Travel.P #20 – Stop! We need Shelter. Is CookStraight too big for us?

Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.

George Matthew Adams

Our last day on the hostel-campsite, we woke up packed our stuff, wished our new friends farewell and spend the rest of the day and the night together on the boat, so that we could leave early in the morning. We sorted everything out. Flo took all his useful belongings and joined Thibault and Jules, two guys from the campsite, to meet up in five days in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. In the morning we gave everyone a big hug and left Napier. Flo, Thibault and Jules by car, Ced and me on the boat.

We had strong wind from North West and were able to make good distance. I became seasick after two hours, but after lunch the day after, I was fine. It was big difference to be with just two people on the boat, there was suddenly so much room. The shifts and sleep were high appreciated and done usually longer than we agreed to in the beginning. We said we will do three hour shifts at night, but we did usually four to five hours depending on how fit we felt to let the sleeping guy, have a better recovery. It was so exiting so sail on my own for this long time. I managed to change sails, to follow the course and to tack on my own. Sadly we didn’t repaired the autopilot for this trip. The autopilot broke due to to strong conditions. It worked on 12 volts and steers the rudder with a compass and a stick that is moved considering to the course that we set up for the autopilot. It is super relaxed when the wind is average and no one has to take the rudder, so everyone can jump and run around how they want.

Pulling the boat towards Wellington

After three days on the Ocean, and passing castle point, we managed to set up an autopilot jut by a rope, that we had to check every five minutes. It worked quite good and took a lot of work from us. This day we had no wind. We didn’t make a lot of distance, which would be okay if there wouldn’t be a storm coming up from the South Island. The fourth day we were between Flat Point and Te Awaiti, 45 km far from the Cook Straight. The Cook Strait is not only a bottleneck for wind it also is an area where strong tidal currents pour through the narrow gap between the North and South Island.

Ced and me before the sunset and the storm

The fourth day the wind picked up again, so that we arrived at sunset in direct vision to Cape Palliser on the entrance corner into the cook straight. We were proud and happy that we made it this far. It was a magical moment for us to see the corner of the North Island, with the sun setting behind it, behind the Aorangi Range with Mangatoetoe and Raetutemahuta, mountains of 855 meters and 845 meters, rising just in front of us out of the sea and seeming like a wall against intruders to the island. The moment the sun faded more and more away, the wind picked up, more and more. The beautiful mountains turned into deep black huge objects, swallowing all the light. We ended up in the small storm, we were scared to end up in. I went for a short nap, to be ready for the fight with nature, while the wind grew stronger and stronger. I woke up to darkness, it was night. Strong wind blew around the boat, we both were on deck, awake, with our mainsail on the lowest size, and short later no sail at the front, waves coming from every direction.

We had no vision, it was dark, pitch black. The only thing that was darker than black were the mountains. We plugged our big light into the 12 Volts adapter and scouted out around the boat, to judge and see the wild conditions we were caught in. The more we approached to enter the cook straight the more the sea and the wind tried to push us back and out into the ocean. I was scared, we had no control on our 9 meter ship. Our engine not enough power and function to fight against the conditions. Water and wind rushing through the cook straight, straight onto us, fighting in our small vessel. The waves now splashing over the hull of the boat and into the boat from all directions. Currents from the north moving south and currents from the west moving east through the Cook Straight were meeting at the point where we tried to find a way through the storm. We had 35 to 40 knots of wind with gusts from 45 knots forcing the boat to face the wind, no matter how hard Ced or me pulled the rudder. The dinghy, now closer attached to the boat by two ropes was spinning like a mixer, blown over and over by the wind. Ced was at the front of the boat, checking the wild waves again, black little mountains, with white toppings. It seemed like the waves were coming towards us from every direction. It was never easy to walk on the boat, and just allowed with shoes, even in good conditions. As soon as you fall over board, there is a very tiny chance to find you back, especially at night. Under the conditions we were caught in it meant your death. Too far from the coast to swim, the waves would have swallowed you. Your voice would be fainted and suppressed in seconds by wind and waves. I felt we had no chance against those forces, we had to find shelter, quick. The last official shelter spot was Castle Point, at least one day away. I shouted to Ced, what I thought. Covered in wet clothes, cold exhausted and scared, yes scared to lose my life. It might sound weird, but it was my first time getting caught in conditions alike. After a short moment he agreed. The first time driven back, overwhelmed by a small taste of the force of mother nature. We turned the boat and started our engine again, this time not to force us forward, this time to safe escape.

We took the last bit of sail in and left slowly the ruff sea, and found shelter behind the mountains, because the wind was coming from the west, from the land. Only the gusts surprised us here and there but we were back in control. We forced our way back, further and further. After a short exchange with Ced, we decided pro shelter, the other opinion would be sail north and than south to spend the night sailing and see what the next day might bring. We found a possible shelter spot at White Rock, a bit to the north of Rocky Point. We reached it, accompanied by the strong wind. After connecting two anchors to each other and a lot of rope, we went checked everything outside and secured everything, the dinghy still spinning around. I was scared that the anchor would not carry our weight or the rope might snap. Our anchor alarm, a circle in which the boat moves, recorded by GPS. If the boat leaves the circle the alarm will inform us through ringing. Great app tool, that lets you go to sleep with a bit more of a safe feeling in your gut. It ringed twice, but after relocating the anchor, we were fine and somehow fell asleep, I guess we were just to exhausted.

The thing about locating an anchor point is to find a flat surface under the sea, big enough to place your anchor and keep it in place and in our case mostly free of rocks, because our anchor was no supposed to be caught in rock. The problem where we were located was a massive continuous drop of depth, it is like the mountains continue straight down after a short flat area where water and land touches. When we woke up the next morning we were surprised the anchor alarm went off only twice, and that it actually is possible to set your anchor at this spot. I have to add, that we were lucky the wind was coming from the land, otherwise it might have smashed us on the White Rocks where we were anchored.

The next morning still, in ruff conditions, but with good vision, we realized how big those mountains actually are and how impressive the human empty area looked like in that we were anchored. The mountains from blue water with waves crashing against its grey rock, transferring further up into brown and greenish and black. Between the mountains the wind was blowing to the east out into the far Ocean. We were lucky that we could find shelter behind those walls. The next thing we saw was that we lost a rudder of the dinghy and that it was still spinning. Through the spinning process it wind itself closer and closer through the rope to the boat and snapped some gummy attachments. The next time I will inflate it before a trip with the chance to end up in a storm. After a short morning break, we got the anchor in and started our second attempt on entering the cook straight. The wind was less strong around 30 to 35 knots with the same strength gusts like the day before. I can summarize the next seven hours by strong wind, to that we got used to, and tacking and tacking and tacking without any progress, yes even going backwards, we were pushed away by current and wind through the bottleneck ‘Cook Straight’. Ced even went crazy, jumping around on the boat and shouting and complaining about this ‘bullshit’. He usually is a very calm person but the lack of sleep and the hard not payed out effort without any solutions in sight, let even him blew a fuse. Than suddenly everything changed.

What was happening? The wind that decreased since two hours back to 20 knots west, changed suddenly to zero. The current still going against us we were stuck on the ocean. Being shaken around like a duck in a bathtub for a short while the wind changed. Coming from the east. The relief on us was incredibly big. We were slowly pushed into the cook straight, later even surfing in the waves, nearly perfectly pushing us toward wellington. The wind changed around one ore two a clock p.m. and we arrived in Wellington at 4 p.m. Wow, what a journey. While we entered the huge bay of Wellington, we sailed, we sailed all the way. No engine, just wind. All the way to the anchor spot. because we sailed, we also crossed a few ferries, going to the south. The guys on the marine radio talked about our weird movement, and I tried to explain why it to them. At one point we were not sure on which side we had to pass the ferry, because usually it would be backboard. But because it was starboard we came quite close to the massive ferry, around 200 meters away from us. Wow, we were so exited and full of life when we finally made it into the bay. Because the conditions eased a bit, we were able to do shifts and recover some of our sleepless time. Once we anchored we went to bed, super proud and relieved that we, Ced, Odin and me, made it in one piece and had an amazing journey. We fell asleep protected by the mountains of Wellington with the view on the city and its lights sparkling in the reflection on the sea.

Next time I will tell you about our meeting in Wellington, with Flo and other friends, and our great impression of Wellington. My favorite of the big city’s of New Zealand. I will tell you my first dumpster-diving experience, the Te Papa museum and why a boat is a 5 star hotel in Wellington.

Here I am 40 minutes drive out of Toowoomba. A city that feels like a country town. I am helping out a family on a farm. At the moment we got 13 puppies here and two more dogs will get theirs in the following weeks. I hope I can try to ride a horse here and learn different things. I am super relieved that after my last unhealthy food host, I have a host with home grown delicious vegetables. We have salads straight out of the garden and amazing tasting veges. If there is someone with a garden and not planting their own vegetables, that behavior is so hard to understand for me, because it is simply the best you can do for you and ten times more joy as eating a chocolate bar or 50 times more tasty than vegetables from the supermarket. Haha, maybe it is just my opinion, because I missed vegetables so much for the last month, but just give it a try and grow your own veges. You will understand for sure what I am talking about.

Why don’t sit down, take a few breath and stop everything for a moment. Focus on your life. Are you happy? If no change it. Talking helps a lot.

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