South Island meanderings…21 April 2017 … Pelorus Sound – Mail Boat Cruise

Early alarm call – going on the Pelorus Sound Mail Boat Cruise today.

Drove back to Havelock from our overnight spot at The Trout Pub in Canvastown and reported at the Mail Boat Office to pay our money – we even got a discount with our NZMCA membership.

Havelock Marina

We left promptly at 9:30am and it was a perfect day despite a really cold wind as we cruised along.  Our fellow passengers were a mix of foreign tourists, NZ tourists and ‘locals’ that live in the Sound and getting a ride home.

Departing the Marina

We rounded Cullen Point close to the shore and past the entrance to Mahau Sound.

Nice houses around Moetapu

Then up a narrow channel (Hikapu Reach) and into Pelorus Sound (proper).

Nice day for a cruise
Fast overtaking traffic
Water Taxi

We also passed the entrance to Kenepuru Sound along the way.

Crossing entrance to Kenepuru Sound

As it was a Friday we were doing the longest trip to the outer Sound entrance and there were no scheduled stops until we got there.

First stop to drop off some locals

On other days the Trip does different things: Tuesdays – more mail delivery stops plus swim or bushwalk.  Thursdays – swim or bushwalk and visit to gannet colony

About 2½ hours after leaving Havelock we made an unscheduled stop to drop off some locals.  A nice bay with a cluster of houses along the shore.

We decided to sit outside at the back of the boat throughout the cruise – it was a pretty cold spot, but better for viewing and taking photos.  We also befriended an Australian couple sitting next to us so had some interesting conversations with them along the way (they were travelling here in a rental motorhome) .

A good commentary was given as we cruised along – about the history of the Mail Boat, points of interest, local characters etc.  One tale about an elderly lady who would ‘row’ into Havelock and back on the same day (about 80ks one way).  She would use the spring tides rowing into Havelock and the outgoing tide when returning.  She must have had good biceps!

A lot of the hills were forested and being milled (also ‘dunny’ hill on the right)
Milling operation

Looks like they build a temporary wharf, bring in equipment by barge then make roads and work areas.  Once the trees are felled they are taken out by barge again.

(Later in our travels we saw a large log storage area near Picton – so that’s probably where they were taken).

Loo stop anyone?

We’d also passed this amusing landmark on the side of one of the headlands! Someone has a sense of humour…even a dunny roll supplied!

Rounded Tawero Point and continued past Maud Island Wildlife Reserve and then up Waitata Reach towards the Sound entrance.

Heading towards Waitata Reach

We had our first mail drop at Pohuenui Station so turned eastward into Richmond Bay.  There were people already waiting on their substantial wharf for our arrival.  The sheltered bay was calm and almost glassy.

Mail call at Pohuenui

The Station also operates as a Nature Resort and has various options of guest accommodation ranging from $25 night p/p for large groups in the old Shearing Quarters, to $900 night for a party of 6 people in the Luxury Lodge.

Looking at maps there are farm tracks from this point leading across a narrow isthmus at the top of Beatrix Bay and down Anakoha Bay to join with the road leading back to Kenepuru and Portage.  Now that would be some journey!

Cruising on…..

Old Gun Emplacement

Passed a Salmon Farm – a controversial subject as permits are being sought to establish more sites within Pelorus Sound. Concerns being that when they are sited in low tidal flow areas, the excess salmon feed and the waste generated causes a heavy nutrient load that has the potential to alter the water quality by causing a drop in the oxygen saturation levels, which in turn may adversely effect the mussel farms and other marine life in the Sounds.   The ‘hearings’ are still on-going.

Salmon Farm

By 2:00pm we rounded Kaitira (the East Entry Point into Pelorus Sound) and cruised into Forsyth Bay area.

Passing Bird Islands

The skipper took us past the very narrow isthmus link between Beatrix Bay and Forsyth Bay.  Without that link, the land we had just cruised past (where Pohuenui Station was) would have no mainland connection and would be just another Island.  Tucked into the shelter of the narrowest part was yet another mussel farm.

Narrowest part of the Isthmus – an earthquake could easily create another ‘Island’
Old boatshed or another ‘dunny’ maybe?

We were heading for Whakatahuri for another mail drop. An interesting spot as it used to be a Ship Breaking Yard back in the mid-1950’s.  Parts of old hulks still lying around as evidence of its history.

Approaching the old shipyards
That is not going to float again!
Whakatahuri mail drop – Old slipway to the right of the wharf

After delivering the mail we set off again up the bay to make a stop at Sunday Bay on Forsyth Island.

Heading for Forsyth Island
Forsyth Island (looks pretty cosy)
Pagoda viewpoint (Forsyth Island)
Gentle approach

That was the last of our mail drops on the eastern side of the Sound so from there we motored straight across the ‘mouth’ of Pelorus Sound and had some great views of the Chetwode Islands in the distance.

Looking towards the Chetwode Islands
Another view of the Chetwode’s

The cruise usually calls into Liger Bay on the western side, however, as there was no mail delivery there today we head straight towards Bulwer.  Neville was chuffed that we were going there as he would have liked to have driven there for a look on our way back from French Pass.  But as the road condition was uncertain we had by-passed it.

Approaching Bulwer
The Local Bar (yeah right!)
Oops – we hit just a bit too hard!
Pulling up at the wharf
Farewell Bulwer
Zapping through a mussel farm – another Salmon Farm on the right
Entering Waitata Bay

Next stop was around the corner into Waitata Bay and to Camp Bay Wharf.  There is also a road track to this point (off the road to Bulwer), which explains the vehicle near the wharf.

Camp Bay mail drop
Last mail drop

Then it was on to our last mail drop of the day at Hamilton Cove just further around Waitata Bay.  It looked a pretty remote spot – no sign of any habitation nearby.

At that point our ‘mail’ deliveries were complete so it was a straight ‘motor’ back to Havelock passing quite close to Maud Island again along the way.

Mussel farm
Seabird perches

However we did stop at one of the mussel farms on the way so we could get a close up look at how the buoys are set up with the strings of mussels attached.

Mussel line
Quick fix – we didn’t hit anything did we?
Inside the Mail Boat cabin

Arrived back about 5:30pm so the whole trip took 8 hours.  We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it was nice to be ‘out and about’ on the water. (We used to own a little runabout when we lived in Wellington that we used for Scuba Diving and fishing…we still miss it sometimes).

Map showing Mail Boat cruises

We were glad we did the longest cruise to the outer Sound but it did mean that there wasn’t any opportunity to get off the boat thoughout the day. During the warmer summer months it would also be nice to do the bush walk offered on the shorter cruises.  Well….that will be an incentive to go again on another visit.

The map shows the route that the mail boat follows – our trip today was the light blue line (with a couple of exceptions).

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