Marlborough Sounds


The area on the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand is known as Marlborough Sounds, which consists of a number of ancient, drowned valleys. One of the main bodies of water is called Queen Charlotte Sounds and it is this Sound that we entered to make our way to Picton.

It was just after dawn when we entered Queen Charlotte Sounds so as to make our way to our destination, which was Picton.

The scenery was dramatic, and one had the feeling of being on the only ship in the world.

Suddenly I saw a Cook Is. ferry come from behind an island – we were not alone.

The ferries run a regular service to & from Wellington, which is on the south coast of the North island of New Zealand and Picton is on the northern coast of the South island of New Zealand.
The ferry takes approximately three and a half hours one way, and the ferries carry cars, trucks and rail traffic, as well as passengers.
I have been told that the turnaround of a ferry in Picton is about an hour or so – one deck is dedicated to the rail traffic and road vehicles are able to be driven off by the vehicle’s driver-passenger.

When I mentioned to Will, a long-time friend from HMS Conway, who lives in Wellington, that Maureen & I would be visiting Picton during our cruise he suggested an introduction to his friend Jim, in Picton, who might be able to show us around.
Both Will & Jim are ex Master Mariners and they had been in command of one or more of the ferries during their sea going days.
I jumped at the idea – plus it turned out that Jim grew up in Birkenhead in the UK, the same town in which I lived before I went to HMS Conway.

The last time I visited Picton would have been about 1966 and we loaded frozen lamb for Calcutta.

The above picture is of Picton around 1966.

I was 3rd Mate in Bankura (6793 gt) –
she was a British India Steam Nav. vessel with limited freezer capacity. 

The above picture was taken from our balcony as our cruise ship moved slowly alongside. 

Once alongside the coaches arrived to operate a regular shuttle service from the ship to the town – the service was very efficient, and I think a shuttle left every ten minutes both to and from the town. The town didn’t look large enough to have so many buses.

Jim & I did not know what each other looked like so after being bussed from the ship to the small-town centre I rang Jim and described myself – the white hair came in handy – and a few minutes later Jim arrived and Maureen and I received the full ‘Cook’s Tour ‘of the area around Picton.

The one thing that was obvious was that the population in Picton loved messing about in boats. Everywhere I looked there were boats of various sizes, from large ocean going motor yachts to small run abouts.

Beautiful scenery, and perhaps I am stretching a point be referring to the Majestic Princess at 144, 216 GT as a ‘boat’. 

The ferry we saw earlier on her return trip to Wellington.

The site of Picton was surveyed in 1849 and the new town was named Newton, but over the years the town had a number of different names until in 1859 it was renamed Picton in honour of Sir Thomas Picton the hero of Badajoz & Waterloo. 

Sir Thomas Picton 1758 -1815

Sir Thomas Picton was born in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
He joined the army in 1771 as an ensign and eventually became Lieutenant General. 
In 1810 Wellington appointed him to command a division in Spain during the Napoleonic war.
Picton fought in several battles and was wounded at the battle of Badajoz and was sent back home to recuperate.
While in the UK he was Knighted by the Prince Regent George, who later became George IV
Picton  was thanked seven times by the British Parliament for his bravery fighting the French.
In 1815, at the Duke of Wellington’s request, Picton was in command of the 5th Infantry Division.
During the Battle of Waterloo Napoleon attacked the British Centre at Le Haye Sainte.
Picton lead his men in a bayonet charge against the French columns to stop the advance. He was shot dead through the temple.
When they checked his body it was realised that General Picton had been wounded in the hip the previous day at the battle of Quatre Bras and had not told anyone other than his servant. 
General Picton was the highest ranking allied casualty at Waterloo.

       Jack Hawkins portrayed General Picton in the 1970 film called Waterloo.


A haunting sound

During the night of the cruise from the Bay of Islands to Tauranga I was woken around 2.00 am to the sound of the ship’s foghorn, which was set to sound every two minutes.
In the ‘old days’ of the 1960’s  when sailing in a cargo ship the officer of the watch would haul on a piece of rope when ever he thought he should, unless the ship was close to land or the captain was on the bridge.
The regular sound brought back memories of yesteryear.
The above link will take you to a foggy experience that I had in Hong Kong.

As we closed on Tauranga the fog became thinner and the foghorn was stopped. The above photograph shows the thinning as we approached our berth.


It rained as we moved alongside, but fortunately it stopped as we disembarked.

Our daughter-in-law parents live in Tauranga, and they were kind enough to show us around. The area where we berthed was Mount Maunganui and a walk along the main street reminded me of certain seaside towns in Australia.

It is a very popular a beach suburb with great beaches for surfing along Marine Parade.

We sailed from Tauranga later afternoon for the South Pacific Ocean and and a night of cruising before entering Auckland harbour. As usual the evening meal took precedence over gazing across the evening ocean.

We slid quietly into Auckland and moored next to the Hilton Hotel. On stepping onto our balcony, I received quite a surprise.

At first I thought the building was part of the port authority building until I noticed the name of Hilton, which is not too clear on the photograph taken from the balcony.

The view directly from our balcony as we overlooked the private balconies of the Princess Wharf Apartments.

The Hilton Hotel from the water – picture from the Hilton web site.

We also had company of the port side of the Majestic Princess – the Silver Whisper, which is a Silversea Cruise ship

A better picture than mine – Silver Whisper alongside in Sydney, unfortunately I cannot afford to sail in a Silversea vessel.

It was a short walk from Majestic Princess to Quay Street.

During our last visit to Auckland we had experienced the Hop on Hop off bus, so this time, we thought a DIY stroll around the shopping centre. 

The streets were quiet, but the ‘feel’ of the area was very positive.

The buildings were a mix of old and new, the ship that can be seen is the Silver Whisper.

Even though it was Sunday many of the shops were open, so passengers off the ship were able to buy what they required.
We bought some small items, and we did not have a problem using my credit card for low-cost items, much easier than changing Australian cash for New Zealand cash.

The weather was very kind to us after the two previous ports of call and it was a pleasure to walk around without an umbrella or a raincoat ‘just in case’.

A wet summer cruise

It was a beautiful day when we boarded Majestic Princess for a thirteen-night cruise to New Zealand.
It had been six years since our previous cruise to New Zealand and thanks to Covid we now hoped to renew our relationship with the land of the long white cloud.
‘Aeoteroa’ or the land of the long white cloud was given to the north island of New Zealand by the Maori people when they first saw the land mass that we now know is New Zealand’s north island.

The photographs in this blog were taken by me as we prepared to sail.

The large TV screen on the main pool deck was highlighted with the words ‘Sail Away’ – music from the ship’s band and dancers to get the passengers in the mood.

The ship’s dancers to encourage the passengers to join in the dance – perhaps if I was sixty years younger, I might have joined in . . .

While all the music and dancing took place on board the ship left her Sydney berth at Circular Quay and set sail for New Zealand. The weather was perfect.

We had a pilot onboard while transiting Sydney Harbour and as we reached the harbour entrance at South Head (see photo above) I watched a pilot boat manoeuvre alongside to collect the pilot.

Once the pilot had left us it was full ahead for New Zealand.

It was a two-day cruise from Sydney to the area of the North Island of New Zealand known as the Bay of Islands, which was our first port of call.

Auckland is south of the area indicated.

As we approached the Bay of Islands, I went on to our balcony to take a photograph of our approach –

It was heavy sea mist and visibility was limited. Later the mist cleared and the rain began – it poured!

Maureen & I had plans to go ashore and visit Paihia and take the ferry across to Russell.
From the ship to the small town of Paihia was a 25-minute trip in one of the ship’s tenders (see the orange boat above in the rain) and even though the passenger area was covered it would not have been a pleasant trip. We decided to stay on board  . . .the previous time we visited the Bay of Islands it was beautiful weather and we used a ship’s excursions to see the highlights of the area, which included where the signing of the Waitangi Treaty took place in 1840.

In the afternoon the rain began to ease by which time it had become too late to go ashore. The above shows the weather conditions towards Paihia – not very encouraging.

   I watched the above sailing vessel braving the weather as Maureen & I considered a visit to the Vines Bar – which became our favourite.

It wasn’t raining in the Vines . . .

Our next stop was to be Tauranga

The above map shows the Bay of Islands (near the top of the map) and the location of Auckland (which we will visit after Tauranga) – it is about two-and-a-half-hour drive from Tauranga to Auckland.
We sailed from Tauranga for an overnight cruise into the South Pacific before arriving in Auckland early the next morning.

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