Into the Marlborough Sounds: Homewood, 41:05.2S,173:56.5E

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Thu 20 Jan 2022 04:24

After our provisioning trip to Nelson we had a further 9 days in Abel Tasman.  Inititally we anchored in Bark Bay so we could walk a section in the middle of the coastal footpath that we hadn’t previously done, linking up Bark Bay and Tonga Quarry.  It wasn’t as interesting as some of the other sections being mostly inland and through bush but it stretched our legs.  The bay turned out to be a very uncomfortable anchorage with a big roll setting up for a few hours in the middle of the night so after 2 nights we decided to move back to the relative calm of Anchorage.

Bark Bay beach on a sunny summer’s day, with the anchored boats in the background

A fairly typical section of the Able Tasman path: a well made track and dappled shade in native bush

When the walk isn’t so interesting you have to make your own fun: ‘shortcutting’ across a fallen tree

From about the 11th of January we were watching cyclone Cody which brought flooding to Fiji and was at first expected to impact the east coast of North Island with strong winds and heavy rain.  As our next move was to be eastward into the Marlborough Sounds we wanted to be sure about what it was doing before deciding to leave: from Abel Tasman there would always be the possibility of running back to Nelson for shelter.  In the event Cody went further east than expected but it did have an effect when its storm surge combined with the tsunami from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano to inundate Tutukaka Marina, in Northland, with damage to a number of boats.  We haven’t heard of any other damage from the tsunami in New Zealand but our thoughts are with the lovely people we met in Tonga and Fiji who were seriously impacted. 

While we waited we got to know some local sailors on neighbouring boats and picked their brains about good overnight spots in the Sounds and about the passage through French Pass to the Sounds.  French Pass is a narrow channel between the mainland and D’Urville island to the north and one of the places in New Zealand where it is important to get the tide right as it can run at up to 7 knots, more than our top speed. The aim is to go through at the turn of the tide where there is about a 20 minute slack.  On Tuesday slack water at the end of the north east running tide was expected to be at 1430 so we left Abel Tasman at 0600 to give plenty of time to make the 30 mile crossing of Tasman Bay.  In the light and failing wind we timed it pretty well perfectly and once we had our sails down ready to go through it was time to get motoring.  As we got closer we could see breaking waves on the far side of the pass, a sign that the tide was still running with us to the north east, then when we were about 10 minutes away we saw the waves were beginning to go down so Phil put the throttle down and with the help of the last of the current we went through at up to 9 knots!  On the far side there were some swirls and eddies but no breaking waves so we got our timing right.

Approaching French Pass.  The channel goes between the land to the right and the small beacon just visible against the gap to the left of our bow

Swirling water, eddies and a few small waves as we exited the pass

Once in the Marlborough Sounds we still had 15 miles to go to our chosen overnight spot.  The forecast was for a  strong north westerly wind turning south easterly during Wednesday night and Homestead, at the top end of Port Ligar, was said to be protected in all wind directions.  The Marlborough Sounds tend to be deep with steep sided bays making anchoring difficult so local cruising clubs have installed moorings all through the area.  In order to be able to use them we have joined the Mana Cruising Club for 6 months which gives us access to over 100 moorings and we spent Tuesday night on one of two in Homestead where we had the quietest night we have had for a while, away from the evening breezes and constant roll of the Abel Tasman.  The next night was different: we had failed to read the part in our cruising guide that said north westerly winds funnel down the valley and from lunch time until the early hours we were battered by gusty winds. 

Looking up Port Ligar to Homestead, behind the headland to the left

A bit blurry eyed this morning, we had a slow start and set off after coffee to head deeper into Pelorus Sound.  Winds in the Sounds tend to be variable in strength and direction as they are deflected by the high hills so we sailed briefly on a breeze coming down a gap but then the wind was blanketed by the islands to our east and we motored to our current mooring: called Homewood, just to be confusing.  Once again we have wind funnelling down a valley across us: something we almost certainly just have to get used to!

Sailing at 6 knots with just a partly furled Genoa.  A few minutes later we were motoring.

Our route into the Marlborough Sounds from Tasman Bay.  French Pass is at  point 1 and the Homestead mooring is at point 2.