On the Job – worth waiting for

The plans for our family to join dad in Fiordland were all set, spending 4 days in March 2020 on board ‘Reel Image’.

The universe had other plans, and Covid restrictions meant we never got there.

Fast forward to mid-January 2024, and it all came together. 3 generations of our family were equally excited about the long-awaited trip on board the new Image in the family, ‘On the Job’. Our biggest concern was how all 6 passengers, including 3 adult-sized teens, would fish, sleep and live on an 8.5m boat for 4 days. We need not have worried about that too much as we were far more interested in what was happening around the boat than in it.

Four of the family flew down and spent a few nights with family in Southland whilst Dad and I did a 26-hour road trip from Masterton to Manapouri. Once we were sure we had what was needed for our 4 days and essential supplies for the 15 other days that the next crews were going to be on board, we crossed the lake. It was warm and calm with beautiful scenery and our first introduction at the shores to sandflies.

They have a well-deserved reputation for being numerous and thirsty for blood. The teens were none too happy that this was going to be the reality of our time in Fiordland. Unless we were several hundred meters from the shore, then we were fair game for the biters. Once we arrived at the end of the West Arm of Lake Manapouri, we checked out the visitor centre and learned a bit about the hydro station. There’s not much to see as most of the action is 200m below the lake surface, and visitors can no longer travel down the roads below. It was well worth the time and gave us some clues to what marine life we would be seeing once in Doubtful Sound. To get over the Wilmott Pass from the West Arm to Doubtful Sound was an adventure of its own. We booked a ride with a commercial operator who runs a truck with a trailer that can fit a wide range of boats. After loading, unloading and re-loading the boat onto the trailer, it was agreed that it was sitting pretty well and would cope with the 21km trip and 671m pass. The skill and care of the driver were evident as we wound our way up and then over the pass. The views of bush, waterfalls and even Chatham Island lilies were only outdone by the first glimpses of Doubtful Sound stretching in front of us. The first afternoon involved heading along the main sound. Rain had fallen the day before, and the waterfalls were putting on a show for us, so we took our time to appreciate them. We had no set plans and weren’t leaving Doubtful Sound, so we had all the time in the world. The first night, we enjoyed dinner far from shore to avoid sandflies before mooring in Precipice Cove.

Day 2 was likely our only opportunity to head out into the open sea, hoping to hook some kingfish. We arrived at a lumpy sea that wasn’t going to be much fun. We found a spot near Cascade Bay that was somewhat sheltered, dropped the Minn Kota and enjoyed hooking a few goodeating fish, plenty of bucket mouths and a couple of small sharks that were suitable to eat. It didn’t take long until we had enough for a good dinner. After the excitement, it was time for lunch, several rounds of coffee, reading, and cards. Monopoly deal was the top game, and while the teens had a head start and had to teach the 3 adults, we gave them a run for their money. We spotted a couple of seals going about their day. The skipper was the only tank diver amongst us, so they took the chance in the afternoon for a dive. 20 minutes was plenty of time in the water to get crays for dinner to go with the morning’s catch. With the water beig only 140, it was probably long enough to be in the water too.

Sitting on the boat and watching the water depth, 24m deep and only 10m from shore, made me think about the underwater cliffs and the glacial forces that created them.

After an excellent dinner of fish and crays, we were back to monopoly deal and books before calling it a night in the tight sleeping quarters. Earplugs and patience were necessary but a small compromise for the incredible days of fishing we were all having. As we drifted off to sleep, we could hear light rain and knew the waterfalls would again be flowing well and put on a show the next day.

Day 3 dawned sunny, and it was a chance to get the little inflatable into the water and explore the Camelot River at high tide. With its little 2.5hp motor, we could travel 3 at a time. This side trip was one of my highlights with the clear water, mature bush and the knowledge that you were somewhere few people had ever been. The peacefulness with only 3 of us was timely after 2.5 days of cooking, sleeping and living shoulder to shoulder. My father has been to Fiordland 6 times for 3 or 4 weeks at a time and knows the place well. I think he has read every book written about Fiordland and proved to be an excellent guide and historian. Particularly as there was no way to Google anything.

Just as we had all boarded ‘On the Job’ again a 17m yacht arrived. They were hoping to travel up Camelot River in their runabout. We caught up with the 2 sailors in the early evening and shared stories and a coke on board their beautiful vessel. Their journey had brought them from Melbourne to the Bay of Islands, then down the west coast of New Zealand. Everyone was happy With coke and internet access via Starlink exchanged for crayfish. Our vessel had both a toilet and shower on board, but 2 of the teens braved the water for a swim and a wash. It was short and sweet, and the shower was used for a warm-up afterwards. We had all enjoyed day trips fishing on the boat before our Fiordland trip, but it was while it was our home we appreciated all the features, including BBQ, freezer, hot shower, toilet, and clever storage for all our gear. And the bug screens on the windows and door! As we awoke to day 4, it was immediately apparent that it was colder than the other mornings. There was a coating of snow on all the mountain tops, and the air temperature was 40 degrees. Jackets were pulled out, and enjoying coffee on the deck while we took in the views was special. As this was the last morning on the boat for 5 of us, we had a bit of packing up to do before motoring back to Deep Cove. The snow-capped mountains on that last morning were another reminder that Fiordland is both exciting and beautiful yet unpredictable and wild.

After another fish meal for lunch, we disembarked ‘On the Job’. We quickly chatted with the incoming crew of 2 friends before waving them goodbye for another adventure. We headed back over the Wilmott Pass with the driver, who got us in there and cruised across Manapouri on the tourist boat. Our time on the boat was a unique opportunity and will be a time I cherish. All too soon, the teens will be busy with adult lives, and our captain will be less willing to give up his bed for us. Old Sea Dogs don’t give up the boat, and that’s why my generation had to have some boat towing and driving practice during the trip in preparation for future adventures.

Share this post :


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Create a new perspective on life

Your Ads Here (365 x 270 area)
Latest Stories

Subscribe our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates direct to your inbox.


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates direct to your inbox.