The forecast was for southwesterly gales that would keep us at anchor for three days, maybe more. I didn't care for the idea of an enforced stay in Port Adventure, and there was no enthusiasm on board for backtracking to Paterson Inlet. Our possible out was a forecast for six hours or so of southeasterlies as a trough came through. In theory at least, that seemed like a fair wind for the thirty-mile sail to the protected waters of Port Pegasus.
Except - I couldn't shake a bit of unease at the idea of traveling the south coast of Stewart Island as a front was coming through. There seems to be an element of chance in the weather during these changes, a bit more than we're used to from Tasmania, and we of course have no local knowledge to guide us. The gal who runs the radio sched for the local fishermen sounded a cautionary note when Alisa mentioned our plans. "Don't know if it's the day to move down south tomorrow. The boys down there are getting all sorts." There was a forecast for a two meter swell from the southwest, which would be right in our faces. And - well. I could picture Eric throwing up, and all of us wondering why we had chosen to leave the anchorage during unsettled weather.
When we woke it was still too dark to start out. Alisa and I got dressed and drank coffee lying side by side on the bed and talked it over. There was still no consensus over whether we should leave. On one hand I was all for going out and taking a look at the conditions, on the other hand I was afraid for the process of getting in over your head that begins with someone saying "let's just take a look". Alisa was offering that she didn't really mind the idea of staying in Port Adventure that much.
But when it did get light, the idea of days hanging on the hook in Abraham's Bosom was too much for me.
The boys woke up as we were leaving the bay, completely unsurprised to find us motoring against wind waves in a light drizzle. The poor things are so often out of the loop when we hatch sailing plans.
And - it turned out to be a fine day. It was gray, and rainy, and the motion grew sloppy as the promised southwest swell came up and the tidal current swirled. But - we had fantastic birding. Royal albatrosses, Buller's mollymawks, pintado petrels/cape petrels/cape pigeons, shearwaters, skuas and diving petrels. Elias was the first to spot a pintado, and thus scored a lifer for all of us.
And the sailing - 20, then 25 knots of wind on or just aft of the beam, with a spring tide behind us. We kept our speed above nine knots most of the way, and crested over ten for significant periods. Double-digit speeds make regular old traveling sailors a bit goofy with happiness.
Eric didn't get sick. The coast we traveled was lonely and austere. We reached the narrow pass into Port Pegasus with mist obscuring the landmarks around us and spray leaping up on both sides of the bow.
And then we were through, into the still waters, where albatross unaccountably swooped and alighted on the water. You just don't picture albatross inside completely landlocked bays, and their presence made the place feel just a little bit other-worldly.
Strange granite hills rose above little bays around us. Giant boulders balanced on ridge tops, the Dr. Seuss foliage of southern New Zealand gripped the hillsides right down to the high tide line.
There was no one else around. I was immensely glad to be here, in this part of Stewart that looks completely different from what we'd already seen, and tons of protected nooks to explore while we wait out the bad weather.
We've been here for two nights so far. And a lot has happened - so much that I might need a little distance, and the ability, back in town, to post pictures, before I tell the stories...
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