After the New Year we headed down to Marlborough Sounds to sister-in-laws holiday property, the weather as appalling for summer. The grey skyed Wellington harbour was carpeted with a wind whipped white curled tufted waves of the mottled sea of the sky colour. Apprehension filled the veins as the Blue Bridge line Monte Stello moved ever closer to the open ocean of Cook Strait, we all silently knew this would likely become a personal stomach churning nightmare for us once as we passed the Karori rock into the open strait. Alison and I stood on the empty deck, protected by a bulk head from the constant westerly wind that blew across the top of the South Island as the ship bucked her way to the relative quiet waters of the Tory Channel and into Queen Charlotte Sound. Fortunately our breakfast remained in place as the sea never really got rough for long, the queasiness eased the moment we entered the sounds.
The three hour voyage over we drove off the boat, with Chris’s 16 foot huntsman in tow and headed for the marina to launch this smaller boat for the trip back up the passage to Kahikatea Bay (Curious Cove).
The sea had appeared disturbed but calm on the larger a Roll on Roll off ferry, but once in the small boat laden with people and goods it became apparent it was more aggressive. We pounded up the 35 minutes north to the property trying to find a speed that was comfortable. This had been Chris’s first trip down here for a while and he had a bunch of things he needed to do so we had a double load of freight. The first trip took our food, drink, clothes and bedding and then the next we took down various other things such as a slide, spare fuel, two mattresses, solar panel, and diving equipment.
The property hasn’t got a house on it yet so we had rented the place next door, this was a walk around the beach at low tide or a row across to the wharf at high tide. The place rented was a green three story chalet perched on a hill overlooking the bay. Entrance to the building was via the middle story, which contained a small kitchen, laundry, shower, toilet dining room, lounge and room with two single beds. This room opened onto a balcony with a view to the front over Curious Cover and to the south over Queen Charlotte sound. Upstairs was a single open plan room with two double beds, one each side of an atrium affair to the living area below. Under the house was a locked room accessible only from the outside. This chalet had electricity, a stove, microwave and freezer as well as a tiny television that actually worked one channel.
Although there isn’t a house on the in-laws property, they do have a jetty and a boat shed. The boat shed has tank water, stainless steel sink, a porter potty, table and chairs. With weather that was less than clement we busied ourselves the first day, building a pantry, setting up the solar panel and adding twelve volt lights to the boat shed.
Alison started the fishing casting into the bay off the jetty using soft baits and catching the first of the many blue cod we were to catch on the trip. I think Alison ended up the champion fisher person of the trip with a personal haul of well over twenty in the four days.
The house was used as the main base for food and cooking and we all moved up there in the afternoon, played cards and finished our evening playing cards. Alison and I stayed in the house and Chris and Barb were happy to sleep in the boat shed on the mattresses we had taken down.
The next day the weather was no better, although as became normal the morning was relatively calm compared with the rest of the day and the early morning view. We pottered around the boat shed most of the day and moved the boat out on to a mooring away from the jetty as it was getting battered by the vigorous winds and sea.
A pair of plastic kayak’s, are in the boatshed for messing around the bay in as well as an old orange, row boat come sail boat, come power boat thingy. This orange vessel was the main means of hopping between the wharfs and out to the mooring for the power boat. Chris had a little five horse motor for this boat, however we never used it. With the weather still not great we again filled in time around the boat shed, fishing off the wharf and paddling up and down the bay in the Kayaks. The Kayaks are wet paddling so we always had to be prepared to get our bums at least wet when we used them. The standard way of launching these light craft was to set the kayak up on the jetties boat ramp with the intrepid kayaker on board ready to paddle. An onlooker gives the kayak a shove towards the sea. Off it goes with the inevitable result of meeting an incoming wave which fills the shallow recess the paddler sits in completely, soaking them before they had even dipped the paddle in the briny. Once in it is a frantic paddle to get passed the jetty and out into the bay before the next wave picks the tiny vessel up and pushes it into the wood work.
We walked to the top of the hill behind the chalet and to the look out of Queen Charlotte sound and watch the ferries forge up and down the passage as yachts and power boats of every description weaved in and out of their path. The panorama up to Anakewa is simply breath taking, it would be easy to sit up on the ridge and watch the activities throughout the sounds all day long without ever tiring of it.
One of the issues in the sounds area is the growth of the Pine Trees, they are growing in epidemic proportions and there is an official program to remove them. The method used is to poison the trees, this means the needles turn brown and then drop off, this is followed by the branches and alternately the tree comes down. All over the hills there are pines in various stages of this process giving clusters of rusty orange and brown stands of trees along the ridges and in the valleys.
Chris picked a dozen or so green lipped mussels from the rocks around the boat shed, he never went further and about ten feet from the edge of the shed on one side. Cooked in white wine and lemon, these morsels were consumed with passion in the late afternoon as the sun filled the boat shed and we savoured a glass of sauvignon blanc. This was simply a fantastic moment that will be remembered forever.
The last full day dawned brilliantly, the air was fresh, the bay was flat and the wind had died. We didn’t need any encouragement to take the boat of the mooring, pack a picnic and head off into the sounds for a day of adventure. To start the day, Chris and Barb had the presence of mind to walk around the rocks on low tide to a spot that had paua, retrieving a few for this black abalone for the evening meal.
At over sixty kilometres an hour we roared up the sound passed the Tory Channel to a place that had Chris had marked on his fish finder as a likely spot to catch a few fish. It was a complete hit, Alison we had hardly stopped before Alison had thrown her line in and was looking for assistance to remove the first blue cod of the day. We stopped counting, but we caught a great deal of fish here and returned everything we caught to the sea. No point in keeping fish this early in the day, and at the time Blue Cod were catch and release, this situation will be changed in the ensuing months but now keeping them was not allowed. Once we had all caught our fill of fish, we up anchored and headed further up the sound to Ships Cove. This is the first place Captain Cook landed in New Zealand and he spent a few weeks here repairing and resupplying his ship. This little bay became the favoured stop in the early days of New Zealand history. I visited it in the middle 1960’s and apart from a concrete monument of the famous navigator there wasn’t much else. Now it is the head of the popular walking track and a great picnic spot to take tourist visiting the area. The park is small but brilliant, with picnic tables, toilets and shelter and importantly a big jetty to tie up at. We had a wonderful lunch consisting of bacon and egg sandwiches and ginger bread while Alison feed the weka that gathered around. This was the first occasion in my life I had seen them out and about, like chooks in a farmyard, it felt very home and New Zealand.
After our lunch stop at Ships Cove, and after a few anxious moments trying to get the boat started we head off across the sound to where Chris had found a spot we might be able to try scallop dredging. We gave a bay a few runs but were not really sure if we had the dredging device set correctly; we did pick up a couple of dead shells however. The activity although amusing Chris and I seemed to be tedious to the girls so at their insistence we headed off to another spot to have a final fish for the afternoon.
The story is the same as the first fishing spot we had today throw the line in, no mater the bait and catch a blue cod. The fish here however appeared bigger and somewhat more eager to take our bait. The afternoon was wearing on and the wind had started to get up and so we decided to head home, with perhaps another little go at the scallop thing on the way.
Alison wanted to photograph three seals that were on and around the rocks near our fishing spot, so we moved closer to the rocks they were on and had a little display of a young seal frolicking in the wavelets at the edge by its parents.
With the sky still brillante but wind getting up we set a course for home and headed back to the boat shed for the evening. Once we had tied up, Alison couldn’t resist another fish off the end and retrieved something we could eat, the hunt was now on and in twenty minutes we had a fish each for dinner.
Now we had muscles, fresh still in the sea, paua and fresh fish, damn it we needed scallops, so Chris and I slipped the boat of the mooring and headed back out into the passage to give the scallop dredge another go. Unfortunately we didn’t succeed and the sound started to get up a bit, and we ran out of the main fuel tank, so we took it as a sign from the sea gods it was time to go home.
Our dinner was a magnificent feast of paua fritters cooked on the BBQ, paua strips, muscles cooked straight out of the ocean and onto the BBQ and fresh fish less than an hour caught dusted in egg and flour and grilled on the BBQ. All of this washed down with white wine, as the late afternoon sun sinks towards the ridge tops. Yum bloody yum, yum, there is no better food provider than nature herself and there is no better restaurant than in her special surrounds.
The next day was go home day, to our regret we packed our gear and fortunately the weather was kind to us giving us only a moderate wind and the trip bag to Picton was quiet.