1999, with Watson found guilty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

In 2000 Watson lost an appeal against his convictions and sentence in the Court of Appeal.

Watson took his case to the Privy Council in London in 2003, but his application was dismissed. We spent two days in Endeavour Inlet and then moved over to Double Bay on Arapara Island, but the wind changed so we moved across the channel to Bay of Many Coves. A gorgeous bay with many coves to anchor! Here we began to polish the gel coat on the boat. After two days any excuse to give up that task, in the end we just up anchored and headed for Picton. Here we had Jo’s brother Murray and his wife Jenny, and also Jo’s daughter Jessie had flown over from Australia to spend Christmas. We had a lovely 3 weeks spending time on the boat with Murray and Jenny, Barry & Viv Hutchison and exploring and fishing in the Marlborough Sounds. Robbie, Barry and his son Daniel went snorkelling around Long Island, the Marine Reserve seeing lots of Crayfish, Blue Cod, Paua, and lots of different kinds of fish, swimming in and around the kelp and the rocks, especially at the Northern end of the Island. We also had a hugely successful overnight trip to East Bay with Murray, Jenny & Jessie. Murray & Robbie went Scalloping firstly with the Scallop dredge – an aluminum triangular shaped contraption that you tow on the bottom of the seabed behind the duck. It is quite successful, BUT – very messy as it collects mud, sand and weed as well as Scallops! The next day Robbie scuba dived and that was so much cleaner and easier for everyone – but Robbie. The water temp was about 18 degrees! The Scallops were just beautiful, a good size and they went down really well with the fresh Blue Cod and the Marlborugh Sav Blanc! We had a lovely lunch at Lochmara Lodge with Christina Jordan and Graham, they were staying in the Jordan family Bach (NZ term for a holiday house) at Lochmara, then we went and had a quick cuppa with Aunty Alison and Uncle Brian who had dropped off Barry and Daniel who were making the overnight journey from Picton to Akaroa. We departed on5th January to anchor up at the head of Tory Channel with Pete and Kurt Collins, commercial Crayfishermen, so as we could depart Tory Channel early on the morning of the 6th. The weather forecast sounded good, so we headed out at 3.15am in the pitch black. Following Pete (Powerpole) out the channel wasnt as easy as it sounds. There was no moon and trying to keep a visual on him, and trying to read instruments was no easy task! In hindsight, we would have been better just using the radar and keeping Pete and everything around us on the radar. We followed Pete out for about a mile out of the heads, where he headed West, and we turned East for Cape Campbell. Once we got to the Northern end of Cloudy Bay the wind came up to 40 knots and it was very lumpy and unpleasant. Daniel was getting paler and paler and even slightly green, I was really queasy. Robbie never gets seasick and Barry is a seasoned sailor having crossed from NZ to Australia in a yacht and sailed around the Pacific Islands. Daniel and I were both sick. Poor Barry was looking after us both whilst Robbie drove the boat. I was only sick once but poor Daniel saw a lot of the side of the boat. Once we got past Cape Campbell it smoothed right out and we had a beautiful journey. We got to Ward and Barry calls up his mate on the radio and next minute a boat is roaring out to us, handing over a bag filled ith Crays and 7 blue Cod! So it was fresh cod for tea cooked to perfection by Barry. Unfortunately Daniel got sick again and during the night Barry also succumbed although he didnt say anything and still took his watch. We arrived in Akaroa Harbour at 7:00am, what a beautiful spot it is. Barry & Daniel hopped on a bus into Christchurch to collect their rental car to drive back to Blenheim. Robbie and I had a stroll through the town which has a very strong French influence. The cruise ships now call into Akaroa since the Lyttleton Harbour is inaccessable due to the Earthquake damage. There was at least one cruise ship there every day, and sometimes two at a time. They generally arrive early in the morning and depart again at 6:00pm or 8:00pm each evening. We waited for our weather window and then departed for Dunedin, just the two of us again, our second overnighter on our own. The forecast was good and it started out good….BUT…. it did deteriorate quite badly and we had big swells, the wind changed to a Southerly on our nose and it was revolting! The swell got bigger, up to 5 metres, the bow of the boat was sometimes smashing into the waves and it was very uncomfortable. The boat handled it very well, me – not so much so! I wasnt sick but I felt very queasy. We arrived at Dunedin Harbour Heads around 9:00am and cruised up the main channel to town where Robbie had organised a berth for us in the Yacht Club. Once we saw the entrance to the Yacht Club and talked to the guy we decided against that berth. It was way shallow and we could have only got in there at high tide, and even then it wasnt ideal. So we contacted the Harbour Board and they sent us down to Carey’s Bay to the fishing marina. Its a beautiful spot, surrounded by hills and lots of history. The first frozen meat was exported from NZ from here, and the first container ship to arrive in NZ came to this port.


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