By Joanna Lowrey
In the 43 S. latitude from Lyttelton to Akaroa around Banks Peninsula, South Island New Zealand.
Jo and I had met in Auckland about a year ago when Maiden was in New Zealand. Jo was doing the delivery on Maiden from Auckland to Honolulu and I had taken a group of Canterbury sailors up to Auckland to be part of the farewell for Maiden out of Auckland. Three young woman sailors presented the Maiden crew with a few gifts for King Neptune and we sailed next to Maiden on Steinlager 2 as she departed. I was scheduled to sail on Maiden from LA to Chile but due to issues with the weather, we did not sail that leg, but did have a week in LA sailing on the Santa Monica Bay on Maiden. I’m now very much looking forward to when Maiden is back on the water.
Jo and I just clicked as Kiwi Maidens and have remained incredibly good friends since then. Jo was down in Christchurch due to the Convid19 lockdown with no work on at the NZ Sailing Trust and I co-ran Bluetrack Training with my husband; we also had been impacted due to Covid-19. We had gone to Level 2 here in New Zealand and both Jo and I were going a little crazy so my husband suggested we go for a sail in our yacht. With no work at the moment and the weather looked pretty good for a few days, we decided to get away on Blue Dolphin. She’s a 1975, 39 foot, Cavalier yacht built by Salthouse Boats out of Auckland.
We set out from Te Ana Marina in Lyttelton at 0700 hrs on a 51 nautical mile trip around Banks Peninsula. Our destination was French Bay in Akaroa Harbour. We had wind on the nose going out of Lyttelton harbour, but once we started to turn the corner we had a nice gentle 10 knots breeze. We were able to get the sails up and had a pleasant sail. I cooked up some bacon and eggs, made fresh plunger coffee and we were happy sailor girls! The trip was made even more enjoyable with Hector Dolphins following us the whole way. There were also Albatros, Cape Petrols, a couple of Blue Penguins and some little seals… it was the tonic we both needed and awesome to be out feeling the salty sea-breeze on our face.
We entered into Akaroa Harbour and arrived at the beautiful rural town of Akaroa around 1500 hours. I had organised to use a friend’s mooring in French Bay, thanks Mike Buxton. Jo poured us a little gin to celebrate our passage around from Lyttelton and we were treated to beautiful colours as the sun set across the water and over the hills. I put some chops on for dinner and we settled in for the evening. As it is winter here in New Zealand we had lots of woolly blankets and hot water bottles to kept us warm. All was good in the world and world felt more balanced after an awesome day.
We both slept like logs floating on the ocean and after some breakfast spam and eggs butties it was time to pop Little Blue our tender into the water and head to shore to explore Akaroa. A good friend of ours, Juliet mentioned that her father was buried in the local cemetery so that was the first point of call. It was about a 30 minute walk to the cemetery above the lighthouse. On the way we stopped in at the old Lighthouse that was first built on a rugged headland at the entrance to Akaroa Harbour. It later moved to a new location when it was replaced by an automatic light in 1977. We picked a few wildflowers from the side of the road on the way to place at the grave. It was very moving walking around the cemetery with all native trees overlooking the Akaroa Harbour listening to the bird song… it was just lovely.
We wandered back down into Akaroa township where we found a little cafe called The Brasserie Kitchen & Bar and sat to have a coffee and reflect. It was a fab little café they focus is on fresh local seasonal ingredients from a cottage kitchen with friendly service, great coffee in our tranquil garden setting.
We had to pop into meet the wonderful Fred at Akaroa Butchery and Deli and while there we bought a fresh Baguette. Fred was awesome and give us a little bottle of some very yummy Pate De Campagne that he makes and it was dee-licious… a must try when in Akaroa. Thanks Fred!
Checking out Akaroa we snapped some funny photos at the monument of a famous artist and former lieutenant of the French Navy escort ship ‘Le Rhin’ stationed at Akaroa between 1843 and 1846, Charles Meryon who worked almost entirely in etching, as he suffered colour blindness.
We also popped into the local museum and learned about a fascinating man who grew up in Akaroa born on 22 February 1872: Frank Worsley. His mother died when he and his siblings were very young and as a result was a bit of a wild child, running away from home and living in the hills. Finally, his Dad sent him away to boarding school in Christchurch where the headmaster apparently caned him daily, being the wild child he was. He ended up being Dux (top student) of that school! He had a passion for the sea and applied to join the New Zealand shipping company but was declined because of his short stature. He was successful six months later and was signed up as a junior midship on board the Wairoa. A three mastered clipper which transported wool to London. In January 1902, he was appointed sub lieutenant for the Royal Navy reserve – and then even more exciting he was on the Imperial trans-Atlantic expedition with Ernest Shackleton on the endurance in 1914 which sailed to the South Pole, only to get stuck in the ice!
“When steering a small boat before a heavy gale, Don’t look back – it may disconcert you…. The huge waves were like a roaring bull with a wet nose, galloping up behind you”
-Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s Boat Journey, 1940
As the day grew on it was time to head back to Blue Dolphin for a sundowner and to enjoy the Pate De Campagne with our baguette from Fred at the Akaroa Butchery and Deli. Dinner was roast chicken in the BBQ which was a little crispy but still yummy with a nice glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
It was time to check out the rest of Akaroa Harbour, so we let go of our mooring at French Bay and motored across to French Farm Bay. There is a winery and restaurant here that you can visit during the summer months but, unfortunately with it being winter, we were unable to check it out. We went into Tikao Bay for the night and dropped anchor. We were excited to find what we thought was a Woolshed for a sheep farm – it turned out to be a very interesting piece of World War II history.
The shed was used to make sea mines in World War II and maybe even submarines may have come in to the bay to collect those mines during World War II. The land here is owned by the local Maori and you need permission to go ashore. It was a beautiful little stop before we departed early the next morning to sail back around to the other side of the Peninsula. The colour of the sun setting on the hills on the other side of the Bay was magic and we topped it with Lamb chops for dinner tonight with a wee drop of red wine before heading to bed.
0500 hrs the alarm goes off in time to get up get the engine running, put the Billy on to brew some fresh plunger coffee, and pull the anchor up before slowly motoring out of Akaroa Harbour in the dark. With no moon, the sky looked like it was full of diamonds – a magic moment! Next stop was Port Levy. As we are turning the corner to head around the Akaroa Headland, daylight was breaking. The sea state was a little bit of a washing machine as there was a bit of a low pressure weather rolling across the bottom of New Zealand, but we were happy with the main up and the sea state eased as we rounded the Banks Peninsula. Unfortunately, then we had next to no wind or it was right on the nose, so we weren’t able to sail as we had hoped. Big Red Betty our Beta 43 engine was pushing us along nicely and charging the batteries and heating the water for hot showers later in the day. We did come across something floating in the water so turned around and picked it out, it seems to be a piece of floating concrete (!?) and once again, we had the Hector dolphins following us the whole way jumping flipping riding on the bow, albatrosses sweeping in behind us and riding along the crest of the waves… it was just magic. Life is good.
We arrived in Port Levy around 1230 hrs and dropped anchor. There was one other yacht in the Bay. We made a bite to eat and then had a couple of hours sleep as we’d had an early start. We cooked some delicious lamb shanks in the pressure cooker for dinner watched a movie and had a quiet night.
Pancakes and wild berries were on the breakfast menu for our last morning, with freshly brewed coffee. Then, it was time to head ashore to explore Port Levy. After a small hike up the hill we arrived at some pretty cool ancetral guardians who are overlooking the bay. We learnt a little bit of the history about Port Levy and how Koukourarata was the largest Maori settlement in Canterbury in the mid-1800s . There were some very touching words on a monument up on the hill that we thought was very appropriate for how the world is right now. We thought that was quite poignant given the state of the current world.
“Let people of all cultures sit here and rest. Let’s celebrate our differences in the uniqueness of this place.”
After chatting to a couple of locals it was time to head back to Blue Dolphin and move to our next destination of Ripapa Island in Lyttelton harbour. I put on some fresh cheese scones on the way. Once we dropped anchor at Ripapa Island we had a hot cuppa with hot cheese scones yummy. Then we went ashore to explore Ripapa Island and Fort Jervois. Ripapa Island has been a Māori pā, a prison, a quarantine station and a fort at different stages in its varied history. The basalt stone fort and its rare “disappearing guns” which was built in 1885 when the war between Russia and Britain was looming. It was remarkably interesting walking around the Island somewhat spooky walking around inside the fort you could feel a presence.
After exploring the Fort and Island we head back to Little Blue and discovered that the wind and tide had taken Little Blue under the wharf and she was jammed under one of the wharf beams with the rising tide. I was thinking I may have had to go for a winter swim, but I climb down the side of the wharf all was good and we got her out. The only casualty was a wet pompom on Jo’s woolly hat. Girl power all the way!
Then it was a short motor across Lyttelton Harbour and Blue Dolphin and her crew were safely back in the marina. Happy Maidens having had five awesome days sailing exploring the Akaroa and Banks Peninsula New Zealand – it was great to get away from the stresses of Covid19 disruptions.
“Those who are bent by the wind shall rise again when the wind softens. “ Te Whiti o Rongomai
Now planning the next trip…