“On a Mish” #310 Crossing Te Anau Strait. Lake Te Anau. Fiordland National Park. 20.12.2021. Pounamu is a gift that gives luck to the recipient. I am lucky enough to have a Hei Matua (the Fish Hook) piece of Pounamu, and this gives luck to those who travel over waters. To note, I didn’t have the necklace when I was struck by the boat’s fridge door out near the entrance to Patea / Doubtful Sound. You can’t go back in time and change the past, but I can say that I have remained reasonably safe since I got it. Heading out to sea is rare for me these days, and maybe that is a good thing?
Most of my travel across water is on the tranquil waters of Lake Te Anau. Whether it be heading over the lake to the Glowworm Caves or cruising up the lake to Glade Wharf at the start of the world famous Milford Track, both offer some of the best views in the world seen from a lake. You would think that because it is a lake the place isn’t subject to wild weather like the sea right? On a few occasions the weather had caused the lake to get rather choppy, and this is when the journey gets interesting. A strong northerly had been blowing all night and according to the forecast we weren’t out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. As the sun rose the wind increased in intensity. As the norm during wild weather, we gathered in the morning to head over the lake and see if the caves were flooded. The Luminosa (the caves boat) rocked side to side with each solid gust and although we weren’t in the full force of the wind we could see the water caps on the lake surface further out. A feeling of excitement sprinkled with nervousness came over the crew as we dropped the lines and began to steam away from the wharf. Even before turning the vessel around we could feel the swell in the lake. The constant force of the wind on the top of the lake creates waves similar to those seen in Foxeaux Strait. We were now crossing Te Anau Strait! Once around the shelter of Blue Gum Point the boat began to bounce about like a beachball at a concert. I decided to face the storm from the boat’s upper deck and from there I could see what was heading our way. The Luminosa lurched side to side and up and down amongst the inconsistent waves on the lake. This increased as we got further out on to the lake and on a couple of occasions the boat jumped before gravity forced it back down with an almighty splash into the water. According to my phone I have travelled three flights of stairs while hanging on for dear life on the vessel’s upper level. Continuing any further was pointless as we knew that even if we did make it to the caves pulling the boat alongside the wharf would be impossible (without destroying the Luminosa!).
Our wise skipper Kelvin decided enough was enough and it was time to head back to the wharf in Te Anau. We had one more dose of excitement as we had to get sideways to the wind to turn around and this meant some very violent side to side action before the wind was to our backs. The journey back was much more pleasant as we had the wind at our back and this meant we were working with it and not against it. It was easily the roughest day I have seen on Lake Te Anau and later we would find out that the wind was so strong it broke several heavy duty lines on one of our boats that was tied up in Patea / Doubtful Sound! Eventually the wind calmed down but then it was replaced by heavy rain which then flooded the caves putting a stop to the next days guiding too. Just another day working in an environment where Mother Nature is the boss and she decides when we can and cannot work!