November 2, 2014 at 10:39 pm
This morning I found myself with the rest of the film crew on the wharf at around 8am. The Stingray was ready to go. But Luke looked at Ida-san with a bit of urgency and said “Well, the conditions out there are pretty rough. I wouldn’t go out fishing in this.”
He pointed with his thumb over his shoulder roughly in the direction of the Foveaux Strait. Granted, it did not look rough from where we were. But looks can be deceiving a Halfmoon Bay is pretty sheltered in most conditions.
“It’s blowing straight westerly so we will have the waves hitting us broad side if we go out to Gull Rock today” he said and added “Believe me. It will not be pleasant.”
Now, I for one would have thought that if a Stewart Island fisherman says it is too rough that was reason enough to come up with an alternative plan for the day. Especially since the conditions are forecasted to improve from tomorrow on.
But for some reason Ida-san decided to do another recce to Gull Rock regardless. What he hoped to find there in three metre swells will remain his secret, because currently he is in no condition to speak. He is pale as a sheet and sits hunched in the corner of the Stingray’s galley.
As soon as the Stingray had steamed out of Halfmoon Bay and Morgan at the helm had turned the boat to the north towards Bungaree Bay and Gull Rock, the swell hit us broad side. Exactly as promised. The boat started to bounce and sway violently. Morgan and Luke kept on chatting while the boat rolled and sent gear flying through the wheel house. The two Ida-sans – sorry, Ida-san and Haruki-san -, Sam and Hongo had squeezed themselves in behind the galley bench and tried to hold on to what ever they could find. Which mainly was the guy sitting next to them. I stood behind Luke trying to balance the violent boat movements as best as I could.
We just got around Horseshoe Point when two extreme broadsides hit us. The engine whined and the boat rolled far enough so that I could almost stand upright on the wall. Ida-san slipped off the bench and found himself sitting in front of the Diesel stove.
What really astounded me though was that he started to crawl out onto the aft-deck. The waves kept washing over the deck no doubt soaking Ida-san to the bone. Ida-san grabbed the railing and started to feed the fish in a rather violent, explosive manner. When ever the boat rolled over to the side he was standing he came precariously close to being completely submerged in the water washing onto deck.
Luke immediately ordered Morgan to turn around. I don’t think that at this stage Ida-san had any objections.
We decides to steam into smoother waters of the sheltered Patterson Inlet to see if we would spot Little penguins or even Yellow-eyed penguins. It was a relief to be able to stand upright again.
The Stingray chugged along, entering the islands in the south eastern reaches of the inlet known as the Bravo Group. It is where a good number of Yellow-eyed penguins breed. But, alas, the birds were out on a mission and nowhere to be seen. Same applied to Little penguins.
I mentioned that a friend had told me he had once seen tawaki somewhere around The Neck, a narrow stretch of sand dunes that connect a small peninsula at the southern entrance of Patterson Inlet to the mainland. Luke called a few locals on his cellphone and asked for permission to land there. His idea was to walk over to the other side of the neck to look for penguins form land. It would give Ida-san some time off the boat and hopefully get some colour back in his face.
Morgan dropped us off with the dinghy and then headed off to pick us up with the Stingray on the other side of The Neck an hour later.
The Rakiura Maori have established a walkway that provides some breath-taking views of the Patterson Inlet, the Titi islands out in Foveaux Strait and the South-eastern coastline of Stewart Island. I have never been out here, so it was a really nice side trip for me.
We even saw a few Little penguins from up here.
An hour later we were back on the boat and steamed to a small rocky outcrop in one of the bays where we had spotted a feeding flock of sooty shearwaters. The black seabirds landed on the water and ducked under the surface staying down for quite some time before re-emerging and gracefully taking flight again. I peered through my binoculars but could not see any penguins in amongst the action.
Since we had nothing better to do we decided to anchor and wait a while to see if penguin would show up at that rock.
They didn’t. Instead the weather packed in and it started to rain so that everyone and their dogs crammed themselves into the Stingray’s wheel house. Too crowded for me so I retreated down into bow section made myself comfortable on one of the two bunks.
And now, I am going to take a nap.
Well, not much else to report. After nearly three hours of waiting with nothing but a single Yellow-eyed penguin that surfaced exactly once to see, we headed back into town.
I have the feeling that apart from still suffering from the effects of his seasickness, Ida-san is a bit concerned about the outcome of today. What if the weather is that bad the entire time we’re here? Unlikely but it’s springtime and it can always turn bad in no time. But I think what he is really worried about, is that we hardly saw any penguins.
Or is it me who is worried? I mean we’re here because I said that if there’s one place where they could film tawaki under water it would be Stewart Island.
Ah, she’ll be right.