Cook Strait Crossing – Picton – Ngaruru – Wgtn – 30 Sept 2020

Crew: Geoff, Grant, Murray.

Marine Forecast Wednesday: Variable 10 knots. Northerly 15 knots developing in the evening. Heavy southerly swell, easing.

The Plan:

Tuesday – Take 9 am Interislander to Picton. Sail from Picton to Ngaruru Bay mooring.
Wednesday – Depart Ngaruru Bay 1000 hrs. Arrive Tory Channel Entrance 1100 hrs (Tide begins setting East at 0920 hrs). Arrive Wellington 1700 hrs.

Tuesday 29th Sept – Picton to Ngaruru Bay

We arrived in Picton on the Interislander and after a quick lunch at the Picton Village Bakkerij we did some food shopping then went to see Steve at Wilderness Guides to collect the dinghy which they had kindly looked after for us. After loading the gear in Halo and topping up with diesel at the fuel jetty we set sail for Ngaruru Bay at 1500 hrs.

After a relaxing cruise in mainly head wind up Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel with the dinghy in tow, we arrived at beautiful Ngaruru Bay at 1716 hrs.

A pleasant evening was enjoyed with Spanish chorizos and vegetables for dinner accompanied by some nice Chilean wine.

Wednesday 30th Sept – Ngaruru Bay to Wellington

The day started with a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs cooked expertly by Grant followed by preparing Halo for the Cook Strait crossing. Dinghy was securely lashed onto the foredeck, inflatable danbuoy attached to the pushpit, grab bag checked with handheld VHF and EPIRB inside, and general safety checks. Aware of the forecast of 4mt southerly swells in Cook Strait we discussed various fall-back plans if the conditions became too dangerous.

We cast off from the mooring at 1000 hrs, lodged our Trip Report with Maritime Radio and made our way up Tory Channel while having coffee and cookies to settle the nerves. As we neared the end of Tory Channel we noted large waves crashing on to the rocks around East Head. On the AIS we could see the Interislander and Bluebridge ferries out in Cook Strait approaching the channel entrance. We waited in Okukari Bay to anxiously watch how they fared and to make a decision on whether to proceed or not. Both ferries appeared to be quite stable so we decided to press on and did the obligatory “All Ships” announcement on ch 16.

At 1108 hrs we entered the channel. The tide was with us and the southerly swell was against us and we encountered large waves coming at us from all angles as we sped through at about 8 kts SOG. Geoff had to work pretty hard on the tiller to keep the boat pointing in the right direction.

As we made our way into Cook Strait the sea state eventually calmed down and we set our course for Wellington. Murray took a turn on helm and purposely sailed a course further south then usual to try and avoid the worst of the Karori Rip. The southerly swell was about 4 mts but with a period of about 15 seconds we easily rode over them. Pleasant sailing although with only about 10 kts of wind we needed to keep the motor on to maintain speed. Interesting to note that as the ferry passed by on the same course it was bouncing a lot in the swells. Sometimes it’s good to be small.

At around 1330 hrs we entered the Karori Rip and the waves started to get pretty ugly. The southerly swell was still high and the rip was running against them created some worrying walls of water. Grant did a sterling job on helm ensuring the big waves didn’t hit the boat beam-on as we motor sailed along at 8-9 kts SOG. Eventually we passed the worst of it and turned to head into the Wellington Heads. We observed massive waves breaking onto Barrett Reef as Geoff took over on helm and we sailed around Barrett Reef Buoy and past Steeple Rock Buoy. By this time the southerly had picked up to 15 kts and we were able to turn off the engine and sail into Lambton Harbour. We docked in our berth at Chaffers Marina at 1640 hrs and closed off the trip report with Maritime Radio. We made it!

We later checked the reading on the Taputeranga Marine Reserve Wave Buoy website which confirmed our estimates that ‘Significant Wave Height’ was averaging 3-4 mt while we were off the South Coast.

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