Ferry Tales

The time had come to start packing up and getting ready to move on to the next phase of our adventure. We scheduled lunch with Jon and Becky again at the Moutere Inn on Sunday. It was a nice day, so I thought I would try to squeeze in one more bike ride before lunch. I was still trying to sort out the stupid Garmin and finally had to just stop futzing with it or else I was going to run out of time for my ride. I did my usual ride out to Riwaka along the Great Taste Trail. I felt pretty strong and that I might be getting some fitness back finally! I did realize about halfway though that I was cutting it dangerously close on time (thanks you stupid Garmin Inreach) so I needed to really pick up the pace.

I’m a local stud!

The good news about riding in a place where there aren’t as many people is that now and again you can get a high placing on some random Strava segment that nobody is really trying very hard on. Uh….I mean, you can compete with the best of the best. Anyway, my increased urgency to not be out too long and miss another lovely lunch with Jon and Becky allowed me to make the top 10 on one of these random segments. I truly am a legend in my own mind.

Jon and Becky drove out and picked us up and we headed out for a nice Sunday lunch at the Moutere Inn. It was a place just a few kilometers up the road from us and had pretty good reviews.

The Inn claims to be the oldest pub in New Zealand:

“It is New Zealand’s oldest pub to remain operating in its original building. While there are a couple of older licenses still operating, none of them are operating from either their original location or building.”

I am sure there is a controversy around this as well, but I’m going with it.

The Moutere Inn

I had made a strong mental note to make sure that we took a group photo since I had failed to do so on the other 2 occasions that we had gotten together. Lunch was nice, I had the ribs and Susanne had the “fush and chups.”

Let’s just pretend this is Jon and Becky

The ribs were good, but not to the caliber of some good St. Louis ribs. The fish was lovely and I definitely had food envy watching Susanne eat them. We drank some wine and we even had dessert. A wonderful outing with great company. We said our “hasta luegos” and promised to be back. I, of course, forgot to take a group photo again. Doh.

The next day we got up and started packing up for our journey north to Cooks Beach. I got a note from Sue, our Airbnb host, warning me that one of the routes to Picton was blocked by a bunch of downed trees due to high winds. No big deal, we would go back through St. Arnaud which was only 20 minutes longer. We got on the road a bit early, but that was fine, we could just grab some lunch in Picton. About 30 minutes into the drive, Bluebridge (the ferry company) texted me that our ferry had been canceled and I should call or email them. WTF!! Both Susanne and I went into crisis planning mode and started to brainstorm what to do. Susanne was looking for when the next ferry would sail and it seemed that on Bluebridge it wasn’t going to be for 2 days. Yikes. I suggested to try the other company. She did and there was availability the next morning so she booked a fully refundable ticket.

Now we had an option. Normally, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but we HAD to get to Cooks Beach by the 11th since Romy’s parents were leaving for England for 5 weeks the next day. Hence why both of us pulled the DEFCON 1 lever on emergency planning. Then we lost connectivity. ARRRRRGGGG!

Danger, Will Robinson!

I kept driving and we finally found a spot with connectivity, so I called Bluebridge and got put on hold. Dull music played…..and played……and played. This seems to be the modern world these days. You have a problem; they tell you to call; you call and you sit on hold for hours until you give up. I emailed them. Susanne found their Facebook page and asked whether we got auto-rebooked. Ugh. Finally, we just decided to keep driving and see if we would get to Picton before I got my phone call answered. Sadly, we will never know the answer to that question as we lost service and my dull music was dropped.

Somewhere in the Wairau valley, home to much sauvignon blanc that you either love or hate (there is no middle ground), we got connectivity and I saw I had an email response from Bluebridge. We had been rebooked to their 5:30 pm ferry. Whew. Nuclear war adverted. All systems were now back to DEFCON 5.

Yeah!! All was good and Romy was not going to be left alone. Susanne cancelled the other ferry reservation and we headed into Blenheim to do a walk along the Taylor River Reserve and then go find a place to have lunch and kill some time. It was chilly and pretty windy, so we didn’t do too long of a walk. We headed back out to Wairau River Winery and Restaurant because it was good and also was the only one open. We sat down and ordered some lunch with a nice glass of wine. I had the crispy duck and Susanne had the shrimp. Both excellent. We laughed at how quickly we jumped into disaster planning mode.

We finished up lunch and drove out to Picton to get a coffee and find a place to just hang out while we waited. We found a nice coffee shop with internet and just chilled. Then my phone binged. The 5:30 ferry was now delayed at least 3 hours. Ugh. Dang. Now we were starting to question whether we should have cancelled the other reservation.

Possible career opportunities in Picton

We hung out in the coffee shop for as long as we could until it was clear they were closing. They were super cool and let us stay until they were locking up. There was still an absolute gale force wind blowing. Things were looking grim, although the weather forecast was saying the wind was going to start dying down. The Cook Strait is notorious for super high winds. You take a powerful jet stream and smash it into a narrow slot between two mountain ranges and you get gnarly strong winds. The ferry crossing is no joke when the weather is bad.

The New Zealand Interislander ferry Aratere on a 50(?) degree angle in rough seas, 4 March 2006. That’s a big ass ship, folks. A 3.5-hour trip ended up taking 10 hours.

“The wild conditions caused cars to be hurled across the decks and observation lounge passengers to be flung across floors into the walls. Heavy vehicles snapped their tie down chains and passengers were told to stay close to their muster stations. After the ship stabilised it berthed safely with its shaken crew and passengers.”

Since our coffee shop was closing we decided to head down to the Bluebridge office and see if maybe we should just bail on the ferry that night and get the one in the morning. After talking with the lady and hearing that it was likely the ship in the morning wouldn’t leave until 11 or so, we decided to just hang in there. She turned us on to a good app that allowed you to track ships, and thus the ferry. Our ship, the Straitsman, was currently still in Welly. Time ticked. Then my phone binged and they said the ship would be leaving at midnight. We kept watching the app. Then the ship departed. Ok, that is a good sign. We tracked it on the way to Picton and it made the crossing in the usual 4-ish hours. Cool, also a good sign.

The Straitsman finally arrived in Picton around 10:00 pm. We had just been huddling in the car along with everyone else in the line of cars at the dock. I said to Susanne “I am glad we paid the extra $20 to get a cabin.” We both agreed it would be nice to have a place to lie down. At about 11:00 pm they started loading the ferry. We got to the check-in booth and I asked what are cabin number was. She said we didn’t have a cabin. Crap. I guess when we got rebooked, there were no cabins available on this (smaller) ferry, so they refunded our money for that portion. Ugh.

After a few more SNAFUS we managed to get Otis on board and ourselves up into the passenger lounge. It was freaking freezing, but we were on board. Finally around 11:45 pm we set sail for Welly. The boat wasn’t very full, so we each had a row of seats to ourselves. I decided to lay down and try to sleep. We were both freezing. Everybody was bundled up in hats, gloves, and blankets.


Now, I don’t mean to complain about the country that has so graciously decided to adopt me, but holy cow, can we turn on some heat? We have been cold for months now. Why suffer so much? I know y’all are tough, but goodness, would a little heat really be that bad? But I digress.

It was supposed to improve from this
It got worse

Once we cleared the safety of the Marlborough Sounds, the seas got really rough. I mean really rough. The wind had been forecasted to die down, but it actually got worse. This was the Cook Strait at its worst. I am a pretty hardy sailor and spent a lot of my childhood bobbing around in a little aluminum boat fishing for salmon in the Pacific Ocean and even spent 63 days at sea over the Marianas Trench on a scientific vessel so I am somewhat qualified to judge the roughness of the seas and feel pretty safe to say that this was definitely on the super rough side of the scale. It didn’t take long and about 1/2 the boat was yelling “chunder!

Amazingly, despite the risk of freezing to death, I was able to get a little sleep in between the wild rocking and rolling of the boat. You could feel the ship get picked up by a wave, surfed down the other side and the smashed into the next oncoming wave. It would hit so hard you could feel the whole boat vibrate. This is no small boat either! Finally after a couple of hours of this we rounded the corner and into the protection of the bay around Wellington. Whew. Calm waters. Susanne miraculously managed to hold it together (yes, chunderless!) even without the aid of any Dramamine. I think our trip to Galapagos a few years ago helped her build some experience managing seasickness. Regardless, she definitely earned her “sea legs” badge!

By the time we got off the ferry it was close to 4 am. We drove the short distance to the hotel and tried to find the parking garage. We missed it so I had to go back around the block. I came around the corner and started driving down the wrong side of the road! Ack! Luckily there were not many cars around at 4 am. We finally parked, grabbed our stuff, made it to the room, and climbed into to bed a 4:30 am.

What a day, but at least we were not going to leave Romy in the lurch!

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