This country is split into two islands by a bumpy(more-often-than-not), tempestuous (quite often) stretch of water named after Captain James Cook. The British explorer completed the first circumnavigation of the country, and mapped it with few errors, in 1769 - 70.
If you want to take a car from one island to another, the only way is to travel on one of the ferries which ply the Strait 8 or 10 times each day. The trip takes only 3 hours, and if you are lucky the middle bit, when you are actually out in the open sea, will be smooth and gentle; you may be escorted by pods of dolphins...
Early one morning in April, early winter sunshine. In my car, queued on
the Wellington wharves, I wait for the ferry to arrive.
One family decides to fill in the time usefully... the kids actually catch some small fish!
Here she comes - it's the Arahura, the oldest one in the fleet, but I'm
glad to see her
For the first hour or so, we move steadily out through the
volcanic ribs which encircle Wellington harbour:
Then it's goodbye to the North Island
About an hour later, we begin to wind through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds
to Picton, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound
... but it hasn't always been so. Cook Strait is, according to Wikipedia,
The worst disaster which has happened on its waters was the sinking of the ferry Wahine. It was caught in a ferocious storm and struck a reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, in winds gusting to 160 km/h.
Fifty-three people drowned that night, including 3 children;
the other 670 passengers and crew survived by getting off
into the 4 usable lifeboats, or by launching themselves in
lifejackets into the turbulent waters of the harbour.
The current swept most of them across towards the western
side of the harbour, where a small fleet of fishing boats,
private motorboats and surf-lifesaving boats found them and
lifted them aboard, taking them to the shore and to safety.
My mother was one of the latter group. She had been travelling
with an elderly family friend of ours; he was drowned.
|Image from here|
“I have seen the sea when it is stormy and wild; when it is quiet and serene; when it is dark and moody. And in all its moods, I see myself.”
~ Martin Bauxbaum