Sudden Stop At Cullen Point

Time had come to plan our next move from Nydia Bay to the small community of the working fishing village of Havelock, New Zealand.  Green-lipped mussel capitol of the world.  In fact, we later learned that Havelock has their annual mussel festival this coming Saturday.  

I studied  closely all the weather and tide information for planning purposes.  Then I looked at the chart.  What?  Wow!  That is going to be a very shallow entrance.  Good thing we were planning for entry a few hours before high tide.  

You may or may not know that feeling of holding your breath when you are driving under the fuel canopy to get fuel or driving your motorhome or towing your trailer under a tunnel opening.  You hold your breath hoping you haven’t miscalculated your clearance.  

Now Imagine not being able to see your undercarriage that is dragging six feet below the surface of the roadway.  I mean surface of the water.  No real wind to speak of and a little incoming tidal current to give you that extra little push.  We had both.

We passed by the first few navigational markers and experienced 15, 5, 24 and even 2 feet of depth under the keel as we passed them.  You hold your breath and hope your keel is a bit thinner and shallower than it’s physical appearance.  When the depth reading starts to increase you breathe out with a sigh of relief that the bottom didn’t get any closer.

Okay, our first real test mark is coming up and we stay to its right side, making scientific extrapolations and hold our breath for extra luck.  Wow!  Another shallow bar in our path has been passed over without incidence.  Will our luck hold out?

Jilly is on the bow trying to look through murky water just in case a miracle occurs and she can see the bottom.  Everything is going well as we get closer and closer to our destination.  Our last major hurdle is the narrower channel at Cullen Point.  

Rounding Cullen Point

As we approach this narrow and potentially shallow channel, Jilly’s butt pucker factor is now off the charts.  Somewhere around Rainbow Seven.  The sign near the first left hand turn says stay to the starboard side of the channel.  The green navigational aid is several hundred feet away from our right side.  What do we do?  We move to the right side of the channel.  

That’s when it happened.  We made contact with what felt like a slushy, muddy bottom and slid to a stop.  Safe!  Well, not so much.  I immediately gave the command for reverse thrusters Mr. Sulu.  But, the helm did not respond.  Just a large cloud of muddy water rose along both sides of Dazzler’s keel.  Well, this can’t be a good thing.  

Google Map of Cullen Point

Our good friends on SuAn were about a mile behind us.  I knew we would have to launch our tender to attempt to set our anchor to our port stern.  This would help turn our bow around into the tidal flow and wind allowing a better chance of freeing us from the mud monster that was trying to encapsulate our keel.  We still had about an hour and a half of incoming tide working in our favor.  

Thank You SV SuAn

As we finished launching Sparkle, Lutz and I agreed to stretch a long line from Dazzler’s bow to the stern of SuAn.  We used our secondary anchor rode which is 3/4” eight ply braid.  Jilly pulled out about 200 feet of line as I delivered it to SuAnSuAn was in position heading into the current and wind and I returned to Dazzler.  Our line tightened.  I put Dazzler’s helm hard over to port, dropped the transmission into forward gear and added a few RPMs as SuAn began to tug.  

Dazzler’s bow responded by gently swinging to port and into deeper water.  Once clear of the shallow bar, we hauled in our secondary anchor rode that was now detached from SuAn and made a tight turn to starboard back into the narrow channel.  We hugged the shore so closely you could almost touch the red channel stakes on the shore of Cullen Point.  If you look too closely you might even see some red paint transfers on her port side.  LOL

We truly appreciate our friends Lutz and Gabi on SuAn.  They were there for us.  No thanks to all the other commercial vessels, fishing and recreational boats.  They floated on by without any offer of assistance.  

What Happened To The Kiwi Way?

I feel confident that had Lutz and Gabi not been nearby our anchor placement to our port side would have also helped us free the grip from the mud monster.  We were, however, a bit disappointed in the lack of assistance or even any offer to make a call on our behalf from the Kiwis that passed by.  Several boats flew by us leaving a wake that actually was making the situation worse by lifting us and pushing further onto the shoal.

What do you do for great friends who come to your rescue? Buy them a wonderful dinner of course!

Did they know something we didn’t?  Would we have floated free?  Or were they eyeballing all the deck hardware Dazzler has as a potential salvage prize.  We will never know.  But, one thing was obvious.  The Kiwi way as we continue to hear about wasn’t experienced at this time.  That’s okay too.  We will continue to always be the ones that offers a hand to those in need.  

We cleared Cullen Point and headed for the straight long approach to Havelock Harbor.  As we approached the last green navigational aid I saw the depth gauge indicate 1 foot below the keel.  Once again we hold our breath as we pass over that bit of shallow shoaling at the harbor entrance.  

Havelock Marina….a truly welcome sight!

We make it through the entrance and navigate to out guest berth, tie off the lines and gladly sip down that of so sweet anchor down beverage. Or, as our friend Gabi called it, the “keel down beer”.  As we sipped down our beverages you could see the Rainbow Seven level of stress slowly leaving Jilly’s face.  I’m not going to say that my stress level wasn’t elevated, because it was, but keeping one’s head in situations is a must for a favorable outcome.  

Safely tied to the dock!

Mud Monster vs Dazzler tied.  And as we all know, tie goes to the runner.  And we were the runner.

Until next time at the bar (The one with taps and ice cold beverages, not the sandbar. May all your drinks be boat drinks.  Cheers!

Captain Dan 

A note from Jilly: Dan’s right…it was clearly a stressful time for me. I like it when things run smoothly and perfectly, which is most of the time. That said, I was clearly impressed by his calm, thoughtful demeanor and the way he went about getting us off the bar. It’s quite different than some other boating experiences I’ve had with others who have lost their heads in moments of stress. As always….I feel blessed to have such an amazing captain, friend and love of my life to share all of these adventures….good and bad.

Here’s a little video of our trip around Cullen Point.

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Author: Dan & Jilly

5 thoughts on “Sudden Stop At Cullen Point

  1. Only three kinds of sailors. Them that have run aground, them that are going to, and them that are lying. I might be all three 🙂

    1. Yes I’ve heard that before. Unfortunately, being any of the three doesn’t get you off the mud shoal when it happens. No shame in being there. Keep your head about you and figure it out to a favorable solution. No apparent damage, but will have to jump in the water after we leave the marina to have a look. Cheers!

  2. Yes, Havelock is very muddy; both the water and the bottom! We draw almost 8′, so we visited by car.
    One word of CAUTION: While turning around in mud us somewhat forgiving, especially on that rising ride, turning around on coral could place a twisting force on your keel, potentially snapping keel bolts! This happened in Tonga on an Oyster 54, and it makes sense when you think about it.
    Great mussels 🙂

    1. Oh yes….we understand that coral is a vastly different beast. Fortunately where there is coral there is usually very good visibility. We did love the mussels there…and the salmon and everything else about this quaint little town.

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