Marlborough SoundsDated: 10/05/08
Kay at the helm
Kay at the helm
We spent 3 weeks exploring the Marlborough Sounds which comprise of a labyrinth of long deep inlets, reaching up into hills and valleys, in places, as far as 25nms. There are roads to only a limited part of the Sounds, servicing small holiday communities and private farmland. Many shoreside properties have their own private jetties with boat access only, which adds a certain charm to the beautiful bush-fringed bays but does increase the number of people in these areas, especially in the summer months.
Picton and Havelock are both very picturesque townships, which, between them, have 3 modern, well serviced marinas and shops within walking distance.
Having been cautioned about the gale-force winds that can blow with terrific force down the valleys and into the deep anchorages, we were pleased to be able to pick up a strong mooring each evening rather than having to anchor and set stern lines to shore. Our temporary membership in the Pelorus Yacht Club allowed us the use of any of the dozens of moorings throughout the Sounds and D’Urville Island. As it turned out, we experienced such calm, settled weather that we did not experience these winds and motored the majority of the time.
The Marlborough Sounds are famous as a wine producing region and for the green lip mussels. The mussel farms line much of the shoreline of the Sounds, and the boats working and harvesting these create a lot of traffic to and from the mussel processing plant in Havelock. There is nothing like a local Marlborough wine to go with a feast of freshly harvested mussels.
D’Urville Island forms the western boundary of the Sounds. After a night in the very pretty Catherine’s Cove we sailed to Elmslie Bay to meet up with our friends, Grace and Laurence, off SV Steadfast. S/V Steadfast is a replica of a beautiful French pilot cutter called “Jolie Brise”, which the owners run as a charter boat for cruises through the Sounds.
Elmslie Bay sits at the entrance to the notorious French Pass, which separates D’Urville Island from the mainland and forms a shortcut to Tasman Bay and the Nelson Region. The main channel is about 145 metres wide and at maximum tide flow the current can run through here at 7 knots causing dangerous tide-races and whirlpools through the pass.
The alternative route to Nelson is around the northern end of D’Urville Island, through another treacherous area called Stephens Passage. The cruising guide warns that “this passage can be an extremely turbulent area with dangerous rip tide rips and over-falls. The passage should not be used in bad weather and can even be difficult in calm conditions”. The weather was quite settled so we chose to take the Stephen’s Passage to make our entrance into Tasman Bay, and head for Nelson.