Akaroa to Marlborough SoundsDated: 05/05/08
Back in 1840 the French arrived in Akaroa just 5 days after the English had raised the Union Jack there. It would never become a French territory but thank goodness they stayed on anyway to plant their influence in this corner of NZ. Quaint architecture, french street names and shop fronts, cafes serving croissants, baguettes, local cheeses and wines, all combine to give this waterfront town its unique flavour.
Akaroa, situated 5nms inside a volcanic crater open to the sea at one end, was all we had hoped for, and more, but when the winds once again blew from the south we set sail for our next stop, about 200 miles north. I had cooked dinner for 2 days, as I usually do before a passage, and was looking forward to this trip. But.....
What had started out to be perfect conditions for the first 8 hrs, turned into a frustrating 2 days of strong winds attacking us from every direction, including thunderous 40knot squalls. Around here we have been experiencing sudden, unpredicted and unnanounced weather changes, which even seem to outsmart the experts as we follow the weather reports carefully. The seas are constantly confused which doesn't help the comfort on board!!
As the second night was approaching, it was BLACK, no visibility, but we decided anyway to try to enter in Port Underwood, a seemingly protected anchorage just 13 miles south of our intended destination, the infamous Tores Strait. The winds were howling, the seas were building an occasionally breaking into the cockpit, it was freezing cold and we dared to make an instrument entry, using radar and plotter only, and aim for an anchorage 3 miles inside.
We had been sailing with just the 3rd reef in the main for some time, and we even doused that before approaching the entrance. The entrance looks wide and clear on the chart but looks very narrow when approaching with no visibility and relying solely on instruments!!!! The light on the headland confirmed our position so in we went.
Well, we made it safely and as we dropped anchor at 2200hrs, snowflakes were falling gently on deck and onto our already numb hands!! They didn't settle, of course, but when we awoke next day to glorious blue skies, the fresh snow on the nearby mountain tops confirmed what we had experienced.
Port Underwood was delightful and quite a busy place with fishing barges working the large nearby mussell farms, emptying load after load onto awaiting trucks. We rested for a day, then having calculated tide times for our entrance into Tores Strait, we completed the final 13 miles and arrived safely into the first of the Marlborough Sounds yesterday.
The weather has packed in again, cold and wet, but we are in Picton Marina, cosy as, and will be meeting with some friends here before moving on to explore and film this new area which, we know, will be very different from any of the other places visited so far.