Fiordland National ParkDated: 28/02/08
Cruising in Fiordland
Milford Sound is the furthest north of the 14 main fiords in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. While there we were able to get a ride up to Te Anau, the nearest town, which is a three hour drive away. Te Anau was a great place to pick up fresh groceries and we filled one of our LPG tanks while there. Back onboard Mai Tai, we filled our diesel tanks and headed south.
Exploring the fiords by boat is considered adventure cruising. The weather can change in minutes and become horrific with high winds dropping down from 2,000 foot rock walls, there are very few places to shelter from the weather, the anchorages are mostly 22 metres or deeper and the sand flies can make being outside hell.
However, the majesty and beauty of these glacier cut waterways makes these disadvantages all seem worthwhile. We explored eleven of the fourteen main fiords in the four weeks we were there. Each one is a little different and has its own personality. Some are steep and straight while others wind miles back into the high mountains. Waterfalls are everywhere and many fall directly into the channels. Some have better anchorages than others and some seem to have more Blue Cod than others, although this could be a reflection on our inexperience with fishing in these waters.
Four weeks was enough for us. You are always on-guard due to the weather conditions, the anchorages and the sand flies. We had made sand fly screens for the whole boat before we arrived in Fiordland, including the hatches and dorade vents on deck. We even made bug hats by sewing sand fly netting onto old hats we had onboard so that it covered our faces and necks. Even with these preventative measures, after several weeks we were tired of having to bug proof ourselves every time we went on deck. There is a legend that the Maori Gods put the sand flies in Fiordland to make sure that man did not want to stay because if they had, they would have surely ruined the natural beauty of this wonderful place. So far this is working well.
Preservation Inlet is the fiord furthest south and therefore our jumping off spot for Stewart Island. It has a fascinating history of sealing, whaling and gold digging. However, today it appears untouched by man. Where there was once a small village, there is nothing left but a few iron boilers covered with thick scrub. After watching the weather for several days we made the decision to make our run for Stewart Island around Puysegur Point and across the infamous Foveaux Strait. This can be one of the worst stretches of water in the world. We'll let you know how our passage went in our next log entry.