Passage back to Auckland





After a brief stop at Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park, we braved the tides at French Pass to head into the Marlborough Sounds. This is a beautiful cruising ground, especially in Spring when there is virtually no one else around. We found this to be especially true, since many of the coves have sprouted large numbers of club moorings since our last visit. These moorings are very convenient if you are a member of a local club, however, they now take up virtually all of the usable anchoring area in many of the coves, creating a real problem for the cruising visitor. The coves in the sounds are generally very deep, with only a limited shelf for anchoring around the edges. Instead of placing the moorings in deeper water and leaving the shallower area for anchoring, the moorings have now displaced anchoring. Not a happy situation.




Over night, Vicky, that determined photographer was also faced with an unhappy situation, when the electronics on her camera failed spectacularly, producing photos like the one on the left.








Fortunately a stop-gap was available in the form of a smaller camera, which is why we have the current record of our visit to David Jones retreat in Wakatahuri Bay. At one time there was a small community here and even a post office, but David and his boat ‘Kelvin’ are now the only residents – surrounded by the decaying bits of a scrapped coaster and left-over machinery from the former boatyard.





Among the intriguing nautical bits was this device, whose function is unrecorded. There have been various improbable suggestions.


Public notoriety and general acclaim to the person able to give a name and use to this machine. Could it be an oakum scraper?






One of the attractions of the Marlborough Sounds is the availability in of wonderful hikes in virtually every anchorage. These usually involve a fairly strenuous climb, rewarded by spectacular views over the surrounding country.



Our last stop in the Sounds was at Picton. Though it is an otherwise undistinguished ferry terminal and holiday centre, Picton is also home to the ‘Edwin Fox’, claimed to be the ‘ninth oldest ship in the world. One wouldn’t have thought this a particular claim to fame, but the ship and its small accompanying museum were both well presented and very interesting. The ship has merely been conserved rather than restored. As a result, it is possible to see far more of the detail of its original construction than on a vessel like the ‘Victory’ or the ‘Constitution’. The museum itself housed only small displays, but these were thoughtfully presented, to complement the ship itself and did a very good job of describing the techniques used in its construction. We were impressed.








Our first whirlwind stop in Napier during the Round North Island Two-Handed Race had given us little opportunity to explore the town. We made up for this by stopping on our way up the coast. In 1931, Napier was struck by a strong earthquake, which destroyed much of the centre of the town. As a blessing in disguise, the town was then rebuilt in a very coherently planned Art Deco style, which has been maintained and if anything enhanced over the years. The result is a very attractive, if rather self-consciously ‘prettified’ town centre, which has become something of a tourist attraction.








Considering that it was still early in the sailing year, we had a fairly easy and quick ride up the East Coast and even managed to pass both East Cape and Cape Colville in daylight and fairly benign conditions.



Sadly, at about this time in September, we heard that one of our heroes had died. Though he made it to 100 years of age the previous April, we had heard that Olin Stephens was in failing health. We had guessed as much when he failed to respond, as he usually did, to our birthday email.


Olin was one of the all-time greats of yacht design and probably the outstanding designer of the 20th century. He was also an outstanding sailor and, for all his modesty, a man who commanded complete respect from the whole sailing community.



I (Tom) will never forget an ORC meeting in the 1990’s which spent hours hotly debating whether carbon fibre should be allowed in hull construction. Olin finally stood up and in a sentence or two said in effect, ‘You can’t stand in the way of progress.’ Everyone applauded and the issue was resolved. Yet Olin’s theme as a designer and seaman was moderation. In pursuit of moderation he produced beautiful, seaworthy, fast boats, which are still consistently competitive. We are proud to own one of them.


In 2003 we discovered that Olin had included ‘Sunstone’, under her original name, ‘Deb’, in his book ‘Lines’, of his 49 favourite designs. Though we met Olin on several occasions we had not seen him since acquiring the book and so had been unable to get a personal dedication. Only a few months before his death we sent him a self-addressed card asking for a dedication, which he kindly did. We will treasure it.





After brief stops on the Coromandel Peninsula and Waiheke Island we made it back to Auckland by mid-September, ready to get ‘Sunstone’ back into race mode.


But first we had to make the air-borne trek back to Nelson to collect the car. As usual this gave Vicky the opportunity to plan a number of side trips and hikes.


Despite having spent the winter in Nelson we had not been out to see the Nelson Lakes and so made a swing through Nelson’s scenic back country. With lambing in full swing there were paddocks full of them.








We came back toward the ferry at Picton via the Marlborough Valley, which seems to get longer every year as the scale of vineyards increases. More and more land is being turned over to vines on an industrial scale, which we hadn’t seen a decade earlier.




Once back on the North Island we made our way to Wanganui, where Vicky found a ridge line walk, the Atene Skyline Track, which severely tested Tom’s aging joints. Despite returning to our starting point, the track seemed to involve far more up than down.









Wanganui is well known for only two things: the dispute as to whether its name should be spelled with an ‘h’ after the W and the beautiful valley in which the River Whanganui flows. Despite the dubious condition of the road up the valley we drove most of its length and emerged unscathed by gravel,mud and rock falls.