Monday, 6 October 2014

Wild Ride - Elaine Bay

We survived a wild ride last night, a ride that felt like an eight hour earthquake as the van rocked and bucked underneath us. It was our wildest night ever on the road. We’d arrived at the DOC camp at Elaine Bay yesterday afternoon. Elaine Bay is 17kms further on from Okiwi Bay on the otherside of the Sounds ‘arm’ that we are exploring. This side should have been more sheltered than the west side but now I’m not so sure.

The severe gale force winds that were forecast around the country started battering us early in the evening and by midnight were thundering over and under ‘Out There’, banging, crashing and rattling us from all directions while we hunkered down in bed waiting for the next big thump. Today we are shattered, I think we had about 3 hours sleep all night. Poor David must have made about a dozen forays out into the weather to check on things, shift the ute, tie down the boat and tie down the van! Thankfully it wasn’t cold and the rain only came for a brief time just before dawn which was also when the sky lit up with lightening!

We pulled the slide out in just after dinner when the wind started picking up, the awning that unwinds and protects the top is sprung-loaded & acts like a sail when the wind gets under it and we didn’t want to have that rip on us or pull out. We have quite often pulled the slide out in, that’s nothing new, it just depends on the direction of the wind.

But last night the wind just kept on intensifying and it swung wildly around us rattling the awnings on both sides so David threw a couple of ropes over the top and tied them off to the suspension. The boat was tied to legs of the van and he shifted the ute around to the front to try and break some of the force. That was good for an hour or so but then the wind changed and came roaring at us from the sea, blasting us with sea spray which has coated the van from head to toe in salt, and threatening to blow us over. I had visions of us climbing out through the escape hatch and a flattened ute. I kept recalling mentions of ‘willywhirls’ in the Sounds, great funnels of wind ripping down the steep sides of the hills and capsizing boats. Well never mind boats, I’m sure it was going to tip us over too.

Inside the van the noise was at times deafening, you could hear a gust winding up, roaring down the slopes around us as it whipped through the trees and then whacking us full force. I thought the roof hatches were going to blow out at every blast, I kept leaping out of bed to re-tighten them frightened the wind would get underneath and rip them off. In the end David tied them down with electrical ties. Finally around 6am the wind settled a little and we were able to grab another couple of hours sleep before it picked up again and has been battering us off and on all day.

David spoke to a couple who came down to check on us this morning, they had been worried as there has been a motorhome blown over here in the past. We couldn’t have shifted last night even if we wanted to as the wind was just too strong, along with the fact that there was nowhere to go close by, we’re on a small reserve tucked into the end of a bay with a steep narrow road up onto an exposed ridge. If this wind keeps up (and it looks like it might) we’ll hitch up the ute to add some stability to the nose of the van. David already has the ropes in place ready to tie down and the hatches have had the ties replaced and are ready and waiting. Wish us luck!

Of course, this blog post now hasn’t quite followed the sequence of events as they happened so I’ll step back 24 hours and post some of the photos from the trip over to Elaine Bay.

This is climbing out of Okiwi Bay on the other side of the harbour; Okiwi settlement is on the far left, Goat Hill (where I walked the track) is across the water, centre right. In the water just below you can see the remnants of an old mussel farm. The road up this side is steep and very winding, David had the ute in low-range 4WD and it handled the work load really well.

Once up the top, the road is an easy run along the ridge for the next 10kms or so before dropping down into Elaine Bay on the opposite side to this cove, which I see is aptly called Squally Cove. I bet the westerly wind whipped down this narrow bay last night.

Squally Cove is also part of Croisilles Harbour where Okiwi Bay is located. If you look closely you’ll see hundreds of rows of mussel floats lining the shore all the way around the bay. Here’s a zoomed in shot.

And the only reason we have such a magnificent view is because the pine forest below us has been felled, the slopes are now covered with pine seedlings and a mass of bright yellow- gorse bushes in flower. The air is saturated with a sweet perfume, I didn’t know that gorse could smell so lovely. I assume that this is where the logging trucks we were warned about, were coming from. They’ve long finished their job.

At the end of the tarseal the Elaine Bay road drops off to the right, a gravel road continues on towards French Pass.

Elaine Bay is a quiet little bay (well it was) with just a few holiday homes, a handful of permanent residences, a jetty, a wharf and a tiny marina. It is here that the mussel barges come to off load their sacks of harvested mussels. Mussels from the hundreds of mussel farms located around this part of the Marlborough Sounds. This does not include the farms in the photo above; they’re harvested from the other side directly to Nelson. The mussels that land here are loaded daily onto truck & trailer units that make the journey to Nelson twice a day. It’s these trucks that rumbled passed us while we were parked at Okiwi Bay and the ones we timed our run to miss when we came over the hills to Elaine Bay.

Looking back from the end of the jetty, you can see us parked to the left behind the bush. The yellow house (a holiday home) looks totally out of place in this environment, not only the colour but the size. The people that came to check on us this morning said that the glass panels around the deck were shattered on this house the same time as the motorhome was toppled over.

And with the wind still blowing a gale, this loaded mussel barge came down to the wharf this afternoon but didn’t off load it’s cargo. It pulled in for a minute and then backed out and headed off. We’re not sure if it was dropping someone off or it was too windy to offload.


  1. Hello again,....I posted my wild thing comment in the Elaine bay blog otherwise...happy fishing and walking and talking!
    ��Kia kaha!

    1. Thanks Jimu, I knew what you meant! Now the wind has finally died *touch wood*, David might get a bit of fishing in.


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