MILFORD SOUND TO WESTPORT

Last night I had dinner on Windora, I thoroughly enjoyed it, roast chicken with real vegetables, good food and good company.  After dinner we had more rum and I once again chugged back to Truce late at night in the dinghy.

I awoke on Friday morning to a beautiful day, clear skies and calm weather.  For breakfast I had a crayfish that was dropped off on the boat last night.  A perfect way to start the day when followed up with toast and marmalade with fresh coffee.  I am eating well down here.

Today is moving day, the forecast for sailing up the coast from Fiordland is good after midday.  First on the morning agenda was to bake some fresh bread for the trip ahead.      

Just before noon, with heart in mouth, I started the engine.  It fired first time and settled down to a nice regular beat.  I gave it a few minutes running just to be sure all is well.  Then I flipped the mooring line off the bollard forward and cruised across Deepwater Basin to say goodbye to the other boats.  One of the other boats is also sailing up the coast today.  They are quite a bit bigger than Truce so I expect they will leave us behind as we head north. 

By two in the afternoon the entrance to Milford Sound dropped astern and a fresh south westerly breeze set in.  Soon we were sailing with the wind astern, the yankee poled out to starboard and the double reefed main lashed out to port.  Progress was excellent, speeds hitting eight knots and comfortable. 

The other yacht appeared astern and we sailed together for a while as I shaped a course further offshore to try and remain in the stronger wind.  Then I noticed a large blue sail being deployed on the other boat.  It wasn’t a spinnaker but something called a tradewind sail, it worked wonders and they gradually overhauled Truce doing a good speed.  We had a chat on the VHF radio, they reported speeds of nine to ten knots and the boat being very settled. 

The wind was supposed to hold for two days but at midnight I had a call on the VHF to let me know the wind would be dropping in the next three hours to light and variable.  Not the news I wanted as I had hoped to have a good sail up the coast.  We continued sailing throughout the night and the wind gradually deserted us.  By seven in the morning we were down to two knots boat speed in very light wind.  Reluctantly I started the engine and headed north, hoping the engine would not fail.

All Saturday we motored in calm conditions, so unlike the west coast.  The option to stop the engine and wait for wind didn’t exist, no favourable wind was coming, we had to keep going.  I calculated that we could not round the north of the South Island before a S’Ely wind came against us.  The plan B was to put in at Westport for Sunday night and then see what the weather would do. 

The early hours of Sunday morning were rare, the sea was mirror calm, no cloud and a moonless night.  The stars were reflected in the sea and the horizon was indiscernible, it was impossible to see where the sea ended and the sky began.  The effect is like being inside a giant snow globe.  I have only experienced this in the Indian Ocean previously.  In these conditions it’s best not to think too deeply about the universe, space and the meaning of life or insanity could quickly follow.

Motoring continued all morning and we rounded Cape Foulwind just after midday.  The last run down to the Westport Harbour entrance was accompanied by a westerly breeze and the yankee helped us over the last three miles.

Westport is a bar harbour and has a fearsome reputation when Buller River has a good run and there is a swell outside the harbour.  I have seen the videos on YouTube.  However, in the benign conditions prevailing, crossing the bar would not be a problem. The informative Westport Harbour Information pack can be downloaded from the internet and provides information about the Bar.

I contacted the Harbourmaster and let him know I was coming in.  He was most helpful and directed me to stay on the beacon line and to tie up against his big rigid inflatable launch.

By two thirty in the afternoon we were past the heads into the harbour and shortly after all secure alongside the harbourmasters’ launch, which turned out to be an old Americas Cup support boat.  The big inflatable fenders making a comfortable cushion to lie alongside.

It had been a long arduous motor up the coast.  The engine had not missed a beat all the way. However, I am suspicious and still not confident that all is well with Mr. Yanmar.

I was tired and looking forward to a good rest.  But, tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep and got ready to go into town and pick up some groceries.  The last shopping had been in Stewart Island a few weeks ago and I fancied some red meat and fresh vegetables.

Westport is not a big place; the main street runs down to the port.  I was surprised to see a building that would not have looked out of place in California or Texas, The Municipal Chambers.  The architecture at odds with the rest of the street, how bizarre.

After a few minutes walk I found the supermarket and loaded up on fresh produce and treats.  Returning to Truce I made up a hearty stew in the pressure cooker with some prime steak.  A beautiful nutritious evening meal washed down with some cold beer.  Now, all secure alongside, well fed and watered I could finally sleep.

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