After a restful retreat at Squally Cove Dan woke me rather early. We have a long 50+ NM to go to reach our friends who are at a place called “World’s End”. Yes, that’s really the name and as you’ll find out. It’s perfectly well named.
We depart Squally Cove at Oyster Bay and the sea is quite benign. There’s not much swell and the sun is beginning to peak her head out above the mountains as we depart. I’m sort of sad as I really like the remoteness of this little bay but I’m also very excited to see Lutz and Gabi, our German friends on SV SuAn. We haven’t seen them since November and we do miss them so.
The Tasman Bay seems to be a bit more tame this morning which makes our trip a darn sight better than yesterday. Thank you Lord!!!!
Traversing French Pass
The big ticket item today is making it through French Pass. I’m already a bit on edge as I’ve seen the overhead photos of this place and it can be rather daunting. In fact, more than one or two boats have made this their final resting place. As you can imagine….my butt pucker factor today is at level RED!
Of course Dan has done all of the necessary research and he’s quite confident that we will make it through with little to no issue. I do enjoy knowing I have a love and captain who takes so much time and effort to be sure we are going to be absolutely safe. Thanks dear!
Dan has checked the NZ government website that says slack tide for this pass is 1236 today. But, he also has checked our B&G plotter which runs off of the satellites and they are telling him that slack tide is at 1100. This is a HUGE difference!
Why does it matter? Well, this is a relatively narrow pass with tons of current on either side. There will be upwellings and whirlpools (eddies) and once we start through we will not be able to turn around. If the current is coming too strong against us we could get turned and be tossed onto the rocks on either side. If it’s too strong going with us…we could surf too quickly and not be able to control the direction of the boat and still get tossed onto the rocks on either side.
Needless to say….we have to time this just right!
Dan decides he’s going to take the information from the instruments as that should be the most current. So, we don our headsets and I head to the bow to be his eyes on the front of Dazzler. As is required, he calls in a sécurité on the radio to let other ships know we are entering the pass. A sécurité is a notification that something safety related is happening on the sea. In this case, because the pass has a blind corner and is so narrow, you are required to let others know you are coming through. You definitely don’t want two boats meeting in the narrow and unstable channel.
No one responds to his message so we believe we are clear to move ahead.
As we approach the pass it’s really quite spectacular yet also somewhat frightening, at least for me. There are flat spots on the water all around us. That’s not a good sign. These are upwellings which are noted by the swirling at their edges. Upwellings create a swirling effect under the surface that could literally turn the boat in whichever direction they move. They can be strong and swift and make it difficult to steer.
In other spots the water appears to be boiling where strong currents and undercurrents meet. In still other areas there are literally small whitecaps going in all directions. The danger here is everywhere and it takes a skilled captain to negotiate it safely.
As we start into the pass I’ve clipped my life vest into the snubber lines on deck so as not to get tossed off the deck if it gets too rough. Finally I hear Dan say “it’s time”. He’s ready and confident and I feel him put Dazzler into gear.
We begin to move forward and every so often Dazzler shifts to the port or starboard with a bit of thrust. It’s not Dan doing this…..it’s the current. Being on the bow it’s a bit disconcerting as one minute we’re heading into the middle of the pass and the next the bowsprit is pointed right toward the rocks.
We don’t talk much as we move through the pass. Dan needs his concentration and I need to keep from panicking. At one point we are just between the cans on either side of the most narrow part. I hear him in the headset breathing heavy and I know….this is the critical moment. We start turning a bit more port than either of us would like and I start holding my breath. I hear him talking to Dazzler. He’s strongly encouraging her to turn starboard. Yes, this is crunch time. There’s nothing either of us needs to say.
We just pass the cans and I’m thinking it’s all good. That’s when Dan tells me we have 5 knots of current right on the nose. Just so you understand….we normally average 5-6 knots….maybe 7 or 8 on a great downwind sail with our spinnaker flying… 5 knots on the nose is not a good thing!
Dan has the Yanmar at full throttle and is doing everything he can to keep us moving forward. Even at full throttle we’re only making 2 knots of forward speed. If the current gets any stronger we could actually end up getting pushed backwards. Nobody wants that. The last thing we want is to be pushed backward into the turbulent currents. It would surely result in us hitting the rocks. He’s still breathing heavy and I’m still holding my breath. At one point Dan looks over his shoulder and sees a wave about to break over the stern. Fortunately it fell short and even more fortunately, I missed that little visual.
It takes another ten to fifteen minutes for us to get past the tidal waters and into a safe area. I swear we both aged a year in the past half an hour.
The Reward Is Grand
Of course, as with all things sailing, we are rewarded for our trials. Just as we reach the safety zone we look around and it is the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever experienced on Dazzler. Deep green forests rise from the sea high upon the mountains. Some are spotted with arid, brown spots. Everywhere you look there’s another mountain painted in a glorious green, gold and brown pallete. The air is filled with the pungent scent of the forest and the sea is a clear bluish green color. The warm sun is shining brightly and there are just a few clouds giving texture to the sky.
We both take a few deep breaths and stop to enjoy the splendor surrounding us. As Dan says, “We cheated death again.” And what a way to do it.
Once we’ve relaxed from our trip through French Pass I’m on the bow and see two penguins dancing along on the top of the water. Dan steers the boat towards them and one dives and comes up along side Dazzler for just a moment. I’m beyond thrilled. God I love the wildlife!
Our next interesting moment came when we rounded Harding Point headed into the Te Kakaho Channel. From my place on the bow it looked as if there was a coral reef ahead. There wasn’t one. It was one of those areas here in the sounds where the currents meet and there are lots of upwellings and swift tidal currents. We’re quickly learning that sailing in the sounds (or motoring) is not for the faint at heart. You have to know how to handle some pretty interesting and challenging seas and currents….even more so than we’ve ever dealt with in the past.
On the way to the anchorage we passed a seal that was eating a fish and slamming it from side to side on the water. It was just twenty meters or so from the boat. I get so tickled by the wildlife that I was dancing and singing on deck long after we passed him. Sometimes I think Dan must think I’m nuts….oh wait….I am nuts! LOL
Out here it’s so remote and so beautiful that it can almost be overwhelming. I feel a sense of smallness when I look at our surroundings and the indescribable beauty here. I’m not sure how to explain it except to say when you see places like this that are so rarely experienced by others…places that are so remote and splendid they literally take your breath away; you realize that you, your worries, your life etc…are completely inconsequential in the whole of the universe.
These mountains and waters have been here for centuries and will be here long after we’re gone. They are the true survivors while we are merely brief moments in time. It’s truly humbling.
Where The World Ends
And, just when our journey was nearing its end…the World’s End…we saw the most amazing and wonderful sight of all. As we were arriving at the entrance to the anchorage, our dearest friends, Lutz and Gabi, came zooming out in their dinghy to greet us. I can’t even explain what a wonderful and cherished sight it was to see them coming with arms raised, waving and welcoming us. They are not just friends….they are dear family. In a world where we cannot travel home to see our blood family, this was an emotional and wonderful reunion.
As I stood on the bowsprit waving at them I felt tears trickling down my cheeks and I could not speak as I choked up with emotion. I literally could not wait to wrap my arounds around them. After all…we’ve come all the way from Mexico together. We’ve spent time together in French Polynesia, Niue, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. How many friends do you have that you have literally traveled the world with???
Our reunion was as special as we knew it would be. We had a few anchor down beers on Dazzler then later we had a wonderful BBQ on SuAn where we caught up on sailing adventures and laughed until we had tears in our eyes. Alas….we are home again with family in a place so remote and beautiful that it literally defies description. We’re here at Ngawhakawhiti Bay at World’s End and it’s PERFECT!
Until next time,
Jilly & Dan
Below is the route we took to get there. Ironically enough we were, as the crow flies, just four miles from our beginning point when we arrived at World’s End but it took a 50 NM trip to get there.