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A Retired Busmans Holiday

Flightless, anchored in Burial Cove, Broad Bay

“Flightless” is an ex Moa Class Grey Funnel Line Coastal Patrol Craft, converted to charter cruising. Here she’s anchored in the entrance to Burial Cove, Broad Bay

Some years ago Iris & I sold Sean & Maria of Pure Salt Charters our Fiordland and Stewart Island DoC Concessions and Environment Southland  Consents to operate around Fiordland and Stewart Island. At the time I mentioned to Sean that if (when) they came down to the Island I would be happy to act as “Mud Pilot” for them. And that’s what I’ve been doing the last week.

I joined them aboard “Flightless” in Halfmoon Bay with a party of Christchurch Photographers, and we spent the next week exploring Port Adventure, Lords River, Port Pegasus and Broad Bay.

So the following is a tiny part of what we saw and did. There will be links to our “Place Names” pages for extra information and location details.


First Stop, Port Adventure

From Halfmoon Bay we steamed down the eastern coast to Port Adventure, a brief look into the Heron River, then around to Abrahams Bosom to anchor for the night.

We went ashore, to walk along “Salty Beach”, and some stayed until dark, as Kiwi come out to forrage for sandhoppers… we did see prints from the previous night, but none while were there.
“Salty Beach” is a local name, not to be found on any maps I know of.

Flightless in Abrahams Bosom

Flightless anchored Abrahams Bosom, Port Adventure

Lichen on a dead Totara

A Blue, or Spotted Shag


Major Slip
I was suprised by the number of very large slips which had come down into the river. All of them from off relatively gentle slopes, and extending well across the channel. 

King Fisher. (exactly in the image centre)
I was delighted with the huge increase in Kingfisher numbers, or at least from what I recalled of them.
Again, they attracted a lot of photographic attention from the party.
Sadly my lens wasn’t quite up to the job, and Kingfishers generally won’t allow closer approach


Next Morning, Up anchor, and down to Lords River

Lords River is the longest “navigable” river on Stewart Island, and was always a must do when we were chartering. And so it was on this trip. We had a stunning day, and spent it exploring by inflatable and RIB, getting to within a short distance of the upper limits of boat small travel. The river is quite tidal, and is best explored at high tide. Our photographers must bless digital cameras as had they been using film I’m sure their bank accounts would have taken a major hit

Lords River to Port Pegasus

We left “The River” late-ish in the afternoon for the run down to Port Pegasus, passing “Black Rock” which is very cleverly sited almost exactly in a direct line between Lords River Heads and Seal Point. Surely just to keep mariners on their toes.

The next day after some morning fishing we went into South Arm and then went ashore to climb Bald Cone, returning in the late afternoon.  I flagged the final part of the climb, as my knees aren’t so good on steep down slopes, especially if we had to hurry down before dark. But still great to get up and botanise amongst the Alpines.

Black Rock

The First View of “The Gogs” as we round Seal Point


Out off Pegasus next morning

Fishing out off Pegasus next morning

Bald Cone.
Rather irreverent, I know, but Iris & I used to call this distinctive peak “Queen Vic’s Nose”

Into the Bald Cone Landing

Botanising !! Tiny mosses.

Botanising !! And Fascinating Lichens (I think)

The Team, about to cross a small, and muddy gulley

Kiwi Dibble holes.
I found a quite astonishing amount of Kiwi sign, and also far more deer sign than I would have expected, as there isn’t that much in the way of
palatables in the open country.

Manuka in Flower.
Who would have expected in the middle of Winter and high up on the hills

The Team, lunch stop 

Bald Cone, The final part of the climb.
The route is directly up through the scrub in the picture centre on a track I cut years ago
then up the rock face to between the two high points


Bald Cone, Some of the party on the rock chute, close to the top.
Years ago I set up a climbing rope here for safety. It was still in place, and in excellent condition


Bald Cone, Looking into Shipbuilders Cove From the Top (from one of my earlier trips)
I have to admit I didn’t do the final part of the climb. It was late enough in the day and I was worried my knees would slow me up on the descent

Gog, from Bald Cone on an earlier trip

Flightless at anchor, in South Arm Port Pegasus

Coming back down from the base of Bald Cone

Sundew Plants in one of the bogs

Back into the boats to return to Flightless

Gog & Magog
What we would have seen from Seal Creek, had it been a fine day

Portuguese Man’o War.
Odd to find them in mid winter, and much bigger than we see around Paterson Inlet
over summer 

A Pippit,
I was astonished at how tame this one was. In my experience they had always been very shy

Sunset. leaving Disappointment
Bald Cone to the right of the sunset

A Wet Morning

The next morning started of with light rain, and just got heavier. Never-the-less we set of up into Cooks Arm and Seal Creek in the tenders with the idea of walking from the head of Seal Creek at least up to where we would get a good view of Gog, Magog, and the Hielanman. But cold and wet dissuaded us from the walk, though I was able to show Maria where to set off from. No photos for me, so those in the slide show are from much earlier trips.

Later in the day the rain eased off and we went into Disappointment Cove and the short walk over the hill and down to Communication Cove in Broad Bay. A couple went snorkelling, while the rest of us explored the beach area.




Small Craft Retreat

I’ve many “favourite” places in Port Pegasus, but Small Craft is I think extra special. And after we left that seemed to be the consensus from everyone as well. All wished they could have had much more time.

Out past “The Pigeon House

Mutton Birders Cottages on Earnest Island.
This small Island shelters Small Craft Retreat.
We used to anchor in this small west facing cove, and in Mutton Bird Season I think it’s one of the great birding experiences to have, just on dusk what seems like 10’s of thousands of Sooty Searwaters wheeling overhead prior to coming into their nesting burrows.

Smokehouse Bay 

The Smokehouse Gang
There was always a fair population of Hookers Sealions in Smallcraft, and Smokehouse Bay was a popular haul out site.
But virtually no females. In fact I’d only photographed 3, and they elsewher in Pegasus. But all of the lighter coloured animals in this picture are females, with an attendant “BeachMaster” bull

Sealers Gardens
Years ago I was intrigued by the lighter green patches on the hills on the east side of Small Craft.
I spent some time poking around, and discovered bit’s and pieces of charred wood. And looking at the
regrowth rates I’m of the opinion that these were “Sealers Gardens”. Sealers were dropped off on the coast, often for many months, and although they had ships supplies
left with them, growing …. presumably ….  potatoes makes sense. Especially as being picked up by their ship was not a given… ships got lost, and no one else knew where they were.


Moss Gardens
Right at the head of Small Craft is an area of stunted Rimu forest with a small corner I call “The Moss Garden”
It was around 2 or 300 sq metres, probably an old circular blow down. Several old logs, all covered with thick moss, and also moss on the ground.
It’s quite reduced now, and several small thickets of kamahi rickers changing the mossy look. But there is some of the original still there




Goblin Forest
Right at the head of Small Craft is a Goblin Forest of stunted Rimu.
They are quite normal diameter for adult trees, but the trunks are seriously shortened, presumably by the climate.
But what is really different is that the area is home to a good population of Hookers Sealions. And the forest floor is subsequently almost completely bald.
Just a few patches of ferns surviving.





Anchored in the entrance to Burial Cove

Kayak & Tender to “The Settlement”

Hookers Sealions are generally very curious, and find small boats irresistible and fun to play around

The Settlement Beach

Rams Horn Shell

An Old Maori Midden under the bank on the left of person standing.
Most easily accessible beaches have/had middens, although the sea does have it’s way with many of them. Judging by the number of flax bushes,
and the shelter this bay afforded this was an important stopover for Maori en-route to the birding Islands to the west.

And of course, a resident Hooker Bull, and his harem

The entrance to The Settlement. Not quite as bad as it looks, but will be closed in any sort of a big sea.

And we met a Yellow Eyed Penguin

Broad Bay & The Settlement

From Small Craft Sean took “Flightless” around Broad Head into Broad Bay, and anchored in the entrance to Burial Cove. From there we went by tender into “The Settlement“. This small, almost landlocked lagoon” is normally accessed overland by either of 2 tracks from Port Pegasus. I’ve walked in many times, by Helo once, and this was only the third time by sea. It was apparently once home to a shore whaling station, but there is no evidence that they ever actually caught a whale. And looking at the location, together with the weather and tidal streams, that’s easy to understand.

Many years ago a couple of hunters I had down here told me they had come across what looked like the stone exterior foundations of a small hut, high up on Broad Head … a whale lookout station perhaps.

Last Day

Bell Topper Falls on a better day

We were due to fly out by Helo mid afternoon on the last day, so were going to spend the morning exploring North Arm and the Bell Topper Falls. We woke to a good breeze of South Easterly, and rain, so I’ve only a short video of the Bell Topper Falls running a “Banker”. Then the helo couldn’t fly… low viz in Foveaux Straits, so we had another night, and flew out early the next day

Thank You Flightless and Crew

For me it was a wonderful chance to revisit one of my favourite places on Stewart Island. So a very big thank you to Maria & Sean, and to Courtney, Anna and Chris. Their professionalism, attention to detail, and just overall good humour and very obvious love of sharing such special places with their guests is outstanding. Flightless is considerably larger than was Talisker … perhaps 4 times the internal volume, so for me it was like living in a ball room. Courtneys meals are fabulous, and in fact I mentioned to Maria that Iris would be really grumpy if I took Courtney home with me ….. until Iris sampled the first meal. So it’s great to report that Pegasus is within reach, for those who want to explore.. contact  www.puresalt.co.nz