Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Fiordland Coast- Bluff to Dusky

Two days before I left Bluff, 9m swells had been forecast for Puysegur and 8m for Foveaux.  I knew that the SE gales that were coming would ease it off quickly, and anything less than 4-5m would be okay.  It was the 8th of October when I paddled out of Bluff harbour early in the morning, prepared for a rough day on the water with 30K SE winds forecast.  I attempted to paddle in a straight line from Bluff to Colac Bay, 55 km away, which would put me a long way offshore.  I managed to get about half way across before the winds really picked up.  Soon I had about 35 knots of wind behind me and  the swell turned into an ocean full of breakers, it really was quite exciting.  I had the neck of my jacket undone but I couldn't stop paddling to do it up which meant water was pouring in and running into my  boat.  After 6 hours on the water I made a semi crash landing at Colac Bay, happy to be on land.  The hardest part of the day was actually getting my fully loaded boat up onto the road.  I had pushed it near the limit of what I should have been out in, another 10 knots behind me and I would have been pretty uncomfortable.  But it was worth it, it was a fast trip and Colac Bay was a good place to shoot from when the gales eased.

I was lucky to have Tim and Jacqui Anderson from Riverton come and rescue me, and soon I was soaking in their epic bathtub.  The secret is out amongst South Island circumnavigators that Riverton is the place to be and Tim and Jacqui's is a mandatory stop along the south coast! I decided to wait another day before setting across Te Waewae Bay, another big crossing, so I headed back into Invercargill with Mum and Dad to make the most of my last day in civilization.

I left Colac Bay on the 10th well before the sun had risen over the edge of the ocean.  The sea was finally calm, and the wind had disappeared for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.  My boat was again fully loaded with enough food to get me to Milford, I hoped, as I set off across Te Waewae Bay towards the start of the Fiordland coast.  I was excited to be getting back into Fiordland, I knew the coast and the fiords well and all the places that I could land.  I'm comfortable paddling huge seas, and I understood the weather conditions.  I also knew that Meri and the fishing boys would be keeping and eye out for me.

It didn't occur to me until I neared the other side of the bay that technically I had just completed my paddle around the South Island.  From there I was back in familiar waters.  I could have easily finished my trip there and called it complete, but when we set out our intension was to do a complete loop, all the way back to Milford.  Although I was now on my own, I saw no reason to deviate from that initial goal.  It wasn't just that, I wanted to have a real adventure again.  I have always loved the feeling that comes with paddling in such a remote, wild and beautiful place, and being there on my own means.  Fiordland was a piece of coastline I didn't paddle solely just to tick it off, I paddled it again because I wanted to be amongst it.

It was mid afternoon by the time I reached Sandhill Point and I figured I had just enough time to push on all the way to Knife and Steel Harbour.  The South Coast to Preservation Inlet has a well earned staunch reputation amongst expedition kayakers.  For more than 60 km, huge reefs stick out, many for more than a km offshore creating massive breaking waves and unpredictable currents.  There are very few places that you could land and most of them wouldn't be an option in a heavy SW swell.  Knife and Steel Harbour is not much more than a small strip of sand protected by giant reefs on either side.  The name 'Harbour' seemed pretty optimistic.  It was after 7pm by the time I lined up my gap between the reefs.  Huge breakers smashed into the rocks on either side and I put my helmet on in anticipation for a messy landing.  Thankfully it went okay and I surfed into the beach and was greeted by a half decayed deer.   It was a sketchy place to land, if the swell had picked up at all I knew I could easily get trapped there, but the risk seemed worth it for the extra K's I had gained.  I'd paddled close to 80 km, and without any wind it had been a long day.

It was still raining when I left Knife and Steel Harbour early the next morning.  It took me several attempts to get off the beach, each time I kept getting washed sideways.  When I did get off, the second wave back completely submerged and almost back surfed me.  The further west I paddled, the bigger the swell grew.  Passing Gates Harbour before Puysegur Point I watched 6m high breaking waves colliding with the coast.  It was truly awesome.  The sky had cleared and there was even some sun when I passed the entrance to Preservation Inlet around midday.  Despite the huge sea, the conditions were near perfect so I kept paddling and landed on a small beach on the southern side of the Gulches Head that separates Chalky from Preservation.

The next morning I packed up in the dark, ready for yet another big paddle to Dusky.  With a headwind it took a couple of hours to paddle past Chalky Island.  I chatted with the skipper of the Santa Rosa, then headed off towards Cape Providence, the reef that extends for several kilometers off the northern entrance to Chalky Inlet.   Not far out the wind picked up and soon I was struggling to hold my ground as 30 knots of NE tried to blow me out to sea.  I slowly pushed on and it wasn't till I was way off the Providence rocks that I made the decision to bail into Chalky.  The wind was cranking out of Landing Bay and paddling into it wasn't an option so I headed into North Port.  The closer I got, the scarier it looked,  with huge breakers most of the way across from Great Island.  By this stage the wind seemed to have eased, 15K SW was forecast for the afternoon, rising to 45K that evening.  I knew it would be sketchy but if I went for it, I could make Dusky that evening.

It was after 2pm by the time I cut through the reef and headed towards West Cape.  The swell collided with the reef, sending huge breakers the size of houses rolling towards the coast.  I watched the sea for a long time before I lined up my gap and cut through.  The sea was rough, with a 3m SW, and 4m NW swell with a nice chop on top, not to mention poor visibility in the rain.  The wind had disapeared and I paddled hard in the huge seas, every 10 minutes or so looking behind me to check for any sign of the approaching SW gale.  It was 4pm by the time I passed West Cape and although it was raining hard, there was still no sign of wind.  I kept boosting, passing South Point and the entrance to Dusky Sound just after 6pm.  I feel like sometimes people underestimate my abilities, but I had just paddled from Colac Bay to Dusky in 3 days and apart from being freezing, I felt awesome.  I slogged my way towards Cascade Cove, the closest good place to land, 13km away.  I had a head wind and the rain was driving into my face.  By 8.30pm it was dark, but I knew where I was going. It had been dark the last time Sim and I paddled into Dusky.  An hour later I pulled up at the barge and climbed onto the deck.  Opening the roller door I heard a voice from inside "hey! who's that?!"  It was two young guys who were quite shocked to see me and they dragged my boat up onto the deck.  I'd been in my boat for 15 hours and I was wet and cold, but I had reached land, well technically I wasn't on land, but Dusky was in the bag.

Dusky to Milford

After a days rest of the barge, I set off to continue on my journey north.  I'd hoped that I could paddle around the outside of Five Fingers Peninsula to Breaksea Sound, but I wasn't going to wait for the conditions that I needed.  Instead I opted for the Acheron Passage which links Dusky to Breaksea through a dramatic inland waterway.  It was a relaxing paddle in drizzly misty conditions and the place seemed completely deserted, I didn't see a single boat.  It was early afternoon when I arrived at Disappointment Cove at the end of Resolution Island.  For a while I contemplated paddling further up the coast.  I even popped a sea sick pill before I changed my mind. From where I was, the sea looked huge and with a northerly, the going would be slow.

The Acheron Passage
I paddled away from Disappointment Cove early the next morning.  Making my way across the entrance of Breaksea Sound, I cruised slowly stopping to take photos in the early morning light.  As I paddled up the coast, the sky behind me in the distance began to darken.  The wind started to blow and I knew I had to get moving fast.  The sea was rough with a 4m swell rolling from the SW.  I passed Coal River, my closest bail out point and decided to keep going to Dagg.  I probably shouldn't have been out there in those conditions as a solo paddler, but I was calm and focused as I surfed the giant swell towards Dagg Sound.  With about 30 knots behind me, I sped quickly and was soon in sheltered waters.  I made my way towards a familiar campsite near the mouth, a haven that Sim and I have used several times before.  During our time there was had created a small campsite on the bank above a river.  It was still early in the day and my plan was to make fire and see if the winds eased off in the afternoon.  Lighting a fire in Fiordland is the ultimate test of fire lighting skills, one that I have perfected over the years.  At 3pm the clouds were still rocketing overhead so I decided to stay put.  I cooked some kai over my fire, then bailed into my tent to escape from the wind and rain.

The next day I paddled towards Doubtful Sound.  The sea was even bigger than the day before with a 5m swell.  There wasn't any wind, but it was raining and choppy on top, so I paddled quickly- I really didn't want any wind with such a rough sea.  After a few hours I spotted the Hares Ears- two giant rocks that stick out at the entrance to Doubtful.  I wanted to paddle around the outside of Secretary Island, but on a day like this I wasn't going to risk paddling on the coast more than I needed to.  I paddled in past Bauza Island, then turned up Thompson Sound.  For hours I paddled into the wind and rain, finally arriving at Dea's Cove Hut on dark.. paradise!

My first day at the hut the winds arrived in true Fiordland style, and just opening the hut door was a treacherous task.  The rain seemed to be blown almost horizontally and I was super stoked I had shelter. For 4 days I couldn't leave Dea's Cove, so I made the most of my hut time and did some washing and had a bucket shower, I'm sure I needed it!  I felt so close to Milford, yet so far away.  I knew I was only 2 days paddle away but I wasn't sure how long it would take to get those days.  Paul Caffyn had called Fiordland the crux of the South Island trip, but for me it wasn't.  It was where I felt the most comfortable.  The thing that concerned me the most was that I couldn't get a weather forecast.  I was relying solely on my instincts and interpretation of the weather as I saw it.  On past trips we have used a handheld VHF radio with a 3m long aerial attachment, which had always worked relatively well close to the outside coast.  For some reason it didn't seem to be working.  Down in Chalky the signal had been strong enough that I could pick up the forecast on my VHF even without the extra aerial.

Finally I got the day I needed, and I set off from Dea's Cove.  The morning was squally, and the swell was still about 3m, but I was making reasonable ground.  Late afternoon I was paddling past Cats Eye Bay just north of George Sound and I heard a loud noise.  About 10m away from my boat I saw the back of a huge whale!!! It appeared, blew out, then disappeared.  It was awesome.  It was the first and only whale I saw the whole trip and I was super stoked! After about 80km of paddling I arrived in Sutherland Sound just before dark.  There was quite a bit of surf rolling in with an outgoing tide.  I was pretty nervous having to deal with surf at the end of such a long day, but it went okay and I landed just inside the channel.  I put my tent up on rocks, not even bothering to kick them out of the way, a sign that I had worked hard for the day!

The next day I cruised out through the surf no worries, and made my way out past Bell Point before the SW picked up.  The swell was FINALLY small, only 2m, and I surfed my way towards Milford with 20 knots of wind on my back.  It was fast going and soon I was rounding St Annes Point.  As I paddled past Anita Bay I remembered about a piece of greenstone KT had given me at the beginning of the trip.  I rummaged through my PFD pocket through all the chocolate bar wrappers and junk and dug out the shiny stone.  It had obviously done a good job, so I took a few photos of it before returning it to the sea.

After more than 5 months on the go, my journey had finally come to an end.  Paddling around the South Island is the hardest thing I have ever done, and attempting to do it in winter really was a stupid idea!! I'm fortunate to have shared more than half of this epic adventure with Sim, and it has been incredible the amount of interest and messages of support and encouragement that I have received over the past few months from the paddling community.  So many people have helped to make this trip possible, too many people to individually name, but a huge thank you to you all.

I want say a special thank you to Max Grant from Q Kayaks who helped me out with my Skua, which turned out to be a really awesome! The boat made it, and I didn't have a single problem with it the entire journey.  It's fast, super stable and an awesome surfer- plus the seat is comfy.  I put different foot pegs in than the ones that come standard, but this was more of a personal preference thing- both fixed and sliding foot pegs come with their pros and cons.  I'm glad I went plastic and I am certain my glass boat would have been snapped in two long ago..

I'm working out at Martins Bay down the Hollyford Valley for the summer and I'm really excited about it.  I just bought a wee playboat for the surf which will actually be quite fun after getting smashed in a fully loaded sea kayak for the last 5 months!  If anyone's planning a paddling trip down this way I'm always happy to help if you need some info.

Paddle hard everyone, summer is on the way!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Mission complete!

Hi Everyone, I made it to Milford today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Will get an update up in the next few days but it has been an amazing paddle up the Fiordland coast!! and i saw a HUGE WHALE!!!!!! Stoked to have completed this journey!
:) Tara

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Monday, 15 October 2012

Fiordland Progress

Hi Guys,

Have heard from Tara, she has made it around the south coast and has stopped off in Preservation Inlet, Dusky and Breaksea Sounds, so is making good progress up towards Milford. Not long to go now, can't wait to see her!


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Back on the water

A quick note to say I'm back on the water tomorrow, headed for milford sound!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Paddling soon!

It's looking like I will be hitting the seas again on monday!  so fingers crossed for 2 weeks of good weather haha.  Still no takers for joining me.. I guess the ozzys are too soft..

Monday, 1 October 2012

Early morning start from Kaka Point

The current forecast- just incase anyone thinks I'm slack for not being on the water..

Issued by MetService at: 4:54pm Monday 1 Oct 2012
Outlook following 3 days: Westerly 40 knots, changing Wednesday night southwest 25 knots. Tending Thursday evening northerly 25 knots and rising early Friday 35 knots. Changing late Friday westerly 40 knots. Sea very rough at times. Moderate southwest swell,becoming heavy on Wednesday.

The Southern Scenic Route, Taieri Mouth to Bluff

Thought I'd put up a wee update on my paddle down from the Taieri to Bluff.  I was pretty excited about having more than one day off in a row but as it turned out it wasn't to be.  I only had one last day of NE before it was going to turn SW, so I dragged myself out of bed early and got back into it.  Eddy and his parents Barbara and Arthur came out to see me off.  I'm just gutted I couldn't have stayed longer.  I have met so many amazing people along the way who have in some ways all become a piece of this journey.  It's great to spend time with people with such a fresh and childish outlook on life (I mean that in a good way!!) So thanks :)
Me, Eddy, Arthur and Barbara White
Sunrise at the Taieri Mouth
I made good time down to Kaka Point, about 55km down the coast.  The 2ft high surf proved too much for me though and I took a roll!! the first roll I have taken since the West Coast, amateur!! I'm certain it was because my mum was there to meet me, the same thing happened the last time I saw her at Bruce Bay.  I must be intimidated by her stalker camera lens, nothing quite like installing her faith in my abilities haha.

The next day I paddled past Nugget Point, and for the next 12hrs pushed into a south westerly, a lovely Southland day in the rain and wind.  I arrived at Tautuku late in the day where I encountered a bunch of drunken loose units from Fonterra.. my advice is if you ever see a milk tanker, stay well clear!! It turns out Osama bin Laden is actually alive and drunk at Tautuku.. it was an entertaining evening, and I really was thankful for their hospitality.  One of the guys who they called Beagle used to commercially fish along the south coast, so he pointed out a bunch of good landing places on my maps- it's always good to get some local knowledge.  I had a hot shower and dried my paddling gear out over the fire as I listened to a couple of drunken fools having a sing along, pretty hilarious really.  They cooked a feed for dinner and it really was nice to sleep inside on a rainy night.  It was quite the experience.
A beautiful day in Southland
From Tautuku I paddled another long day and camped just past the lighthouse on Waipapa Point in view of Bluff and Stewart Island.  It was a clear night and I made a sweet fire on the beach and stayed up late, cooking some food over the fire and watching the stars.  It was a bit of a shame to blast through the Catlins but the weather was okay, and my mission was to get to Bluff before the weather turned.

Waipapa Point lighthouse in the distance
The next morning I got up late to try and get the tides right for the crossing to Bluff.  I practically straight lined it from Waipapa to Bluff, which put me way offshore for most of the day but it seemed worth it, a short cut is always good.  The hardest part of my day was getting into the harbour, there was quite a current and with so much kelp I could hardly paddle! Eventually I made it and just as I was pulling up on a beach I saw a lady running down the street waving at me.  She came down onto the beach and said "you must be Tara!" It was Meri Leask from Bluff Fisherman's Radio, the legend I had heard so much about.  I'd thought about talking to Meri before we set off on our trip but I decided it was best to wait till we had almost paddled the whole way round the island before we told her our intensions.  To the normal person, the idea of paddling a kayak up the Fiordland Coast does seem a bit daft.  But as it turned out she didn't give me a hard time at all, conveniently she had just gotten a message about a guy SWIMMING down the Fiordland Coast!! That was a few days ago and he made it as far as Sutherland Sound but got rescued today I just read on the net! haha.  I must have looked perfectly normal after this guy.  Meri really was lovely, and I left my boat at her place before heading into Invercargill with my folks.

It's looking like I'll be spending the week here as 35K Westerlys don't sound too much fun, maybe for kite flying but not for kayaking..  So from here my next stop will be Riverton, then across Te Waewae Bay to Port Craig before I shoot off round Puysegur Point into Preservation Inlet.  I'm excited about getting back into Fiordland, it's such a magical place.  At this stage I'm not real excited about finishing though, that means finding a job and living in the real world again.. so if anyones got a job for me, let me know! anywhere, UK, Canada, USA, Australia..

Will put up a post before I head off again, but at this stage its not looking nice for at least a week.. at least the days are longer now, a 6am start really doesn't seem that bad anymore!

:) Tara

Friday, 28 September 2012

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hi Everyone,

It's been a pretty huge week but I have finally managed to have a day on land while some strong NE winds blow through.  I have made it down to the Taieri Mouth, south of Otago Peninsula.  Here's and update on my latest adventures,

After a few weeks off from paddling I finally headed back to Akaroa last Friday, ready for a big push south.  I approached this next leg of my journey with caution, as this part of the coast deserves a lot of respect with its reputation for lack of landings, dumping surf and steep gravel beaches.  Paul Caffyn had said to me that this part of the coast is home to some of the most violent bumper dumpers he's ever come across.  'Boat and body breaking violent dumpers' were his words.  Going solo, without a land crew to help me launch and land along this part of the coast was not going to be easy.  However, I was confident in my ability to land through the dumpers, and my main concern was more the possibility of not being able to launch again off the steep beaches.  It was looking like I'd have the weather window I needed to get down to Timaru, so I went for it.  

I set off on a grey rainy day, paddling about 50km from Akaroa before landing somewhere along from Birdling's Flat on the sand spit that separates Lake Ellesmere from the sea.  As it turned out my first landing went as perfect as could be and I got off the water just before dark and in the rain set up my tent in the dunes.  This had got to be one of the most bleak places I have ever camped in NZ, with nothing but gravel, sand and ocean as far as you can see.

South of the Rakaia Mouth this is all you can see for miles and miles

The next morning I set off early and had a brutal day paddling into a strong current flowing up the coast, as well as a head wind.  I was crawling, paddling about 2km an hour.  Approaching the channel of the Rakaia River I timed it between the sets and paddled into the mouth.  The only problem being that as soon as I got into the channel, the current was too strong to make headway.  Luckily I managed to tred-mill until the next set came through and I surfed a small wave in.  The forecast for the following way was for a 35K SW front to come through late morning so I decided to stay put for the day.  I had an entertaining afternoon as I sat inside my tent holding the poles as huge gusts and pounding rain tried to rip the tent to pieces.  Fun times.  

From the Rakaia I paddled about 50km down the coast and managed to pull off a dicey landing late in the day, right on high tide- not ideal for steep gravel beaches! I made a break through the dumpers and aimed for a tiny stream that cut at a 40 degree angle to the beach.. with a 2m high vertical gravel bank on one side.  Luckily it worked, and I didn't get slammed into the bank.. it was sketchy but I didn't have any other options.  I pitched my tent inside a mai mai and went to sleep contemplating how I was going to get off the beach!  I survived the break out early the next day without any drama, and put in another big days paddle all the way to Timaru.  Sim's sister came and found me and I stayed at her place for the night, thanks Naomi :) I ate a footlong subway and two large pizzas in the space of an hour, it was awesome.  

From Timaru I paddled about 50km south with a SW headwind for most of the day.  About 2 hours before dark I started looking for somewhere decent to land- there was nowhere, only nearly vertical gravel beaches with huge dumpers.. again high tide making them even worse.  I sprinted for the next few hours hoping to make it to the Waiho River where I was sure I could paddle into.  Right on dark I arrived only to discover the mouth wasn't open so my only option was to attempt a landing.  It went surprisingly sweet as, and I managed to ride up on the back of a big dumper and dig my paddle into the gravel before getting sucked back out again.  I called Sim's parents Paul and Gael, and they took me back to Waimate for the night for a feed and hot shower.  

Sim's dad after helping me launch from the Waiho River Mouth

As tempted as I was to spend a rest day there the forecast was good.. so I had to keep moving.  Paul helped me launch early the next morning and with a NE wind behind me I put in a huge 80km day all the way to Moeraki that day.  I was nearly dead by this stage but again the forecast was good!! So I pushed on, putting in another 65?km to the entrance of Otago Harbour.  I caught up with some friends Mike and Rosie who had my food stash, and declined their offer to head into town for a bed.  Unfortunately the forecast was again good, so I had to keep moving!!  So another early start and another huge day saw me arriving at the Taieri Mouth after another 65?km paddle.  Thankfully the forecast for today and tomorrow is not good!!  I'm staying with Eddy and his legendary parents which is awesome.  

Not sure when I will make a move from here, but if anyone wants to come for a paddle, get in touch! for some reason I haven't had any takers so far.. not sure why!?  Will get a post up when I decide to leave, its looking okay in a few days time.  

:) Tara

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Another quick update to say I have made it down to Timaru this afternoon after a few big days on the water.  Paddling south tomorrow.. weather is good.. awesome!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Paddling south!

Just a quick note to say I'll be hitting the seas tomorrow.  Will hopefully get down to the Rakaia River mouth on Sunday and should be able to continue on south on Tuesday. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Beautiful New Zealand weather

I thought I'd post this latest weather map up to show the folk up in the northern hemisphere what we're dealing with at the moment.. Tuesday is forecast for 40 knot south westerlies so I think I'll stay on land for a while..

Thursday, 6 September 2012

recent happenings...

Our expedition has come to a turning point and Sim and I have decided to go our seperate ways, which means that I will be continuing on this journey alone.  Attempting to paddle around the South Island in winter was never going to be an easy undertaking, and although we started out about 3 months ago now, we have only managed to paddle about 37 of those days.  Exciting weather on the West Coast made progress slow, and on several occasions we were trapped onshore for a week at a time, as huge seas pounded the coast.

Paul Caffyn had said from the start that it was never going to be easy, and our lack of daylight hours in the middle of winter left very little room for error.  Luckly we managed to survive only 3 night surf landings, and at times like this, it's always a great peace of mind to know that you're not alone.. no matter how little it actually makes the situation any better!  It's been awesome to have shared a majority of this trip with Sim, who amazingly managed to conquer the entire west coast only taking 3 rolls.. that is if you exclude when he got 'Heaphy'd'.  I think its important to recognise Sim's achievement, having paddled nearly 3/4 of the way around the South Island in winter (that is if you include the Te Waewae Bay to Milford section we paddled last winter).  So a big thanks to Sim, you are a legend!

The South Island is getting pounded by some intense weather at the moment, and I'm afraid that its a mark of the beginning of the unsettled spring weather.  But I plan to head back up to Akaroa and get paddling south as soon as the seas die down.. hopefully I'll get some nice north easterlies!  People often ask me how long I expect it to take to get back to Milford- I really don't know, and I'm in no hurry as my focus at this stage is just completing the trip.  It's looking like Stewart Island is going to have to wait for another time, which I'm happy about.  So from here to Milford, progress will no doubt be slow, but I'm cool with that.

If anyone wants to come for a paddle, that would be awesome! flick me a message, my cell number is 0221987951

:) Tara

Friday, 24 August 2012

Kaikoura down to Banks Peninsula

Hi Everyone,

We have been pretty slack about posting lately so I thought its about time we got a wee update up.. We arrived into Christchurch about a week? ago- lets just say it was a.. long.. day, the day (or night) we arrived!! We left from Motonau beach (about 80km north of Christchurch) in 4m swells.  We soon realized that landing was not an option so we made the call to push on all the way to Sumner.  I got sea sick for most of the day and it got worse after it got dark.  The Waimakariri River mouth was by far the scariest thing we have seen this whole trip- all the rivers were in massive flood and there were huge 5m high breaking waves stretching out to about 2km offshore!! Later on we got smoked by a few smaller breakers way offshore in the dark, and Sims hat got pushed down over his eyes so he couldn't see anything but he just had to keep paddling incase there was a second breaker behind it haha. I was slow as and we didn't reach land till 12.30am.. 16hrs in a kayak is not ideal!!! i dragged my boat up onto the boat ramp and lay down on the ground for a few minutes before throwing up one last time haha.  We grabbed our tent and headed into the park in Sumner and slept in a bush.. still no freedom camping fines!
We are planning on taking a wee break from paddling for a week to refuel our energy levels and make sure that we are good to go for the next gnarly leg down from Banks Peninsula to Oamaru.  Its looking like we are going to get to claim the slowest circumnavigation- awesome! haha.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Hi Everyone,

We've made it down to Kaikoura after a few good days on the water. Had a day off today. Getting back in to it tomorrow but its looking like it might be a wet week!

Sim and Tara

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sunny Tasman Bay, south easterlies and a portage through French Pass

Since arriving in Picton on Sunday afternoon we are still waiting for the weather to get better for our next push south.  Our focus this week has been on eating as much as we can whilst watching the Olympics..mean! Here's a wee update on our latest adventures.. pretty boring really with no rolling, no surf landings and no more 'time apart'.

Stephen's Bay

We left from Stephens Bay on the 24th of July in drizzly conditions, aiming for Cable Bay which sits about 35km across Tasman Bay.  About an hour into our crossing a south east wind picked up and the clouds blocked all visibility of where we were heading for.  After some 'discussions' on our direction I rummaged through Sims back hatch and pulled out a compass.  We blindly paddled into the driving rain for hours, catching glimpses of the far side between the squalls.. ahh, sunny Nelson.  About 7 hours later I made a sprint finish to a small beach at the entrance to the bay, desperate to pee.. relief!

Not so sunny Tasman Bay

The next day the forecast was for 35 Knot South Easterlies.  We battled into the wind all morning, watching huge gusts picking up water and willy wars speeding around us.  The going was slow so we decided to pull up on a beach and resorted to lying in tussocks, dodging face fulls of sand for the rest of the day.  The South Easterlies were still blowing the next morning but things seemed to have died down as we gapped it towards French Pass- a small gap that separates D'urville Island from the South Island.  We camped just on the Western side of the pass, a night of frustration as weka's attempted to steal our stuff.  I woke up in the middle of the night to Sim laughing, a weka was actually dragging my jacket away that had been under the tent!

We had been warned to get the tides right for the crossing, but for some reason it always seems so uninviting to get up in the dark to pack up and put on wet gear to get going.  When we finally did get on the water we arrived at the pass only to see a huge current pouring through.  It was impossible to paddle against so we opted for dragging our boats up the side haha.  It wasn't actually as bad as it sounds and after about 5 minutes we were past the worst of it and able to paddle away.  Making our way to Alligator Head we dodged dolphins and penguins for much of the day.

Rounding Cape Jackson the next morning we cruised along with a following wind- conditions I'm sure Paul Caffyn would have described as being 'a corker of a day for kayak sailing'.  Arriving on dusk near the entrance to the Tory Channel, we dodged the Interislander and pulled up on a farm where we were lucky to met Joe and Joy- legends! They let us sleep in their woolshed and gave us a shower.. i didn't realize we smelt that bad!  It's awesome how many amazing people we have bumped into along the way.  Rarangi down near Blenheim was our next port of call, and Sims uncle Richard picked us and our boats up and took us back to their home in Picton.  Thanks heaps Kaye and Richard!

Sim racing the Interislander into Tory Channel
So hopefully we will be on the seas chasing whales near Kaikoura soon.

:) Tara & Sim

Sunday, 29 July 2012


Hi All,

Quick note to say that Sim n Tara have been through French Pass, around the top of the South Island and are now somewhere near Picton. Here hoping the weather is kind to them for the East Coast.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Some 'time apart', adding spice to the lives of Fi & Brian & our survival of the West Coast

Hi Everyone!  More than two weeks have passed since leaving Westport and our last post.  It has taken us a while longer to conquer the remainder of the West Coast than we had expected, due to a little 'epic' down at the Heaphy River. At the moment we are staying at a crib in Stephens Bay near Kaiteriteri- thanks heaps Max Grant and co! a hot shower and bed with sheets is luxury!

On the 5th of July we camped in the red light district of Westport- just inside the breakwaters of the Buller River mouth under a huge red navigationl light.  It was awesome to catch up with Averil, an old friend of mine from school, and her two sweet kids.  The next morning we left in the dark, ready for a big push north while the weather was good.  Easterlies made progress slow as we were being constantly blown offshore.  We landed just past the Mokihinui River mouth that afternoon and Sim took his 3rd roll since leaving Milford.  Two days later we arrived at the Heaphy River and both managed a clean run in through moderate surf.  Sleeping in the hut was mean and we were feeling confident that we would make it up and around Farewell Spit and the end of the West Coast in the weather window we had.  Little did we know that this was not to be and that the West Coast was about to hand us our most 'exciting' epic yet.. Here goes..


On the morning of the 9th of July we paddled out the Heaphy River mouth and into the surf.  I went first and somehow managed a clean run out through huge breakers that went our for several hundred metres.  I got out the back and waited for Sim.   I waited and waited for Sim, but he was nowhere to be seen.  A stiff Easterly was blowing out the river mouth and it was freezing.  My view of the beach was pretty minimal as all I could see was the backs of huge waves.  After about half an hour and still no sign of Sim I figured he had probably gotten smashed and maybe taken a swim and was taking a while to sort himself out.  There was no way I wanted to run the surf back in again.

The sun slowly arrived, shining straight in my face making it even harder to watch the surf for Sim.  After an hour I put my helmet back on slowly edged closer into the surf zone.  Paddling frantically for a few minutes and being slammed a few times I arrived on the beach unscathed.  No sign of Sim.  No footprints.  No boat drag marks in the sand.  I went back to the hut and left a quick note "Sim I'm paddling north to Whanganui Inlet. Tara."  He must have missed me in the surf between the swells.  Maybe I was too far out the back.  He wasn't anywhere so he must have gone North without me.  He must have thought I'd gotten tired of waiting.

My last run out through the surf was sketchy.  I got most of the way out the back before a huge wave about to break slammed into me, pinning me on the back deck of my boat.  I made it though only to be slammed by the next one, again my helmet hitting the back of my boat.  I thought it was game over but the sea gods were kind to me.  I boosted north, paddling about 35km and landed that night alone near the Anaweka River.  Max and Melz told me about this hut they found on their South Island circumnavigation.  Some farmers told me where it was and I stayed there the night with a cranking fire going.  I had the tent and Sim had our big fly and a bivvy bag.  Sucks to be him! I figured we would meet in Whanganui Inlet.  The next morning I paddled away early and after arriving in the Inlet early afternoon I made my way to a farmhouse and called Fi.  Fi and Brian are brilliant at time like this and they really are awesome at what they do.  I didn't want anyone to over-react as it was most probably a case of 'misplacing' Sim.  He would turn up.  I didn't loose him on purpose! honest! Some valuable lessons were learnt. 

I paddled off and found a sweet hut where I spent my second night alone.  The next day I paddled back to use the phone.  Fi and Brian had managed to find out that a fishing boat had seen Sim and 3.30pm the day before about 10km south of the Inlet.  I waited all day but still no sign of Sim.  On the 4th morning since loosing Sim he made a call to Fi to say that he was paddling into Collingwood from the end of Farewell Spit.

Turns out Sim never left the Heaphy without me.  It also turns out that it was actually me that had abandoned him!! my bad!!  He had been only one wave behind me when we left the river mouth.  He'd gotten smashed, rolled, smashed, rolled, smashed, and ended up about 200m north of the river mouth around the point and pushed into rocks.  He managed to get onto a tiny beach surrounded by cliffs.  He had seen me go in through the surf and back out again.  He tried over and over to get out through the surf and off his beach, but every time he kept getting smashed.  His roll count went from 3 to about 10.  On his 5th attempt he got smashed and ended up swimming.  After two more attempts that afternoon he slept under a flax bush for the night.  The next morning on his second attempt he finally made it out and left the Heaphy behind.

Sims Heaphy Beach

That day he paddled to about 5km south of the Inlet- I had the maps so he had no idea how close he was.  Lucky we had worked out that all we we had to do was keep the land on our right and we should be sweet.  He was convinced I'd be making the most of the good weather and be boosting North.  So the next day he paddled all the way to the end of Farewell Spit, arriving in the dark, expecting me to be there.  But I wasn't haha.  At 4am near high tide and in darkness he set off again on the water and rounded the end of the spit and paddled into Collingwood, with the aid of Ben and his Ipad navigation.  He was joined by a pod of Orcas!! jealous!  The next day- day 5 of our 'separation', Sim got a lift back to the inlet and found me in my hut.  Thanks heaps Leslie and Brandon Sparrow and the girls for your help.

Calm seas on Sims first paddle around the spit
Orca in Golden Bay

We waited for a few days in bad weather before we made an attempt to head north on Sim's second trip around the spit.  But it turns out a 4m SW swell is not really ideal for getting out of the Inlet.  The surf was huge but we were eager to leave.  We pushed on probably further than we should have before I got back-surfed and rolled about 500m offshore.. not ideal!  Sim yelled at me "this is stupid!!" and we quickly turned around and frantically paddled back to the safety of the inlet.  We called Fi and Brian who had come up to see us and that afternoon we paddled over with a dinghy from my hut and picked them up with their new family member Max.  Max decided to launch himself out of the dinghy half way back, its always good to know he can now swim!  It was awesome hanging out and we ate heaps of good food and had some beers and enjoyed the sun for the next 2 days.  Love you guys!!

Tara, Fi, Max and Brian travelling in style

On the 19th we dodged huge surf and made our break from the Inlet and put in a big days paddle to the end of the spit where we camped under the lighthouse.  The next day we headed south down past Separation Point and into Abel Tasman National Park, stoked to be off the West Coast.  We camped at Totaranui and the next day we Freya'd it and paddled the whole of the Abel Tasman in an afternoon down to Stephens Bay, where we are now.

Tara landing at Farewell Spit and the end the West Coast

Farewell Spit camp

A Change from the West Coast- easy landing in the Abel Tasman

 Our plan from here is to skip Nelson and paddle across to Cable Bay on Tuesday before heading through French Pass and making our way down the East Coast.  Hopefully the weather gods are kinder to us on the East side!! Thanks heaps to everyone who's helped us get this far, its been really cool to have so many people interested in our adventures.  If you want to come for a paddle, get in touch.. we will try our best not to loose you!! haha

:) Tara & Sim

The Lost Photos - Greymouth to Westport

Kayaks on the beach at 12mile & Paul Caffyns home

Making the most of the last half hour of light at Woodpecker Bay
Still getting dark at 5.30pm wet gear again tomorrow morning, Yay!

Tara paddling past the rocks of Charlston

Lookout from the clifs at Charlston

Sunset at Charleston

Sunset at Charleston

Tara paddling in swell  around Cape Foulwind

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Still paddling!

Hi Guys, Just thought I'd let you know that Sim and Tara have been holed up for the last day or five with some bad kayaking weather. The good news though is... Da da da da!! They have just said goodbye to the Westcoast today and will be cruising past the Able Tasman for the next few days. The weather looks pretty good for them for the next few days so hopefully they are heading past Nelson shorty. Till next time... Ben

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Hokitika to Westport

Hi Sim here
We have made it up as far as Westport, after a few good weather days and fortunately there is more to come! You'll have to excuse the lack of photos as were unable to put any up the moment.
So after landing at Hoki, we left our boats in the capable hands of Brian at the Beachside Holiday Park and headed up to wait out some rough weather with our mate Jono in Greymouth. During that time there was up to 6m swells out on the coast no fun for kayaking. While in Greymouth we had a chat to the local outdoor education students about what we were up to and where we work in Fiordland. We also met with Paul Caffyn and got some good local knowledge on landing further up the coast.

When the weather improved we set out again from Hoki at first light for a very tough day. After pushing into a 15knt Northeaster for 11 hours and one of my rudder lines breaking halfway through the day, we made a surf landing at Greymouth again in the dark! Only 35 kms. Fortunately we had a good crew of KT, Ben and Jono on the lookout for us and they quickly found us and got us back to Jono's. Where KT told us it had been a tropical 1 degree when the picked us up.

Next after a few repairs  in the morning we set off to 12mile where Paul Caffyn lives, a much more pleasant paddle than the day before. Tara was happy we arrived before just before Paul got home as she took a roll right outside his house in small surf after taking the landing a little to relaxed!

Leaving the next morning was a bit sad as KT was heading home after being out support crew for the last month or so. Thanks heaps KT!!!. From 12mile we made our way up to Woodpecker Bay and paddled in to the fox river to camp for the night. Getting in at 3pm was great as we had a bit of time to enjoy it on land and dry some gear before it disappeared again.

I enjoyed paddling up to Charleston past all the awesome rock formations that are popular with climbers. The climbs are right on the sea cliffs and would make for some spectacular views. The entrance to the bay at Charleston is on 8 or 9ms wide so would make a interesting landing spot in big swell. Lucky for us it was just an easy roll through the gap.

We had a rest day yesterday to prepare for making the most of the good weather that is coming up and wait for a new radio to arrive in Westport as our current one as died and it will be vital for getting forecasts for the next stretch as we will start seeing less towns and cell coverage.

Had great paddle up to Westport today around Cape Foulwind in perfect conditions the weather looks like it is to continue to play the game so we hope to be up around the spit and off the wild west coast soon.

This will probably be our last update till we round the top in a week or so. Hopefully then we'll be able to get some photos up. Thanks heaps to everyone for all your help and support along the way and a big thanks to Len from LEGEND Paddles in Chch for helping sort our paddle issues.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Need a new paddle? Talk to LEGEND PADDLES in Christchurch

Hi All

The Crew has made it to Charleston yesterday lunchtime. They then hitched to Westport for a weather update as their radio has given up on them. They were in Woodpecker Bay on Tuesday night and were hoping to get to Westport shortly to wait out a bit of bad weather. With a bit of luck they will be there today/tomorrow. A MASSIVE thanks to Len from LEGEND PADDLES in Christchurch who's making them a new paddle to use, and fixing a broken split paddle for them as we speak. Cheers Len!!

Will have more of an update soon.


Sunday, 1 July 2012

12 mile

Made it up past greymouth to 12 mile. Staying with Paul Caffyn first person to kayak around the south island. Heading north again tomorrow. Should be in Westport in a few days. For a detailed update! Thanks for all the support KT. Her last day as support crew today :-(

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Okarito to Hokitika & a surf landing in the dark

It's about time we kept our readers happy with some epic West Coast antics!  We were starting to get worried our adventure seemed boring, so here goes...

We left the small town of Okarito early in the morning of the shortest day of the year.  The tide was low and we paddled out the mouth of the lagoon and into the surf.  We were relaxed as it didn't look to epic but the first big wave I punched launched me backwards and flipped me over.  I rolled up and tried to gain forwards momentum before the next one hit- for a couple of seconds I was teetering on the edge with a paddle blade clawing at the top of the wave trying to hold my ground whilst the rest of the wave tried to suck me back.  After finally breaking through I boosted out the back and looked over to see Sim making it though no worries.  

The sun was rising as we paddled towards Abut Point and within about an hour I could not hold it off any longer and I gave the fish a wee feed.  The going was slow, and as the hours ticked by I keep chundering.  The closer we got to Greens Beach the more we realised that we wearn't going to make it that day.  We had a look on the map and it looked like it might be an okay landing about 6km before Greens.  When we finally paddled into view of this beach, large waves rolled in and the thought of landing through this surf didn't seem too appealing.  It was 5pm and the sun had just disapeared- if we boosted it we might get to Greens before things got really dark.  The lemons were adding up but we decided to go for it.

Daylight was disappearing fast and we tried to radio KT to get an update on our landing situation.  No luck.  A tiny orange dot in the distance momentarily put our minds at ease, KT obviously had a fire going on the beach- at least we would have somewhere to aim for.  We finally negotiated our way in through the surf.  Sim went in first and disappeared.  I followed and managed to get in a wild side surf in the darkness.  After a second side surf I launched up onto the sand.  

KT's comment was "a bit on the late side, but I call that a success" haha. Being on land was awesome, and having a raging fire going and dinner on the go was a job well done by KT! It was a long day- nothing quite like paddling 45km on a packet of raro!

The next morning we got up early ready for the 45km paddle to Hokitika.  Sim cruised off through the surf first and made it out the back sweet.  I followed and managed to get about half way out before getting slammed and back surfed most of the way back in again.  Wave after wave I couldn't make and headway, the sets just kept rolling in.  I was getting dominated.  After feeling like i couldn't take any more, I finally I made it out the back.  

The day was as perfect as could be until we neared Hokitika later in the day.  Huge waves rolled into the river mouth, it clearly was not a go-er  for a landing.  We paddled further north towards the edge of town where KT was waiting for us.  The waves were breaking way out and it looked like it could be messy.  I went in first and just as I got into the surf zone saw a huge wave about to eat me.  I threw myself into it but it trashed me upside down.  I rolled up and took a few strokes before the next one slammed into me.  I was upside down, rolled half up, got smashed by the next one then did the long swim of shame into the beach.  Sim made it in sweet with no dramas at all, not even a broken paddle.  When I finally got on land my pants were around my knees haha. 

At least all that was hurt was my pride and the only casualty was a jandal and a sponge.  Maybe a bit on the damp side, but I'll call it a success! Character building i think its called.  

So now we are in Greymouth staying with Sim's friend Jono until the weather improves.  It's about 45K westerly at the moment which isn't that ideal.  If anyone's keen to come and join our journey, get in touch, paddling on the West Coast really is awesome! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hi Everyone,

We are heading back to the West Coast today, and plan on paddling as far as Greens Beach (half way between Okarito and Hokitika) tomorrow.  From there it will be another days paddle to Hokitika- hopefully we don't have to attempt a landing near Ross- we have been warned "avoid at all costs" haha.  At least in a couple of days time, daylight hours will be on the increase- awesome! We should be able to get a post up when we hit Greymouth, but until then hopefully the seas die down again- its a 4m NW swell at the moment :)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bruce Bay to Okarito

Sim, KT and I have made an unexpected trip over to Christchurch after my grandma passed away a few days ago.  We are hoping to head back to the West Coast in the next few days depending on the weather.  Here's a quick update on our latest adventures. 

Sim and I paddling out from Bruce Bay- photo by KT

After spending more than a week in Bruce Bay we finally got the weather window that we had been waiting for.  With an amazing panorama of the southern alps out to our right we we cruised north feeling a little apprehensive about our inevitable messy landing at Gillespies Beach.  Rumor has it that Gillespies is one of the gnarlier dumping surf beaches on the coast, and the advice that I had been given was to avoid it.  At least it wasnt an 'avoid it at all costs' piece of advice- definitely a good sign! When we arrived early in the afternoon KT informed us on the radio that waves were breaking further out but that we would be sweet as, a welcome relief.  I went in first and made it within a couple of meters of the beach before getting rolled.  Sim got smashed further out before making a clean run in to the beach- so far our combined roll count is sitting at 5 haha. 

Sunset from Gillespies Beach

The following day we paddled north to Okarito in pristine conditions.  Timing it between the sets we managed to surf in over the bar and into the river mouth without too many dramas.  So far we are a month into our journey, but of that month we have only managed to paddle a total of 8 days.  Two more paddling days should get us to Hokitika, and another day to Greymouth.  Progress has been slow but i guess that what you get paddling on the West Coast!

Arriving into the Okarito Lagoon- photo by KT

Calm seas and the Southern Alps

KT- our awesome Landing Analyst and Ground Specialist

Friday, 8 June 2012

An update from the city of Fox Glacier

We are in the big city of Fox Glacier for the day.. made it as far as Bruce Bay where we have spent the week in the luxury of KT's dads pad on the tranquil Willigans Island.  KT has officially joined the team as our 'Landing Analyst and Ground Specialist' which has been awesome.

The seas haven't been too ideal and we are not really sure when we will get a break to head north.. 4m swells with no sheltered landings could make for a good read! Depending on the swells we might make a break for Gillespies Beach near Fox tomorrow.. gotta love the west coast weather!

Here's a few pics from the last week- most of it we spent on land.. enjoy :)

The Tasman Sea pounding the West Coast.. we stayed on land..

Haast Beach surf on a good day, anyone keen?

Taking on the Tasman Sea- KT took this picture of us from Knights Point Lookout, north of Haast

Our palace at Willigans Island, Bruce Bay

Candle lit dinner in paradise

Bruce Bay