Sailing from Lyttelton to Picton

Sailing from Lyttelton to Picton is an interesting trip!

I took Wildy up the coast last year for the first time, and prior to the trip I went to a passage planning session at the yacht club which was really useful. Here are some of the tips I got from that.

Weather – the best weather to go up on is on the back of a Southerly front – (or a North Easterly coming home). You also need to check what the weather is likely to be doing in Cook Strait when you arrive as you don’t want to be there in a gale Northerly.

Timing – it is a 30 – 36 hour trip, so we found that if you can work it with the weather and tides etc, leaving first thing in the morning is best and then you are only 1 night at sea.

Tides at Tory – Tory Channel entrance has a very strong tidal flow. There are tidal flow prediction charts which you can refer to and they change depending on whether it is spring or neap tides. You don’t really want to be going through here with the wrong tide – as I did. If you are in a big boat with a big engine then it wouldn’t be a problem, however in a little yacht with a 12hp motor I wouldn’t recommend it. We picked our way through the cray pot buoys on the Southern side of the channel and managed to avoid the main current in the middle of the channel which can be flowing at 5 knots. So the advice is to try and hit the channel either with the tide going in the same direction as you or at slack tide. I also really wouldn’t fancy going through there at night unless it was dead calm and slack tide.

On the way back we went through at 1 hour after slack tide, so it was in a slow flow out of the entrance, there was a 2m Southerly swell which produced very steep and close together waves in the entrance and for a good mile out in to Cook Strait before it dispersed.

The tide flow is quite strong all the way up Tory Channel, so also bear that in mind when you are trying to sail up or down it!

Shelter en Route – Kaikoura is really the only place you could shelter along the way, however if the weather was bad, then Kaikoura would be very exposed anyway.

Safety – we had a liferaft on board, and jacklines which we stayed clipped on to when in the cockpit. No one was to go out of the cockpit to change a sail without someone else on deck. We also had an emergency steering system should something go wrong there and the plan was that should an emergency situation arise, that the boys would try and fix the problem and the girls would get the liferaft ready to go. We had an EPIRB, hand held VHF and a grab bag to take with us.

Navigation – I was really impressed with the Navionics App I bought for my iPad. I also used my Lowrance hand held GPS chart plotter but found the iPad that much easier to use and look at. I had a Garmin Glo attached via bluetooth which gave us our GPS position. It was excellent.

Shipping – I downloaded an app which was supposed to give us the current locations of all the ships going up the coast, but unfortunately it proved to be very unreliable.

Crew – On the way up there was four of us, and we operated in 2-3 hour shifts through the night. On the way back it was just Andrew and I and we did the same – we tried to make it to three hours and woke up the other person when we were ready for some rest.

Food – on the way up we had some home made spaghetti bolognese which we re-heated and had in sandwiches – delicious! On the way back we had a Kaweka brand Butter Chicken meal which you just heated in boiling water – it was pretty good! We also had lots of nuts/scroggin, snakes, muesli bars and other snack foods to nibble on.

Seasickness – luckily no one got seasick – we took Stugeron tablets which seemed to work really well. We didn’t want to risk anyone getting sick – especially when it was just the two of us

Highlights – probably surviving the Tory Channel experience unscathed, gorgeous sailing across Cook Strait which can be one of the roughest stretches of water in the world, the dolphins following us, sunsets and sun rises, and the incredible starlit night watch where I could see shooting stars and satellites tracking across the sky – just spectacular!

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