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25May: N.Z. winter weather being most unhelpful!

N.Z. winter weather being most unhelpful! I'm in Mana, north of Wellington, on the Cook Strait, awaiting a weather window to leave for Hawaii....

(See 'Nelson Mail' photo & story - posted on 'Articles & Interviews' page)

   Mana Island, on east side of Cook Strait.

Tuesday 25th May 2010

I can't believe how time is slipping by!

I thought I had a weather window to get through the Cook Strait last week - but the forecast storm coming shortly after looked too bad sensibly to leave N.Z. to make for Hawaii, as I wanted to.... So here I am in Mana, at the very friendly, hospitable Mana Cruising Club, a short train ride north of Wellington, hoping to leave for Hawaii just as soon as a suitable weather window presents itself....

Well-known N.Z. weather 'guru' Bob McDavitt has kindly invited me to meet him for a tour of the NZ Met Office in Wellington tomorrow - and to look at the weather outlook for the next few days. Winter has set in here with a vengeance and nasty lows seem to be sweeping the country every few days. An added complication is the need to get the wind and tide right through the notorious Cook Strait. To head S through the Strait safely & avoid problems with overfalls etc, I need to avoid strong southerlies (a N wind is clearly to be preferred) and the tide must also be in the right direction through the narrowest part from here at Mana Island to Cape Terawhiti & on past the Karori Rip due west of Wellington Harbour entrance. The Cook Strait, with its highly irregular seabed making for nasty rips and overfalls, has a reputation akin to that of the Bass Strait and the Agulhas Current - to be treated with the utmost respect & not to be transited in the wrong weather conditions.

I arrived in Mana from the South Island, having come through the scenic, narrow French Pass in daylight from Nelson to Catherine Cove where I stopped overnight so as to make a daylight entry on a rising half-tide through the shallow entrance over the bar to Mana marina.... French Pass is another place where getting the tide right is vital. Like some passes in British Columbia, the spring tides here can cause whirlpools and it's highly dangerous to try to pass through against the tide - slack water is ideal for a relaxed transit!

  Approach to French Pass from Nelson   Anatakupu Island, on way N from French Pass.     View S to French Pass from Catherine Cove anchorage near sunset.     Ninepin Rock.     Chetwode Islands with Ninepin Rock.     View past Cape Jackson towards Cape Terawhiti across Cook Strait.  

I was delighted to see an occasional small penguin on my way and was joined by a Black-browed albatross for a short while, as well as seeing lots of sea ducks and two small groups of dolphins. Four handsome black-and-white Cape Petrels joined me in the middle of Cook Strait - where I was finally able to raise the mainsail & have a good, if short, sail towards Mana, having started the day motoring in a flat calm with just 1-3 knots of wind. Mana Island is a nature reserve and made for a very pleasant approach to Mana itself. The shallow, narrow, dog-legged entrance channel to Mana with its transits definitely concentrated my mind on coming in... As it was, the depth showed just 2.1m at one point (Nereida's draught is around 2m!) .... & I'd calibrated the depth instrument before leaving Nelson so I knew that was spot-on!!

The previous week in Nelson had been spent generally sorting out the boat after my long passage from Cape Town (62 days), trying to resolve ongoing reefing problems and making sure the rig was OK (helped by sailmaker John Heydon and rigger John Foulds), with time taken over provisioning for the passage to Hawaii and regular walks along the river to the lovely Nelson Library to catch up with emails and general Internet access in between meeting up with my relatives. I was happily surprised to get a visit, among several people who dropped by to say 'Hallo', from Annie Hill and Ulla Norlander - I hadn't realized they were in Nelson, which they'd decided was a good place to work on their 'new' boats, & they promptly invited me for a thoroughly enjoyable, sociable dinner before I left. (Nelson has a great micro-climate & a reputation as the calmest, sunniest spot in all of N.Z.!) It was on realizing a possible weather window had disappeared, with a bad storm forecast as imminent, that made me decide to sail to Mana on the Cook Strait as a positive step toward leaving N.Z. so as to retain my sanity .... There's nothing more frustrating than to be forever on the brink of leaving but then finding the weather has changed to prevent it.....
   View of D'Urville Island on way to French Pass from Nelson, in Tasman Bay

Written by : Mike

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