Watching Gannets stall 15 metres above the sea and then dive bomb into the water like Japanese kamikaze pilots was a spectacle. They were unrelenting feeding on whatever fish were submerged below the surface.
Whales grounding themselves on Farewell Spit hits the news headlines from time to time. We are ignorant as to why they do that yet our nature is to try and rescue them, even if they continue to re-offend the coming ashore. When our yacht ran aground on the Spit, it was our ignorance that put us there!
It astonished us as to how far out the shallowness was, our estimation was that we were a nautical mile or more from the beach. What astonished me more was having the two experienced yachtsman that you could ever meet allowing it to happen! Too embarrassed to phone a friend for help, all we could do was drop the pick (anchor) and wait for the tide to come in so as to give us enough depth to set sail again, taking a much wider berth from the branch of land.
There is something to be said about watching the sun set over land when at sea and then watching the sun rise over the same bit of land from the other direction – stunning. The ball in the sky gave prism colours when it went to bed and again when it got up, the typography of New Zealand made for a lovely bed picture.
On one of the days we had to use diesel power because of no wind, the only wind that was being blown was between Max and Wayne. They were sharing non-stop stories with each other about stuff – growing up; married life; work; children; sailing; cars; health and the like. They reminded me of a couple of old characters from a television programme, ‘Last of the Summer Wines.’ I listened more than I spoke and pondered why their kids weren’t on this yacht in my place experiencing some priceless ‘father-child’ time. I posed the question to them both.
What do you think their answers were?
Traffic on the water was sparse. One evening, a school of dolphins rode our bow wave. Unable to capture a photo because of the light, I stood there in solitude in awe of these torpedo’s, the only noise from the exhale of breath as they came up for air. A baby suckling the mother upside down was share skill whilst keeping the speed we were puttering at.
Seeing Orca fins a wee way off had me ask Wayne to quickly jump in and pretend he was a seal to attract them over. That was as close as we got to Orca fins.
And this all happened before the near death experience of sailing rough!
The last twenty kilometres from Big Bay to the entrance of the Milford Sound went without incident. An Albatross escorted us circling behind the yacht, teasing me with ducks and dives and twists as I tried to snap that National Geographic shot.
It wasn’t long after that that we entered and were sailing up the guts. Share rock faces rose vertical from the water’s edge into cloud, easily 1,000 metres high or more. The water fall tipping over the edge from height to plummet down allowed for tourist boats to be drizzled on as they nudged their crafts close to where the fresh water meets salt so as they got their bang for their buck.
Milford Sound was known as Piopoitahi by the early Maori, “piopoi” being the native thrush; “tahi” meaning “single.” Captain John Grono is credited for the European name Milford Haven – the name of his birthplace in Wales.
We ventured up a river to our the site where we could moor for the night. Using the inflatable dingy to get ashore didn’t go without another comical adventure. We ran over a rock bank shearing the pin off the propeller resulting in having to row ashore. The banter as to who was going to row the three hundred metres back if we weren’t able to repair it was funny – pick on the new guy!
It was repaired before we walked the 2 kilometres into the township. Stretching the legs hurt whereas welcoming feet on firm ground was welcomed. A meal at the local pub and quick phone call home to let loved ones know we were okay (we didn’t have any mobile phone coverage for three days leading up to Milford) allowed me to check in on how home was weathering after the Southerly storm ravaged Christchurch and the East Coast of New Zealand. Both sides of the Island were in balance.
That was until some chap’s voice from complete darkness called out, “I’m looking for Max. There is an emergency phone call from Waikawa Bay Marina.” Max climbed down into the double kayak to vanish for an hour or so.
It was serious.
The next day, we were on a flight out of Milford Sound heading for Queenstown to rent a car to get back to Christchurch.
To be continued and concluded …