Kayaking around Stewart Island
It’s big, really big. The wind is beating us down, 40 knots of bitterly cold Southerly right in the face. Massive rollers moving in from the South-West smashing our laden boats around, before crashing into the West Coast bluffs and refracting back, creating a turmoiled mess of water. The Southern Ocean was alive, and we were in our element, running the gauntlet to pass 10 kilometres of relentless exposed coastline. We need to get to the South Cape and safe harbour between two storm systems – no turning back.
Eight days earlier the ferry docked in Oban, the capital – or really only town on the island. Adventure was waiting and it was time to go. The Halfmoon Bay beach, in the centre of town, became a sprawling mess of equipment, Radix meals and kayak kit as we readied ourselves to embark on a 12 day journey, attempting a circumnavigation of Stewart Island. Barely 12 hours later, as the sun began to peak over the horizon, we launchedF our four kayaks, departing unsure of when we would be back.
Heading West along the edge of Foveaux Strait, with Bluff Hill silhouetted in the dawn sun, our progress was fast, and within minutes all signs of civilisation were left behind, and we were off. Rounding out of the bay, the Ocean began to play ball, the currents of the Foveaux Strait quickly dragging us out towards the North Cape and on to the West Coast.
From there it was plain sailing with the end in sight, Pegasus to Lords River, Lords River to Oban. Two more big but achievable days saw us steer our fatigued bodies to rest on the beach we’d set off from 12 days prior. The boats up to their final resting spot – we weren’t the first and we won’t be the last, but we’d got it done.
Words and Images by Mike Dawson