|Posted by Tara Mulvany on December 17, 2013 at 4:50 PM|
I'm happy to say that I nailed the most dangerous leg of my journey, the drive from Invercargill to Anakiwa! And I have also reached Te Ika a Maui, where my circumnavigation really begins. 2750 kilometres of coast lie infront of me.
Warning: content may offend old boaties.
I owe a big thank you to Aaron and Nat from Sea Kayak Adventures- who happily offered me a place to leave my car for the next 3 or more months, and gave me a bed for the night. If it wasn't for them I would probably be still trying to find my way out of the sounds! Somehow while planning, printing and laminating more than 200 maps, I didn't think to print a map of the sounds. For those of you who have not been there, it's not as simple as you would think to find your way out! So on Monday morning, Aaron dropped me down by the water and with my gifted map in hand, I paddled away from the small settlement of Anakiwa, bound for the Tory channel which leads towards the Cook Strait, 35 kilometres away.
The sound was still, with hardly a ripple disturbing the surface as the sun blazed down. I kept to the side, skipping between secluded bays dotted with houses and cribs tucked in amongst the forest. Once I entered the Tory channel the current became noticeable and the outgoing tide swept me east. I was joined by a pod of about 30 dolphins, jumping and swimming under my bow for a couple of minutes. It was magic. That night I camped at an old whaling base near the entrance of the channel. I lay on the grass watching lots of people watching me as they cruised by on the Interislander ferry, billows of smoke creating a hazy trail in its wake. The night was bright with a full moon marking the beginning of my adventure. Under the last full moon I camped on a lonely beach the furtherest south I had ever been before at the bottom of Stewart Island. Now, finally, the nights are warm and the days long. I'm still not sure why it has taken me so long to discover summer paddling!!
The forecast for Tuesday was northerly 10knots rising to southerly 25knots late morning, sea rough at times, 1m southerly swell developing. I wasn't convinced it would be an easy crossing. I have developed over the years a strong respect for southerlys. I have experienced on many occasions them packing a way harder punch than predicted, so I was hesitant about going for it. Given the long range forecast I knew that this could be my only chance to get across the strait for at least a couple of days.
The Cook Strait is far from a predictable piece of water. It has strong tidal rips and currents, and high tide in Picton has a 5 hour time difference from high tide Wellington. I was confused. I was confident that any substantial wind would over ride any tidal currents, although I was also aware that current against wind could make for pretty interesting paddling conditions! High tide on my side of the strait was at 9.38am, so the next morning I slipped onto the Tory channel an hour before the tide turned. I pushed into the current still pouring through the narrow gap, keeping to the side well out of the way of the huge ferries heading towards Wellington. Just as I was about to enter the strait a boat motored up. A old guy leaned over the side. "Where are ya going?" He asked, giving me the evil stare. I always hate this question so early in the game. I especially hate this question when it comes from old men in boats. After mumbling that I was going across the strait, the man shook his head, angrily called me "a bloody idiot," and then motored away. Nothing like good vibes before heading out into the strait!
Lucky for me the sun was bright, the sky to the south cloud free, and the sea was glassy flat. I hoped that I would make it most of the way across before the wind hit. I aimed directly east, knowing that the wind should push me a way north. If all went to plan it would sweep me towards Titahi Bay. I paddled hard and fast, knowing that the more ground I covered while it was flat, the easier my life would be later. An hour into the crossing I hit my first substantial current. The water was choppy and confused, but five minutes later it was flat again. Slowly the land behind me grew fainter and the north island became bolder. A couple of huge ships passed a couple of kilometres infront of me- I was glad we weren't on a collision course!
Three hours later I hit a strong south flowing tidal stream, which tried to sweep me towards Cape Terawhiti. I paddled hard, and eventually hit the coast at Ohau Point. The Cook Strait was in the bag. With luck, (don't be fooled into thinking it was precise planning) it had only taken me 3 hours and 45 minutes to cross. I munched on an apple to celebrate, then picked up my paddle and followed the coast north. Four hours later I arrived into Titahi Bay, salty and tired, but satisfied. I wish I had asked for the phone number of the guy who called me a "bloody idiot." If only he knew.