Captain’s Log: Week 3

This week, our travelers visit Kenepuru Sound and its surrounding communities, where they stock up on provisions and enjoy coffee and a bit of local culture.

Kenepuru Sound, the smallest of the Marlborough Sounds, is known for its turquoise waters (they're shallower) and sandy beaches

Kenepuru Sound, the smallest of the Marlborough Sounds, is known for its turquoise waters (they're shallower) and sandy beaches

Day 2: Nydia Bay to Havelock Marina

After a hearty breakfast of bacon, mushrooms and poached eggs on toast, our three travelers lifted anchor and headed for Havelock, a narrow channel only just navigable at low tide. “We chose to come in an hour after high tide so that we had a good 4 meters of water under the hull,” says John. At the marina, they refilled fuel and water and thoroughly cleaned the boat inside and out, attracting lots of attention from passersby as they were “right in the shop window.”

A drone's-eye view of Havelock Marina
A drone's-eye view of Havelock Marina


John, Robin and Jo just happened to arrive the day of the local mussel festival, which was also St Patrick’s Day. Even though it was just 3:30 in the afternoon, “Havelock was going off! Many shops that would normally be open had a sign on the door saying, ‘Gone to the mussel festival,’ and who can blame them?” John and Jo rode their foldable Brompton bicycles to the main drag to investigate. “Our bikes attracted a lot of attention too.” One gentleman they encountered was fascinated by them, “even more so when I folded mine up to backpack size then back into a bike in about one minute.”

John and Jo rode these collapsible Brompton bikes into town, shown here both open and closed John and Jo rode collapsible Brompton bikes into town, shown here both open and closed


Mills Bay Mussels came highly recommended by their new neighbor two boats down. Mussel fritters and garlic butter–grilled mussels on the half shell ended up being “the best mussels we have sampled in a long, long time.” Coffee at the Captain’s Daughter was followed by a visit to the local museum, which featured exhibits on early industry, including blacksmithing, farming, forestry and nearby gold-mining, which caused an exodus from Havelock in the 1860s. While washing clothes, a woman named Elizabeth Pope spied yellow specks along the riverbed, and the Wakamarina Valley rocketed to prominence as one of New Zealand’s richest gold fields shortly thereafter. 


Back at the boat, John contemplated fuel and water usage so far: “1,450 liters of diesel in seven days, cruising from Nelson through the sounds to Havelock. Water has lasted really well; I’m pleased I never installed a costly water maker. We’ve used only a third of our capacity in seven days.” He attributes this to switching their toilets to saltwater operation and installing a saltwater tap in the galley sink. “We reconnected the salt wash to the anchor well due to the amount of mud we are bringing up on the chain and anchor. This will keep the chain locker clean and ensure the drains do not block.”  

Horizon III refueling in Havelock: John is very pleased with their fuel efficiency so far
Horizon III refueling in Havelock: John is very pleased with their fuel efficiency so far


Robin noticed that the pin holding the bowsprit to the anchor well had lost a bolt and was working its way out. “Thankfully, the bolt had fallen into the chain locker and I was able to retrieve it,” says John. “The only part missing was a spring washer, which we were carrying in our spares.” Robin also checked the oil and cooling water, inspecting for any leaks or issues around the engines and generator unit. “All were perfect. It certainly pays to check things regularly to avoid any trip-interrupting episodes. Sadly, we can’t manage to predict all failures, but more about that tomorrow.”


Day 3: Havelock to Te Mahia Bay

For John, this beautiful, windless Sunday began with a cold shower. “My fault too! Shore power in Havelock was so dodgy, I had to turn off any high-load items to prevent the circuit breaker from popping and forgot to turn it back on last night.” The shower tower had fallen off and its mount had cracked. John and Jo speculated that this bad luck had befallen them because of the old mariner’s superstition against bringing bananas on board. “Robin had gone shopping for fruit yesterday, including bananas, and we joked about him needing to eat them all.” While Robin fixed the shower tower, Jo and John packed and went on a last-minute grocery run. 


Wandering up to the township for a final coffee before departure, they encountered a group of motorcycle enthusiasts out on their Sunday ride. A cavalcade of Triumphs, Nortons, Ducatis, Suzukis and Harley-Davidsons was on display. “My favorite was an 850 Norton Commando; it was original and mint. These riders would meet in Havelock then do a tour through the sounds. I imagine the roads would be great for bikes.”


As John, Robin and Jo prepared to cast off, their marina neighbors warned them of the possibility of eels sliding between the blades of their bow thruster. “As soon as you touch the button, you can break off the blades. Strange but true, apparently.” Heading out at high tide, they had more than enough water to navigate the narrow, shallow channel, but there was a lot of storm debris to spot and dodge as well.


Cruising at 10 to 12 knots, they arrived at Te Mahia Bay 1.25 hours later and were preparing to take their bikes across to Queen Charlotte Sound when Jo started shouting, “Water, water!” Darting below deck, John and Robin found the master cabin flooded. “I went into the ensuite to discover that the toilet was overflowing—not effluent but saltwater, as the fill-level lever had jammed.” Looking at one another, John and Jo chimed, “Bananas!” Thankfully, most of the water had gone into the bilge so it wasn’t hard to pump out, but the newly installed carpet was soaked. John and Robin spent the next three hours drying the carpet with a wet vac and carpet-cleaning machine.
"Thank goodness I brought a wet vac!" John cleans up the flooded ensuite bathroom
"Thank goodness I brought a wet vac!" John cleans up the flooded ensuite bathroom


“On completion of the cleanup, there was only one thing left to do.” Grabbing Robin’s bunch of bananas, John gave one to Jo, ate one himself and made Robin eat the rest. “There will be no more bananas coming on board this trip!” After good laugh, they headed back to beautiful Te Mahia Bay for the night.


Day 4: Mistletoe Bay Eco Village

With the water drama now under control, John, Jo and Robin were able to relax and enjoy some recreation, starting with a swim. After a much-needed hot shower and breakfast, Robin and Jo kayaked around the bay while John blogged, then the three ventured ashore for a bike ride. An uphill climb on a sealed road gave way to gravel at the top. “Bromptons aren’t really suited for gravel roads, as they have pretty small wheels, but that hasn’t stopped us taking them off-road before and it wasn’t going to stop us today. The ride to Mistletoe Bay was all downhill; as long as we didn’t attempt to break any downhill speed records, it was a lot of fun.”  


Mistletoe Bay didn’t disappoint when it came to coffee either. Looking to dispose of their empty eco-cups, which have no wax coating and grade 1 compostable plastic lids, they were met with seven large bins in a row. “You had to walk past six different recycle bins before you got to dispose of general rubbish. The idea is that before you dump your rubbish into landfill, you have choices to make.”


Casey and Sharon, the managers of the eco village, explained that they didn’t mind paying a bit extra to protect the environment. “There is no excuse for the use of non-environmentally friendly packaging,” says John. “The price premium will quickly disappear with volume sales if every outlet chooses it.” Casey and Sharon not only look after campers but also conduct school eco-tours. An onsite bottle crusher allows for easy glass transport while a worm farm reduces waste. They’re also looking to plant vegetables, which people can eat and then replenish by planting more for the next group. That day, they had two high school groups totaling 100 students.  

Te Mahia Bay Lodge visible on the foreshore: our travelers enjoyed a tasty pie here
Te Mahia Bay, with the lodge visible on the foreshore: Our travelers enjoyed a tasty pie here


After slogging back up the gravel road, our travelers welcomed the downhill sprint to Te Mahia Bay Resort, where they stopped in for coffee and a treat: beef and mushroom pie. “The owner said they were good and he was not wrong. Amazing pie!” Once back on board, they tried fishing, even taking the tender into a mussel farm, but had not even a single bite. They spent a quiet, relaxing evening in Portage Bay.


Day 5: Portage and Hikoekoea Bay

The day began with an overcast sky, gentle winds and the usual swim. “I wanted to focus on my breathing and increase my endurance. Jo joined me after a bit of persuasion, and we returned pleased with ourselves for braving the elements.”


Heading for Titirangi Bay via Forsyth Bay, they paused briefly at Horseshoe Bay, their favorite fishing spot, and caught one gurnard and two spotted sharks. Debris in the water, mostly branches, processed timber and twigs, created a real obstacle course. “At times, I had to pull the engines into neutral then drift through tide lines of debris that were too random to track through at any speed. It seems that recent extreme weather has left its mark throughout the sounds; there’s no way I would navigate these waters at night!”


Traversing Allen Passage, they made their way into Titirangi Bay. “We could see why everyone likes it here. This is probably the best beach we have seen down here.” Though they would have liked to anchor there for the night, the wind was not in their favor, so they tucked into Hikoekoea Bay, where they spotted a lone deserted bach, or holiday home. “We could see that storm surge had washed deadwood right up to its steps!”

Titirangi Bay: their favorite beach in the Kenepuru Sound
Titirangi Bay: their favorite beach so far


John walked the beach looking for washed-up plastic waste but was pleased to find none, only a well-worn child’s flip-flop. After a spot of fishing, which again yielded little, they spent a comfortable night preparing for tomorrow’s trip.


Day 6: Hikoekoea Bay to D’Urville Island

With the wind picking up as they departed Hikoekoea Bay, helmsman Robin steered them toward the Chetwode Islands. Low on food, they had had a bacon-and-egg dinner the previous night so were keen to catch some fish. After landing a gurnard and a couple of small sharks, they moved on in search of a better spot. By now, the sea was standing at about one meter, with very short waves. “At 12 knots, we were not quite running the tops, so adding 3 knots meant we rode them like we were in flat water. Luckily, Horizon III is very long and relatively narrow.” 

Jo caught this small sand shark, which was then released
Jo caught this small sand shark, which was then released


Continuing at 25 to 28 knots, they stayed east of D’Urville Island for the most favorable conditions and headed once more for Catherine Cove, stopping to fish at Stewart Island. On the way over, John got a message from Nelson Marina, who had a spot become available for a couple of nights. They arranged to arrive Thursday afternoon to restock food, refill their LPG bottles and shop for a wetsuit. “Water temperatures are beginning to drop down here, and I have no fat on my bones!”


Once more, they had no fishing luck and abandoned the spot after just 15 minutes. Stopping short of Catherine Cove, they were still in about 30 meters of water. “I dropped my line and promptly pulled up two snapper. The wind shift had already spun us around by then, so Jo and Robin fished from the bow and began getting bites too. Robin spotted a small colony of seals on the rocks. Some were just wallowing in the water with one flipper held high, probably keeping a wary eye out for sharks?” 


Joining Jo and Robin at the bow, John cast his three-hook rig as far as he could. Within seconds of reaching the bottom, he was getting big bites and hooked up almost immediately. “On pulling up my line, I discovered to my delight three blue cod of good size. Into the live-bait tank they went! I decided to bait just one hook and cast again. This time, I came up with two blue cod; fishing was going to be easy today!”

John catches three cod in one quick drop
John catches three blue cod in one quick drop


Jo reeled in a particularly feisty cod, which John unhooked for her. “Just as I got him off the hook, he made a bid for freedom. Next thing I knew, I had a size 5 hook buried in my thumb. I managed to keep the cod on board with my foot while Robin brought some side-cutters so I could snip off the eye and push the hook through.” Asked to fetch Robin’s rod from the top deck, Jo promptly pulled up what would have been his first fish in this spot. “It was a very confusing scene: two cod flapping around on the boarding platform, one on the line to be unhooked, and me waiting to be set free—what a laugh!


“Once the barb was out, I was able to follow the curve of the hook until I was free. It was actually pretty painless, to be honest.” After sanitizing and dressing his wound, John got right back to fishing, pulling up enough cod for dinner that night plus snapper and gurnard for another two meals. While filleting the fish, Robin caught more gurnard and blue cod, so some of the healthy but smaller specimens were released. “The next fish Robin hooked came screaming up to the surface, leaping into the air to reveal itself as a two-meter bronze whaler shark before taking off. Robin predicted the outcome but enjoyed the challenge of the fight. Amazing that a large shark was interested in a tiny plastic bait!”


Anchoring as close as they could to the beach, they enjoyed a Hawke’s Bay merlot before sinking their teeth into fresh beer-battered cod bites. “We had a lazy evening after another great day in the sounds.” Tomorrow: back to Nelson.

By Anna Ngo

Oceanmax International

Blog post published 5 April 2018