All's Well That Ends Well
By Goff Squire
It was an early morning on the Wellington waterfront. The three men sat quietly together in the forward lounge of the Fast Cat Cooks Strait ferry - Buster, a retired Stock Agent/Auctioneer from the Kapiti Coast; Bob, a retired Woolman from Napier, and Bill, a hill country farmer from Hawkes Bay. Their destination - the Marlborough Sounds for a further great fishing holiday - a time to get away from it all. Their choice of the Cat was because the voyage took half the time that the conventional ferries took.
The mid-city departure terminal is a stone's throw from a multitude of high rise office blocks. Silence is broken. Bill, whose gaze had been fixed on these bureaucratic monoliths says "Look at that - thousands of types sitting at computers producing absolutely nothing". At this the engines break into full power and we're away. This voyage is typically in three parts - exiting Wellington; crossing the Straits; entering Tory Channel and cruising up the Sounds. But hang on - the revs drop off as we near the Heads. The men give each other concerned glances. Buster, who is the more knowledgeable on maritime matters, says "I reckon we are going back". The Captain comes on the blower - "Sorry to inform you folks but conditions in the Straits have deteriorated and we are required to return to Wellington. You will be notified in due course of alternative arrangements."
Sure enough there is a bus waiting to take us north to the Aotea Quay main ferry terminal. The cheerful driver, a Pacific Islander says "Come on to my bus you people and I am going to take you to a real BIG boat. Don't worry about your luggage it will follow you - I don't know when but it will. Now that's it, we are full. I will come back for you others, you'll see. Bye for now!" The tourists look nonplussed while the Kiwis give an appreciative snigger.
Yes, we have been expected - the Arahura has waited for us. Eventually we are off again. The maritime report was correct. The Terrawhiti Rip off the South Wellington Coast is never quiet water. We were shipping green water over the forward lounge windows. The young passengers were laughing with excitement until faces turned white or was it green. Parents read the signs and escorted them out to fresh air and maybe toilets.
A logical approach to planning a fishing trip is second nature to the male gender. Compiling a shopping list is done on the voyage. Ten days = ten dinners and lunches and breakies planned. Bill has one of those new-fangled credit cards so he will pay and we will settle our third in cash with him later. Booze is the responsibility of the individual.
A mate who lives in Picton has been alerted and will meet us at the terminal, take us to the Supermarket, the waipiro outlet and service station for fuel. But taihoa - Buster, who has a dodgy ticker, suddenly remembers he has left his meds at home! Fortunately the pharmacist is understanding and supplies the vitals. Then it's down to the marina to load and launch our run-a-bout. Mutterings by skipper Buster about she being very low in the water and expressing hopes that she will get up on the plane are not taken seriously by his crew members. So we are off. And outside the harbour limits she gets up on the plane nicely. Thirty five minutes later we pull into the jetty at the Bay of Many Coves. No-one is keen to go up the hill to operate the flying fox - it's a bit of a finger muncher. The cage is lowered down across the water to the jetty where it is loaded with all the gear and provisions. It takes three trips. By the time all is ship shape the day is nearly over - it has been a tiring one to be sure. A can or three is well deserved. The serenity of sitting on the deck with that great view down the bay is the bee's knees. Suddenly it's dark. Who's on dinner roster? That's a list we omitted to schedule in the kerfuffle of the day.
Day one, and forecasts and tides are checked out. A good days fishing is a cert. Agreement is unanimous to proceed to the furthest away spot then, if necessary, work our way back to our other favourite sites. Unspoken rivalry operates on the first day - who will bring up the first keeper? It's Bob again with a beauty blue cod. There's no comment from numbers two and three. Along comes a school of terakihi - need smaller hooks for these. Later a number of barracuda wade in. So it's up lines and move on before they wreak havoc. OK fellahs that's our quota so it's off back to fillet the catch then lay them out on trays in the freezer ready for bagging first thing in the morning.
That night a deep rumbling noise approaches down the valleys and wakes the crew. It's another earthquake common to this central New Zealand area.
The next day is another beaut for a mornings fishing. It's so quiet and peaceful as we anchor in the coves where the bush comes down to the water's edge. The mail boat goes by - there's no road access here. And there goes a mussel farm service barge. Salmon and mussel marine farms are a lucrative business. Shags can be annoying. When we get a bite and flick the rod they will dive to try and rob you of what's hooked. It's a race to reel in and beat the sods.
Back at the cottage we decide the afternoon will be spent on track and general maintenance. We do this in appreciation of the use of the cottage. Buster all but cuts through the phone cable when clearing foliage. He backs off when he exposes the entrance to a wasp nest. They are a curse in the Sounds and feed on the honey dew that the beech trees exude. We put some petrol in a beer bottle after dark and invert at the entrance hole - result - one wasp nest kaput.
Next day an unscheduled event descends upon us - rising levels in the toilets tell us there's a blockage somewhere in the underground pipes. The gang is split. The A team sets about digging and the B team proceeds to bucket out the septic tank contents. The diggers need to find the cottage / annex junction. Only their heads are above ground level before its found, opened up, and cleared. On the party line phone that night to Mac, the owner of the property we tell him what a great job we've' done and how long it took us in the hot sun. He then tells us the drainage plan is drawn in pencil on the wall of the cottage - and we didn't know. Could have saved hours of excavation if only! Anyway Mac, who is getting on in years - he had 5 years in the Navy in WW2 and on the North Sea convoys - has an urge to come and join us for a few days. He says he will come down on the float plane from Mana on the morrow. This two seater pulls up a few chain from our beach. Mac is offered a piggy back to shore but declines - he's in his shorts and bare feet with a chilly bin to hand. No guesses to say what the esky contained. A wave from the pilot and he's off. It's great to have our good friend with us.
Macs boating days have past so when we take off fishing he stays put. He offers to prepare the vegies for dinner while we are away. We arrive back with our limit catch and note that no veg have been done. "Well you fellahs, I've had a hell of a time today. I was out on the veranda resting and I thought I heard a noise in the kitchen. I'd left the back door open and this blasted weka came in. I grabbed the straw broom to hunt it out. It jumped up on the sink bench, squirted, then came down when I swiped it. Instead of turning left out the back door, it turned right into the bathroom. Then it jumped up onto the bath and slipped in. It was defecating all the time which made things slippery to get out. I grabbed a towel, got a hold of it and threw the bugger out and down the bank. I've spent all day cleaning up. What a stink"! (Well it was only half done and a job for us to see to) The exertion of this event had obviously required a rest and refreshment spell back on the veranda - hence commissariat promised duties had slipped the memory department. The three rural trained types knew one did not rush a weka with a broom, rather one approaches calmly, steering the intruder in the manner that a good heading dog would know how.
Next day was a windy one and boy can it blow in those parts. It picks up the water in whirly whirlys and it's a day to stay ashore with the boat on the mooring. So the general idea is to catch up on the housekeeping and as soon as is reasonable to partake of the odd can and that's when the stories start. Some are of the porky variety. Macs stories are terrific listening value - no matter how many times we have heard them. Mac returns to Wellington per a water taxi to Picton next day. It's been great to have him with us to be sure.
Departure day requires a 5 am rising. There's the bed sheets to wash and dry, breakfast to see to, vacuum out, wrap the bags of fish in newspaper and pack in the eskys, lock up, get all the gear down to the jetty, pull the boat in off the mooring, check the oil, load up and don life jackets. Then it's away to Picton where our man will pull us out of the water at the marina. Next its wash down the boat and flush out the motor and stow it in the boat shed not forgetting to connect the battery to the auto charger. At the ferry terminal with luck there's time to have a bite at the café.
Time being the essence we have chosen the fast cat again. The motion changes as we exit Tory Channel. Things were going good until we reached the Terawhiti Rip. Out of nowhere these rogue waves hit. Being twin hulled, what water can't fit underneath throws the vessel up in the air and even goes over the top. The women folk scream, the men go deathly quiet - glasswear and items smash in the café/bar, deep noises come from the below decks garage - some of the tie downs have broken and there will be damage. The swells are massive but it's not advisable to slow down a cat. The Captain comes on the air. He says "All passengers stay seated while we are experiencing this adverse weather." Those standing at the time were thrown to the floor anyway. The steward told us he saw it coming. This is why these waters are referred to as Cook's Wild Strait and is known to seafarers as sometimes one of the roughest places in the world. In under 10 minutes all was under control again and we sailed past Barrett Reef remembering that disastrous storm that sunk the Lyttelton ferry "Waihine" with the loss of so many lives. Through the Heads and into calm waters as the statement "You can't beat Wellington on a good day" comes true.
On our minds is that chilly bin of blue cod fillets - the best fish in the world - and all those delectable meals to enjoy for some time to come - the harvest of our labours and the enjoyment of each other's company. "All's Well That Ends Well" we reckon.