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I first crossed the Atlantic in 1975 aboard 'Stormalong', a 28ft Wharram-designed catamaran. Back in the UK, Pete and I bought an ex 6-metre racing yacht, 'Sheila', living on her for 4 years. Wanting to do more and go further with a boat we could completely trust, we built 'Badger' - the best boat in the world - sailing her 110,000 miles, into the Arctic and the Antarctic, around the Atlantics North and South and into the Baltic. She had junk rig - the only rig I ever want to cruise with. Pete wanted to build again - a 38 ft junk-rigged catamaran, 'China Moon' - which he designed. But before the project was finished, we went our separate ways. A year later I joined Trevor Robertson aboard his 35ft 'Iron Bark'. We explored the Canadian Maritimes, crossed the Atlantic twice, wintered in Greenland and crossed the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand. I fell in love with NZ and jumping ship, bought my own boat while Trevor carried on voyaging. I put a junk rig onto ‘Fantail’ and, having decided that N Island offered better cruising opportunities than S Island, sailed up there in 2012. Looking for a boat to see me out, I am now building a 26ft, wood/epoxy junk in Whangarei.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Guy Garey from Dunedin, sent me the following, which would be very useful to people circumnavigating New Zealand this summer.  Or any other summer for that matter!

Going S from Banks Peninsula and its many harbours (the biggest being Akaroa - translated from Maori as 'Long Harbour'), you can count the decent havens on just a few fingers: Timaru (rather industrial), Oamaru (utterly not recommended unless you have excellent and up-to-date local knowledge), Dunedin, the Nuggets (a peninsula one can shelter behind), Waikawa (entrance as per Oamaru), perhaps Tautuku, and certainly Bluff . Bluff can have serious tides, as the entrance drains a large estuary. Call Mary on VHF channel 61 or 63 to get up to the minute recommendations. Hey, even (maybe even mostly) the fishermen check in. It is the smart thing to do. Once out of the shipping channels one can go lots of places to anchor, though with three metre (10 ft) tides (as I experienced) make sure you have clear water at low tide. 

Bluff is famous for  being both the furthest S one can go on 'mainland' NZ (which is actually Slope Pt, a few miles to the E) and for its seafood, especially its oysters. Blue cod, crayfish and paua (abalone near relative) are most often available, and the oysters during their own somewhat short season. If you like oysters and happen to be in Bluff when it is season, then don't be shy. All of NZ eagerly awaits the oyster season, and the smart eaters move fast. Bluff is also a good place to get repairs done, and avail one's self of safety gear (life raft, epirb, &c) because this is where the fishermen get theirs. 

If one goes S from Bluff, then Rakiura/Stewart Island is the next port of call. Get the latest Foveaux Strait conditions and weather from Fisherman's Radio before you cross the Strait, as conditions can change for the seriously worse almost instantly. One can also get flat calm conditions, as we did last time we went there. Even Cape Horn must have calms, one imagines. Stewart Island's waters are strewn with rocks; navigators pay attention! The nearest harbour/port/anchorage is Half Moon Bay, which sits before the settlement of Oban. Halfmoon Bay is protected from anything except a screaming NW'ly. Most things are available here, often not cheaply since transport is not inexpensive. In a small settlement such as Oban there are many 'the's', the foodstore, the pub, the wharf, &c. Yes, one can get lucky and tie up briefly to the wharf for taking on crew/passengers or water, but ask at the ferry dock first. At the 4 Square variety market one can obtain food, wine and beer (at surprisingly affordable prices) and other often-requested supplies. Both diesel and petrol and LPG are available at the petrol station. It seems that the only negatives are the prices... and the sandflies. The locals say that you get used to them (the flies), but I always return from Stewart Island with weeping bites where I scratched.  Distances around Oban are short, so you can walk from one end of the town to the other in an easy pace. Don't let that fool you though, because  Stewart Island is a big place; most of it in National Park. Close around the corner going E is Paterson Inlet, big enough to get rough conditions, but big enough also to have numerous nooks and crannies. I can recommend Kaipipi Bay (almost landlocked) for good shelter at the end of a narrow entrance and having nice, heavy mud. 

Dunedin has a wonderful harbour, the Otago Harbour, that it sits at the head of. The harbour offers excellent refuge from winds and seas of any direction, though getting through the narrow and somewhat winding entrance in a wind against tide situation can be a bit rough. The bays offering the best shelter are Portobello Bay (to the N of the hamlet of Portobello, which is on the S side of the Portobello peninsula), Latham Bay (directly at Portobello) and Broad Bay (still on the E side but another nautical mile further along).  

The trouble with the Otago Harbour is that it is tidal and shallow. At half to or after high water any boat with 2m or less should have no trouble at all... in the natural channels. Consult your chart and depth sounder fairly often, though if you do run aground most of the harbour is mud and sand so there is generally nothing more than pride affected. This is NOT the case with the main (W-side ship) channel which is lined with rocks, beginning on its E side where the middle ground cut/channel (from Kilgour Pt to Grassy Pt) is. 

Do remember that Dunedin is near enough to 46 degrees South latitude, hence it is often cold here. We do get warm and even hot temperatures, but Barbados it isn't. One nice thing about a higher latitude is the long light one may have before darkness. At summer's solstice one can still read the paper outside at 2200.

Dunedin was Aotearoa NZ's big city in the latter half of the 19th century, mainly due to the discovery of gold nearby in 1863 (+/-); and it remains an important center of urban life, supply and repair. The visitor's center in the Octagon (center of the city) is helpful for general & tourist information. For boat oriented things it would probably be a good idea to contact Read Marine (ph (03) 474 0871), who either have what you are looking for or can direct you in your search. 

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