Fiordland, New Zealand
in a kayak

Starting point. Te Waewae Bay. Fi:46°09.3'S La:167°30.3'E.
Misha departed from Te Waewae Bay.

March 03. Green Islets. Fi:46°13.3'S La:166°22'E.
Misha departed from Te Waewae Bay, right after the Blue Cliffs beach. It was calm in the bay. The sun was rising. A light surf was refreshing to begin with.
The wind strengthened on the way out of the bay. In the morning it was SE 20 knots, in the afternoon 25-30 knots. The seas were quite rough in the afternoon. 2 meter S swell, 3 meter SE wind waves.
It was quite difficult to find a place to land with no surf. Finaly he landed in the Green Islets area. 34 nm progress on the first paddling day.
It is so beautiful around! No sand flies yet! Isn't it a fair compensation for a long and tiring paddling day?

The tail SE winds were very light at first, but they gradually increased during the day till they reached 30+ knots. The sea heaped up, the waves exceeded 3 meters and the seas became very rough. I had no landing till the Green Islets, and there I had a tough choice: landing on the eastern side would mean surfing in the 3m wind waves. Landing on the western side would mean crashing with the SW swell and probably getting stuck for many days till the swell calms down. I preferred the first, and was quite lucky to find the right path between the reefs and the rocks. The image on the right shows the sea from the direction that I came from.

March 04. Gulches Head. Fi:46°05'S La:166°35.2'E.
Another long day. 15-20 knots head wind. Misha finally landed at Gulches Head. The place was not ideal for camping but it was quite late to look for another one. The sunset was coming.
The sand flies are already there. Now everything is in place.

It takes time to get used to these long paddling days. 25 nm today. The forecast for tomorrow is SW 30 knots. It looks like it is going to be a well deserved day-off for Misha and for his kayak.

Paddled against the tide and the head wind. The progress was so slow... I was really happy to pass Puseygur point. From now on there will be more landing spots and shorter full-commitment lags. As expected the sea was prety messy at the headlands. The swell was 2-3 meters. The reflections were massive, so just like in Tasmania I paddled far away from the shore.

March 05. Cape Providence. Fi:45°59.8'S La:166°28.3'E.
11 nm progress today. Southwest wind was down to 15 knots in the afternoon, so Misha decided to make some progress. He had a good ride with the swell and wind waves, 3 meter each.
Before this last paddle Misha removed some load from the kayak's bow. That solved the problem of weathercocking that he had experienced for the past 2 days.
The forecast for the following days has a Gale Warning. The wind will be changing a lot. There is a chance for an early paddle tomorrow, before it gets rough. The spirits are high!

The SW near-gale brought higher swell coupled with wind waves. In the afternoon the wind eased up to 15 knots, had a short run. The camping is good, deep in the bush. The ground is a bit swampy, I hope it won't rain too much in the near days.

March 06. A day off.
The forecast that Misha recieved at 6 am on his VHF radio said that Gale wind will rise in the afternoon. Misha had 14 nm to go without any landing, which is about 4 hours paddle. That was a bit tight, and Misha decided to stay, though that can be a beginning of a very long break, since the forecast for the following days is pretty bad.

The forecasts are changing every few hours. I can't count on "the afternoon", the wind might pick up earlier and I'll be forced to turn back with 35 knots NW winds and very messy seas. Too tight, too risky. Staying on shore.

March 07. Collage Cove, Dusky Sd. Fi:45°49'S La:166°34'E.
Misha started paddling at 12 am, when the wind was supposed to ease. He paddled for about 10 minutes. The wind was still northwest 30-40 knots, so Misha decided to turn back. It took him about 40 minutes to get to the shore. He waited until the wind changed west at 2 pm and went out for a "take 2" paddle at 2:30. There was still big northwest swell and the seas were messy at Cape Providence, the swell started easing afterwards.
It was a beautiful paddle with beautiful seas along the way. The wind was 25 knots until West Cape, then turned north 20 knots. Misha sprinted for 3 hours but reached South Point only at 8:15. At 8:45 he arrived to a landing spot that was marked on his maps. However, the beach was covered with boulders, and Misha decided to go for a night paddle to the next landing spot.
He landed at 12:15PM in the bay opposite to Indian Island, at the entrance of the Cook Channel. Starving, he rushed to cook some meal and put a tent. Looks like he is going to wake up late tomorrow...

It looked like I had a window of half a day or more of calmer winds. The NW 40 knots was supposed to die in the morning. It was hard to judge the wind from the protected bay I was staying in. The clouds were running very fast and definitely to the south. Yet decided to try in the noon. Once got away from the protected bay, the 40 knots wind hit me. Decided to turn back. Paddled with the eyes closed, the wind was throwing sea foam to the face. Just 0.5 knots speed against this wind.
After 2 hours the wind finally changed. The skies cleared up a bit and the clouds started slowly moving eastward. Decided to go once again. Cape Providence was amazing and very messy. NW swell was hitting SW swell, both reflected from the cliffs, breaking on the reefs and amplified by the shallow bottom. Scary and fascinating seas! Reached West Cape at 5:30 pm. Had 3 more hours till darkness and 8 miles to go. Then N 20 started and slowed down the progress. I could turn back, but really didn't want to. Better paddling at night in Dusky sound, once I get deep enough inside the seas should calm down. The first landing turned to be unsuitable for any camping. Should I stay on the beach awaken till the morning? The next day NW 45 should hit, so I might get stuck for a few days there. Even though the area was relatively protected, there was no chance that I'd be able to paddle in 45 knots. So decided to night paddle to the next camping. The place I found was far from being ideal - it was on the river bed, it could easily get flooded in case of heavy rain, but I was too tired and took a chance. 27 nm.

March 08. A day off.
Misha stayed on the shore today, due to the continuous Gale forecast. It was wonderful to have a day of rest. He spent time taking notes, reading, listening to music. The wind will be easing tomorrow, so there is a chance for a paddling day.

Recovered a bit from the yesterday's night paddling. Very good and protected place, yet risk of getting flooded. Need to flee away ASAP once the NW calms down a little. The forecast for tomorrow is SW 25 knots, i.e. "calm" comparing with the last days. It looks like the winds here start at 20 knots and can only grow. Pretty amazing. Tassie was definitely less windy.

March 09. Resolution Island. Fi:45°36.5'S La:166°40.3'E.
It was a first day today when things went smoothly. No struggle, just paddling, with 25 nautical miles at the end of the day. Misha stayed in a hut overnight. Another person was there. This was Misha's first human encounter since the beginning of his journey.

Paddled in the Fiord. Couldn't believe how calm it suddenly was. Indeed the southerly 20-30 knots was pushing me forward, but here in the protected waters they couldn't drive any waves. Today I finally met a man! Even twice! First time it was a boat (no any boats up to now). Then met a hunter on the shore. He shot a deer and we ate venison in the evening. So tasty! He also gave me a venison back strip for 2 days.

March 10. Coal River. Fi:45°30.3'S La:166°43.1'E.
10 nautical miles today. Misha was paddling against northwest 20 knots wind in the beginning of the day, 25 knots later.
The beach he landed on is just beautiful. Misha pitched a tent on the beach, to see the storm and the sunset. Hope the tent will survive the storm.
Deer meat for dinner today, from the yesteday's hunt. It's always a pleasure for a starving kayaker to have a hunter's company along the way!

The third storm in a week is about to hit today. The forecast for today: NW 20, increasing to 35 in the afternoon, reaching 50 knots at night. I could stay in the Dissapointment Cove (very well protected bay) but decided to make some progress. If the wind is too strong, I will turn back. Reached Coal River after 3.5 hours. The headwind was already 25 knots increasing further. The next landing would be after ~9 miles. My speed was already less than 1.5 knots. Thus it would take me more than 6 hours. Since the wind should have increased further I decided to land and enjoy the still low surf... Pitched the tent on the beach. The NW 50 should hit at night, so I digged wooden stakes to support the tent 0.5 meters down, put the kayak in front of the tent to break the ghusts of the wind and added guy lines all around. ...And prayed... It should hit hard.

March 11. A day off.
It was a very rough and stormy night yesterday. The wind was so heavy that Misha had to hold the tent from inside. The door zippers were getting opened, the strings were torn out from their nests, the rods that were digged 0.5 meter deep into the ground, they were out too. Yet, they both the tent and its inhabitant survived the 50-knots storm!
In the morning it was still westerly 35 knots, so Misha decided to stay ashore. His only partners for camping this time were clouds of sand flies.

What a night! The most terrible ever. I was sure I'd be smashed. I have no idea how bad where the ghusts, maybe 60 knots, maybe more. I didn't have enough power to support the tent from inside with my hands. I layed on the back for 3 hours and supported it with my feet. Every 10 minutes I was closing the doors of the tents that got unzipped by themselves. Half of my stakes were blown away or moved. Got out twice to put them in place. The wind blew heaps of sea water and sand on the tent. The tent leaked but insignificantly. It survived! Glad it was a very good Hilleberg tent. Most of the other tents would be completely flattened and destroyed. The wind is now W 25. After the night storm the seas are too messy and I won't be able anyway to make it through the surf. Staying on shore.

Later on I checked the historical weather datum for the day. That night the wind reached indeed 60 knots with gusts of 70.

March 12. Doubtful Sound. Fi:45°09.3'S La:166°59.2'E.
Having 25-knots tail wind in the morning and 4 meter swell, Misha paddled 35 nautical miles today. He could have paddled further on but couldn't resist the temptation of taking a look at Doubtful Sound. He did the right thing - the sound welcomed him by its stunning beauty.
He fixed the tent pole - one that was broken in the latest storm. Now he can have rest in his renewed home.

SW 25 knots, 4 meters swell, 2.5 meters wind waves... Getting used to it... It looks like it can never be less here. Or is it just my luck? I challenged the seas, put a provocative banner on this web site, so that's exactly what I get. The sea teaches me to respect it. But in fact I always knew who was the real boss, and I had always been just a hitchhiker, always depending on the mercy of the seas...
Anyway, had a very good ride till the Doubtful Sound. Could go further north, but the Fiord looked so appealing, so decided to get inside and paddle the East side of the Secretary island. The contrast between the seas outside and the seas inside the Fiord is unbelievable.

March 13. Catseye Bay. Fi:44°49'S La:167°23.57'E.
33 nautical miles progress with westerly 10-15 knots winds and 1.5 meter swell. If anyone had any doubts, calm seas do occur on the NZ South Island's west coast. Today Misha could finally paddle close to the cliffs! Wow!
Sand flies are the only nuesance left. Yet they come in millions! Misha has to wait till darkness, to have his dinner.

I didn't want to push hard in this trip, but I had finally calm seas. The kayaking instinct dictates me to accept the gifts that the seas give me. It's just 1.5 m swell + 1.5 m wind waves. I could paddle as close as just 30 meters from the shore without being smashed on the cliffs. Amazing.

March 14. Milford Sound. Fi:44°35.25'S La:167°47.34'E.
Welcome to Milford Sound! After 25 nautical miles and with southwest wind that reached 30 knots in spite of the favorable forecast, Misha arrived to his final fiord.
Well, Misha, where are you heading now?

Calm seas for the second day... The skies are clear. The SW wind picked up in 1 pm and quickly reached 30 knots, but it eased to 20 knots a few hours later. Looks like a strong day breeze. I start missing the rough seas of the previous days, though I don't want to provoke the seas by thinking it's too boring. Deep inside of me I say that, but appologise right after that. On the calm days the sand flies are just unbearable. Black clouds of them surround me once I get to the shore. I don't want to land, since I know they will attack me. I apply the repellent every hour. It's DEET - horrible stuff, melts plastics, but it's the only one that really works against these beasts. The tale says they were put to protect this amazing nature from the intrusive humans. They are indeed excellent guards.

March 15. Milford Sound.
That's it! I've done. Wow, 13 days was a lucky number this time! I'm so happy to get back, to see Inna and my kids.
I left the last day for the pieceful paddling inside of Milford sound. So beautiful, though I was missing the silence and the complete solitude of the last 12 days. The cruise ships appeared and a couple of plains were flying in the skies. I met another kiwi kayaker on the beach. His name is Bernie Dunn and he's been paddling for the last two months starting in Dusky Sound. He explored each fiord and entered each sound. I wish that I could do the same. Maybe when my kids grow up.

It's all over now. So good, so great, so capturing and attracting my mind. I want to go back!!!!!!!!!

Last updated: March 18, 2008