Marlborough Sounds, N.Z.
Everyone in Wellington knows where the Bluebridge ferry terminal
is. You can see cars lined up ready to board whenever you stroll
along the waterfront. But, a boat on a trailer without a car
is said to be 'freight' and Sunday morning had us wandering
around a rather unusual bit of the harbour looking for the Bluebridge
freight terminal. Eventually, someone took pity on us and took
us between a never ending lane of containers to the right place
– about 50 ft from the passenger terminal!
||Within a few minutes Bootstrap was on the
ferry and strapped down with a huge set of chains. Then
the wharfies found out that I didn't have a paid up ticket.
They made me stand outside in the cold until someone arrived
to open the freight office.
I had Mike from Soundstorage organized to tow Bootstrap to
the launching ramp and I was impressed with his service. We
found my nephew Ralph strolling down the road with a huge pack
on his back.
Within a few minutes of arriving at the launch ramp, Mike had
Bootstrap dumped in the water. My first set of clothes was wet
when I had to jump for the panther. With a “see you on
Saturday”, he dashed of to pick up another boat. As we
still had the trailer light board with us, I ended up running
after him in my sea boots shouting like mad. Luckily Mike stopped
to wash off the trailer and I quickly stashed it in his car.
||After rigging and a quick lunch at the town
wharf, we motored out into the bay and hit a strong headwind
and a strong chop. Although we made progress, the motor
was battling. It was not very pleasant. Ralph asked: “Can
we sail her?” This floored me as I hadn't thought
We raised the reefed main and set off beating into wind. We
were totally overpowered in some of the gusts and water was
everywhere, but it was far more fun than pretending to be a
power boat. We arrived at Flipper Bay.
||Flipper Bay is a lovely spot with native forest
crowding down to the waters edge. The bay has a few tiny
patches of beach with the water dropping deeply away. Albert
and two pet canaries live there on a Blue thirty footer.
Like many lonely people, he talks far too much when he can
find suitable victims.
He also has a heart of gold and bent over backwards to help
us. He was darting about setting out stern and anchor lines
all the time talking ten to the dozen. He then sat there in
his tiny canoe watching with fascination as we set up tent for
the first time. Managing the long wiggly tent poles from inside
the boat was as bit of a struggle, but it was soon up and looking
||With Albert shouting advice, we then had our
first attempt at climbing from Bootstrap’s bow into
Slipper, our rather wobbly skin and frame canoe. You have
to swing your body out over the centre of Slipper so that
she doesn’t tip over. There were lots of wobbles,
but we never capsized.
We popped over for tea in his yacht and were introduced to
the mysteries of the marine forecast. I was intrigued to find
a tiny wood burning stove keeping the interior snug and warm.
||Afterwards, back to Bootstrap, we fired up
the LPG cooker and after a nice meal and a bottle of Merlot
we went to bed. A few purpose made boards across the foot
well provided more than enough for sleeping bags and mats.
||Of course, the access to the toilet could
be found by standing on the transom and holding onto the
mizzen. It was lovely to lie in the gently rocking boat
and hear the waves quietly splashing against her hull.
||We sailed up Mistletoe Bay getting our first
real impressions of the Sounds. A disappointment in that
every small cove is stuffed with private wharfs and baches.
There is very little public access. At the end of Mistletoe
Bay is an old DOC campsite, now in private hands and full
of school kids having fun.
||We followed a path up through a beach forest
up to a lookout point that offered views of Keneperu and
Queen Charlotte Sounds. We went back to Flipper Bay for
the night and made our first attempt at fishing, using biltong
(raw dried meat) as bait. Within a few minutes I caught
a very small blue cod, which like all the other fish on
the trip, was thrown back.
We awoke to Albert bobbing alongside us in his tiny canoe telling
us the weather report. The forecast was a strong northerly,
rain for today and a southerly tomorrow. After packing up, and
with a friendly wave from Albert, we sailed to Ships Cove.
||It was great sailing. The wind was picking up, but there was
no swell. Ralph and I perched on the rail like canaries
while Bootstrap steamed along. Ships Cove is a very sheltered
bay with houses on one side and lots of moorings on the
other. In the summer I’m sure it’s packed, but
now there was only a handful of boats.
Although Ships Cove looked a safe place for the night, we wanted
to check out the next inlet where there is a walk over to the
Keneperu Sounds. With the rain starting and the wind picking
up, we left the sails furled and used the motor. Coming around
the point the wind increased and the rain came down in sheets.
At some point I tried sailing under mizzen and jib and we ended
up on beams end within seconds. The jib sheets then pulled out
through their fairleads and proceeded to tie themselves into
a tremendous knot. It took quite a fight for Ralph to get the
jib furled and everything sorted out.
At times we could hardly make any progress against the wind
and rain, even though the throttle was pointing to “bunny”.
It’s a horrible feeling when you are a few feet from some
rocks with minimal steerage and the boat is no longer moving.
After a while sanity prevailed and we decided to head back to
Ships Cove, but first we needed to top up the engine's petrol.
We managed to find some shelter against a bank and dropped
the anchor. After pouring petrol all over the motor, (my normal
way of filling the engine tank), I had a blond moment and decided
to have a pee. While standing there all exposed, Ralph let up
a cry and I woke up to the fact that the boat was swinging around
the anchor onto the shore. There was a mad scramble to get the
engine started (without a rope around its propeller) and move
us away. Just to add mischief, the anchor got stuck –
fun and games!
||Heading back downwind under mizzen and engine
was not without its moments. A few times the boat swung
around to windward in a slow broach. Just before we got
to safety, Slipper our tender, decided to capsize and almost
Between gusts, we managed to drag her nose onto the boat and
get most of the water out before flipping her over again. We
were very pleased to safely snuggle into the end corner of Ships
Cove, put up the tent and start the drying out process.
||That night it rained buckets with the odd
gust flattening the tent. Two of the tent poles cracked
but we managed to hold out for the night.
After that terrible night it was great to wake up to sunshine
and a gentle westerly breeze. We missed the marine forecast
(no Albert here), so I managed to get hold of a friend Metservice
for a very accurate forecast.
||The long awaited southerly would be coming
through during the night, but the westerly storms were over.
Taking advantage of the weather, we set out to get as far
as possible towards the Cook Straight.
||Hopefully, we could find somewhere to stay
for the night where you didn't feel like you were camping
on somebody’s back lawn. The weather was perfect.
A light westerly was blowing down the sound giving us a
||We passed “Faith”, a beautiful
classic motor cruiser, with a huge school of dolphins playing
in her wake. It gave me a thrill when I saw the owner of
this historic boat bothering to take a photo of little Bootstrap!
Ralph tried to make a lure using a bottle top and a hook
or two. It looked pretty good to me, but it didn't fool
||Still it passed the time as we chugged along.
Eventually we saw a DOC campsite on Brunie Island. The book
The Cruising Guide didn't recommend the anchoring there,
but with a southerly expected, Bootstrap should be safe
for the night.
||Ralph was keen to try out his new tent, so
we used Slipper to ferry our stuff to the beach and set
up camp. Setting the anchors took ages as the holding is
very bad, but having Slipper to move anchors helped us no
end. It is nerve wracking to lift an anchor in a wobbly
canoe, but throwing it out again is even more scary!
||We had a very pleasant evening watching the
sun set, sipping wine and preparing a meal. It was beef
and mushroom risotto with a white wine sauce. It beats the
standard hiking food! While I was slaving over a hot LPG
stove, Ralph was fishing – luckily we didn't have
to rely on this skill for food.
||As high tide was at 8pm, we beached Bootstrap
and went to bed knowing that she would be safe out of the
water while the dreaded cold front came through.
||We awoke to a chilly morning with Bootstrap
almost afloat. With the tide high we gave her a push or
two and she was away again. It was fun and games as we set
out some anchor lines.
||My second anchor is a grapple, which is worse
than useless, but with Ralph darting about in Slipper, and
me using the motor to keep Bootstrap from blowing back onto
the shore, we managed.
||A few hours later the wind dropped (or perhaps
it stopped raining) and we set out under jib and mizzen.
The strong southerly had us chugging along at a comfortable
and very respectable speed.
||We ended up having lunch at Mint Bay and we
spent a few hours exploring Endeavor Inlet. The Southerly
had built up a fair swell at the head of Endeavor making
it an interesting trip back to Mint Bay for the night.
||The wind was dropping fast, so we could shake
the reef out of the main and power through the waves –
a very wet ride but great fun.
||Mint Bay was another lovely place to spend
the night. It had a beach, bush and a view! Ralph was all
for bashing down some undergrowth and setting up his tent,
but we ended up sleeping on the boat again.
It was Good Friday and time for us to start heading back towards
Picton. As the wind was westerly, I was expecting to beat the
entire way back. After an hour or so, the wind dropped off completely.
While I had a nap, Ralph got the fishing rod out.
Eventually, we motored over to a small beach and spent some
time exploring. I caught a small fish which swallowed the hook.
When we finally freed it, the stupid fish rolled over and slowly
sunk to the bottom. I felt terrible and we soon left 'Murder
As a light Easterly wind had picked up, we had an easy time
running up the Sound. We were amazed at the amount of traffic.
Boats of all descriptions were everywhere. Of course it was
perfect weather at the beginning of a long weekend, but I shudder
to think what it must be like over the Christmas break.
Our original idea was to sail back to Flipper Bay, which would
put us about two hours from Picton and the ferry. Just opposite
Picton we saw a small bay. It had a slightly broken pier, a
small path to a real basic back (which was unlocked) and lots
of native bush. It looked a great place and we decided to spend
the night there.
||With a stern line, a line to a tree on either
side of the bay and an anchor line, we figured that Bootstrap
wasn't going anywhere. Just as well, as soon after dark
a swell developed and, with the backwash from the sides
of the bay, we had a very bumpy night.
After packing up, we had an easy sail back to Picton. We soon
had Bootstrap unrigged and tucked away into a small corner of
the public wharf.
While strolling about we saw Faith and I invited ourselves
on board. We ended up sitting in her delightful lounge chatting
to Jim the owner. What an amazing history the boat has and I
wish them well for the future – Doubtful Sounds is calling,
The pickup worked fine with Mike's wife waiting for us with
our trailer. She soon had us out the water and on the ferry.
We found some hot showers and managed to scrap of the worst
of the dirt. A surprising strong wind was blowing in the Cook
Straight considering that there was almost no wind in the sounds.
All in all, it was a great holiday. Ralph, who is an American
Park Ranger, was great fun to be with. He was always calm, but
keen. I am already thinking about what I could do better next
time and where I could go. Anyone interested in a trip to Lake
What I learned