Sunday, March 23, 2008
A 5 day Tour
Getting to Nelson was a very exciting moment. For the past month I have been anticipating this sailing trip with Hamish and Grant on their boat. It had been exactly one month since I’d left Wellington and since I’ve been on the South Island. It’s been an incredible month and one I’ll never forget, but in the back of my mind, there was always an air of anticipation for this trip. It’s been a while since I’ve been sailing, or on a boat for that matter. The smell of the sea, the feel the of the wind and the sound of water rushing past the hull of a boat with no engine is something that I often dream about. Plus it had been a month since I’d hung out with the McLaren gentlemen, an exciting event in itself.
Meeting up with them at the marina in Nelson was just like meet up with family again after not seeing them for a while. Totally exciting. Two of their good family friends, Gareth and Michael (father and son) were joining us for the epic voyage too. With the company of 4 great dudes; 2 awesome families, there was no way the next 5 days was going to be anything but incredible. After some quick catching up, we went shopping for food, had a nice BBQ dinner and prepared for an early morning start. Getting up before dark wasn’t as hard as I’d expected, but it probably helped to have a diesel engine running beneath you. If only getting up every morning could be that exciting. Once out of the marina and into open water, it didn’t take long to get a line in the water and start fishing. Our first bite came very quick too. I don’t remember what kind of fish it was, but we kept it not for food, but to catch more fish later on. In fact, I’ve never seen or heard of any of the fish we saw or caught all week, with the exception of the two Barracuda we caught the second day. More on that in a bit. That day we sat offshore a rocky island and did some bottom fishing. I think we caught just about everything that the sea produced, except fish. We caught everything from octopus, to starfish and even a bird. The bird was called a Shag, and it went for one of our lures after it was cast. The bird dove for it an got all entangled up in the hook and line. It was a pretty sad site. We decided to reel it in and try to untangle it. After 5 frustrating minutes and two vicious, bloody bites on Grant’s and Hamish’s hands, the bird got away before we could get it all out. It should be ok though. Our first night was spent on in a beautiful harbor protected with beautiful rocky islands at its entrance, anchored just off the shore of a nice little beach. Hamish and I had been itching to do some snorkeling, so once we got on anchor, it didn’t take long to get in the water. I was stoked to have got my underwater camera working again. It had broke on my trip to the Coromandel and I thought it was a gonner. But I bought a new battery and fixed the seals with some silicon and it works again. We were hoping to see lots of Paua and Crayfish, but we saw neither. It was beautiful though and a really fun dive.
The next day our luck changed. The winds were in our favor and we sailed all the way to D’Urville Island. Along the way we managed to catch 2 Barracuda. I’d never seen this fish before and have heard lots of stories. But its an impressive fish and worthy of the reputation it’s earned. Its long, sharp teeth make it a little difficult to get the hook out though. Once on D’Urville, we found a beautiful little picturesque cove to anchor in. As soon as we put a line out, we had fish on the line. It was non-stop fish. Every cast seemed to produce something. That evening we feasted with a meal of fresh caught Blue Cod. Hamish and I once again went in search of Paua and Crayfish with our mask and fins. We found a few Paua, but came across a giant patch of Green Muscles which we ate with dinner as well.
It’s really quite astonishing how warm it was for being so late in the summer. I really thought that summer was way over. Especially since it was snowing in Kaikoura. But to my surprise, I found myself laying in the sun and running around the boat in my shorts looking for sunscreen the whole week. Our evenings seemed to consist of the ritual of making dinner, drinking wine and beers and retelling stories of the days adventure. I loved every second of it. It was so nice to be in the company of good people, eating amazing food and enjoying classy beverages. A big change from the food I’d been living off the past month or so while camping. We played the guitar a bunch too. Hamish, basically a professional guitar player who doesn’t know it, would just bust out songs randomly, only adding the incredibleness of the atmosphere.
We woke the next morning in the beautiful cove to find out that Gareth’s brand new rod which he bought for the trip, had fallen overboard. We were in 12 meters or about 35-40 feet of water by the time I got my suit on. For a while I had been wondering how deep I could dive on a single breath. Combining the fact that a brand new $200 rod was sitting on the bottom, this provided a good challenge to find out. There was a giant lead weight on the boat they used to anchor the dinghy. They tied a long rope to the end and I used this as my way down. With a buoyant wetsuit and lots of water to swim through, it would be really hard to get down to the bottom without any weight and actually have air left in my lungs. On the count of three they let the weight go and I held on as it pulled me to the unseen bottom below. The first try I panicked at the thought of being pulled down and let go and came up. The second try, I panicked at the pressure being built up in my mask. Ready to give up, I gave one more try. Half way down I equalized the air in my mask and pressure in my ears, and waited for the bottom to arrive. It felt like it took forever, but I made it and once I hit the bottom, instantly I saw the rod. I grabbed it and made my way back to the surface to a very happy fishing rod owner. It’s a bit hard to explain, but the feeling you get when you challenge yourself outside your comfort zone is incredible. For me it was a mental challenge. I knew it was possible and needed to overcome a fear. It’s easy let opportunities to challenge yourself pass you by. But you will never regret it, even if you fail. Much in the same way traveling is.
After a nice big Kiwi breakfast, we pulled anchor and returned to the harbor we spent our first night as sea. We changed the name of the cove we spent the night in from Copper Cove, to Blue Cod Cove. Though it probably won’t be a widely used name, it is the only name it rightfully deserves. The winds weren’t in our favor that evening as it was a bit challenging to find a really good spot to spend the night. The winds persisted most all night, but the fine red wine and amazing steak dinner compensated.
The next we as I woke, the sun was rising over the mountains and the sky was blue. I realized it was Sunday. It was Easter. Thoughts of my mothers.. errr… I mean Easter Bunny’s baskets came to my head and I begin asking, jokingly, if the Easter Bunny forgot us this year. To my complete shock, Grant pulled out a bag of chocolate bunnies, each with a name on it and a nice note written that said “Happy Easter”. It was perfect. The Easter Bunny found me despite being halfway around the world on a sailboat in some uninhabited cove in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think we give this rabbit enough credit.
The last day we sailed from out harbor back to Nelson. We had incredible wind the whole was back. We were on a strait shot, broad reach all the way back to Nelson. Their boat, a Townsend 36, is a fast sailboat. Even full of gear and towing a dinghy, we were doing about 7 knots over the water. It was incredible. The sun was out, the boat slightly keeled over and the breath taking scenery of Tasman Bay sweeping by us. We decided to pull into Peppin Island, just outside Nelson, for lunch. As it turned out the island had a few incredible looking beaches and the water looked very inviting. So Hamish, Michael and I set out on the Dinghy for shore and had the best dive session of the whole trip. The visibility was incredible. The rock formations were impressive, the fish were bright and in huge schools. We even saw a few stingrays. An incredible creature that looks out-of-this-world. We spent about an hour in the water exploring this island from the sea. It was an awesome way to end the epic voyage.
We made it back to the marina in Nelson in time to take a shower, BBQ the rest of the food and have a fine last dinner. We celebrated Easter and being back on land with deserts and drinks at the restaurant on the marina. We crashed pretty hard that night, as we did the rest of the week. The salt, the wind, the water, the sun, the food, the company, it was all combined to give some of the best nights sleeps I’ve ever had. For the past 5 days I’ve found a home on a boat. To describe this trip as incredible or awesome or amaazing wouldn’t really give it justification. With the simplicity of the trip and the all the
memories made, if I needed to describe it with one word, that word would be: Perfect.