French Pass

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WorldNew ZealandMarlborough SoundsFrench Pass
French Pass
French pass.png
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Route 1
Route 2

You should provide a map of the of the passage with the route clearly shown. The map should be preferably well annotated and with a scale in nM (nautical miles). Place the map to the right .

An online cruising guide for yachts transiting the French Pass. Strap in folks, you're about to get a wild ride.

Description

French Pass is a narrow passage between d'Urville Island (to the north) and the South Island of New Zealand to the south. Transiting the pass will save about 80 nautical miles of sailing between Nelson / Tasman Bays and the Marlborough Sounds and beyond (e.g. Wellington). That's the good side. The bad side is that it's a bit like white water rafting, except in a much bigger and more expensive boat.

Sailing from Nelson For French Pass and beyond

The distance from Nelson to French Pass is 33nm. The tidal flow varies but starts at about 0.5kts and increases as you approach the Pass. At springs the maximum flow at the Pass can run at a dangerous 7kts.

Passage Example, (times rounded) Assuming the tide turns to run NE at 0950 and SW at 1600. Assuming an average boat speed of 4.5kts SOG and the distance is 32nm. The passage time is 7.0hrs. Low water at Nelson would be 1150.

If you sail at 0900, ETA at the Pass is 1600, slack water. For the first 0.5hrs there would be an easing east running contrary tide. Then a westerly running tide carrying you towards the Pass arriving at slack water 1600.

If you wish to stop for the night before going through the Pass anchor in Waikawa Bay in a southerly and Wainui Bay in northerly.

Through the pass

French Pass, taken from the north-east side

All vessels, before attempting a transit of French Pass, are directed to radio "ALL SHIPS" on VHF channels 16 and 65, at least 10 minutes before entering the pass. Make your radio call in plenty of time, you will have better things to worry about once you are in the tidal flow of the pass.

As you approach the pass, the tidal flow steadily increases, and sometimes surges over the distance of a boat length or two can be experienced.

All sails should be down, motor on, and a moderate speed chosen to approach the pass. Keep the autopilot switched off and have a hand on the wheel and another on the throttle.

The part of the pass that you are aiming for is the southern third or so, between the two white lighthouses (one on shore and one on a rock in the middle of the pass). The depth here is quite good. Your depth sounder will tell you plenty of lies here, the water turbulence is such that acoustic depth sounders will report incorrect or even "zero" depth. Study the charts in detail before approach, but even at low tide there should be plenty of water for a vessel of even moderate draft to pass safely.

As you approach, you will see eddies, overfalls, and potentially fast running counter-currents around the edges of the pass. Ignore these and find the slackest piece of water you can find, and head straight for it. Motor hard and fast until you are through that section of the pass.

The fun doesn't finish there, especially for vessels heading NE through the pass -- there will be a line of eddies and whirlpools, extending either from the southern bank of the pass or from the middle of the pass, that will come directly across your line of transit. Head for the outer edge of these (you may not have enough width to circumvent them completely without heading into dangerously shallow water), again motoring hard and fast. Feel your helm for the telltale signs of being pulled around by the eddy and steer the opposite direction until you are through.

After the Pass

Once through the Pass anchor in nearby Kapowai Bay on the south end of d'Urville Island, 1.4nm to the NNE of the pass. Anchor close to the cliff immediately south of the wharf i.e. between the little entrance light and the wharf. You may be blocking the approach course of the pilot of the French Pass Village to Kapawai ferry launch but he will forgive you eventually, as he does.

Alternatively carry on to Cherry Tree Bay in Catherine Cove, approx Co 036° 4nm. Another southerly anchorage is Kokowai (Turners Bay) approx. 110° 3.7nm, close to the wharf.

Proceeding east there are several anchorages along the route described in the NZ Cruising Guide, Central Area, a copy of which you should have aboard when cruising the Marlborough Sounds.

If passage making my favourite overnight stop is under Alligator Head, known as the "Punt Rails", is well sheltered but exposed to the SW. It is good if on the mooring but the bay is deep (25m) and not particularly good holding. Hikoekoea Bay, 210° 1nm from there gives shelter from N through to W is shallower (7m) and better holding if anchoring.

Remember you are not at liberty to use the private club moorings which are marked WPM unless you are a member of either Waikawa Yacht Club, Pelorus Yacht Club or Mana Cruising Club. To show you are a member you wear your club burgee and this years coloured coded pennent to show you have paid your subscription. If you do not have these you have no rights and will be asked to vacate the mooring.

Once your anchor is safely down or you are tied to a mooring, have a beer or a scotch and relax, congratulations on a job well done.

Charts

Give charts applicable to this port or refer to a Chart section of another page (Country or Region) that lists the charts.

Source
Chart Number - Chart Name
Chart Number - Chart Name
Source
Chart Number - Chart Name

Weather

Give expected climatic & weather conditions for this passage or refer to another page (a region or island group) that covers these conditions.

Sources for Weather forecasts:

Weather Windows

Give the best time/s of year for this passage and expected weather conditions.

Navigation

Don't even think about making French Pass except within an hour either side of slack water. Do not go north of D'Urville Island which will take you out into Cook Strait.

Take note of the times for the change of tide in the Nautical Almanac (which are not related to the tide times at Nelson, except very loosely), and the direction in which the tide changes. The tide turns at French Pass approximately 2 hours before it turns at Nelson. This is a rough guide only, consult the almanac for the correct tide times at French Pass.

The tide times are available as PDF files from this page: http://www.linz.govt.nz/hydro/tidal-info/tidal-streams/french-pass/index.aspx

How to read the tide times -- the time in the PDF file is the time of slack water. The direction of the tide is the direction that the tide starts flowing towards, at that time listed. So, for example, if the time reads "1205 SW" then at 12:05pm the tide turns from a NE direction to a SW direction. The tide times are given at standard time -- add one hour in the summer months to account for daylight savings time.

Slack water lasts for about 20 minutes according to the guide, according to my eyeball it lasted for more like 5 minutes. Immediately prior (1 hour before) and immediately after (1 hour after) the change of tide, it's possible to transit the pass but my recommendation would be to only do so in the direction of the tide.

example -- if the tide is changing from SW to NE and you are travelling from the SW (Nelson) to the NE (Wellington), then attempt to transit just before slack water. If the tide is changing in the opposite direction then attempt to transit just after slack water.

Communication

Also see World Cruiser's Nets.

Possible Departure Points

List the possible departure ports. Include their coordinates. It is assumed that corresponding Wiki pages of these ports either exist or will be created.

  • Departure Point1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EDeparture_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EMarina icon Departure Point1  [[French Pass#Departure Point1|Departure Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
  • Departure Point2/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EDeparture_Point2.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Departure Point2  [[French Pass#Departure Point2|Departure Point2]] (Alternate name Departure Point2) °'N, °'E
  • Departure Point2/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EDeparture_Point2.3C.2Fspan.3EAnchorage icon Departure Point2  [[French Pass#Departure Point2|Departure Point2]] (Alternate name Departure Point2) °'N, °'E
  • etc.

Route/Suggested Stopovers

List the route and the suggested stopover points (in sequence), including their coordinates, and some description.

  1. Starting from Departure Point1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EDeparture_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Departure Point1  [[French Pass#Departure Point1|Departure Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
    1. xx nM SE to Anchorage Point1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EAnchorage_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EAnchorage icon Anchorage Point1  [[French Pass#Anchorage Point1|Anchorage Point1]] (Alt name of Anchorage Point1) DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W in the SW side of the island of [[yy]],
    2. or 21 nM S to the remote island of Island Point1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EIsland_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EIsland icon Island Point1  [[French Pass#Island Point1|Island Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W , form here you can go
  2. xx nM to Stopover Point1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EStopover_Point1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Stopover Point1  [[French Pass#Stopover Point1|Stopover Point1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
  3. etc.
  4. Finally you arrive at Arrival Port1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EArrival_Port1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Arrival Port1  [[French Pass#Arrival Port1|Arrival Port1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W

Possible Arrival Points

List the possible arrival ports (in sequence). Include their coordinates.

  • Arrival Port1/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EArrival_Port1.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Arrival Port1  [[French Pass#Arrival Port1|Arrival Port1]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
  • Arrival Ports/wiki/French_Pass#.3Cspan_style.3D.22color:magenta_.22.3EArrival_Ports.3C.2Fspan.3EHarbour icon Arrival Ports  [[French Pass#Arrival Ports|Arrival Ports]] DD°N.m′N/S, DD°M.m′E/W
  • etc.

Distance & Duration

Give a distance table if possible.

Approximate Distances in nM (±5 )
Approximate Duration days + hours (non-stop, assumes an average speed of 6 knots)
[[Departure Point1]] [[Stopover Point1]] [[Stopover Point2]] [[Stopover Point3]] [[Arrival Point 1]] [[Arrival Point2]]
[[Departure Point1]] x1
d+h
x2
d+h
x3
d+h
x4
d+h
x5
d+h
[[Stopover Point1]] x1
d+h
x6
d+h
x7
d+h
x8
d+h
x9
d+h
[[Stopover Point2]] x2
d+h
x6
d+h
x10
d+h
x11
d+h
x12
d+h
[[Stopover Point3]] x3
d+h
x7
d+h
x10
d+h
x13
d+h
x14
d+h
[[Arrival Point 1]] x4
d+h
x8
d+h
x11
d+h
x13
d+h
x15
d+h
[[Arrival Point2]] x5
d+h
x9
d+h
x12
d+h
x14
d+h
x15
d+h

Forums

List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)

Links

References

  • Keith W J Murray, New Zealand Cruising Guide Central Area, Wellington, ISBN 9780473233334
  • The New Zealand Nautical Almanac and Tide Tables, Marine Division, MOT
  • The New Zealand Pilot, Hydrographic Department, Admiralty

Comments

We welcome users' contributions to the Wiki. Please click on Comments to view other users' comments, add your own personal experiences or recommend any changes to this page following your visit.

  • Delatbabel -- motored through French Pass 20 minutes before slack water on a NE running tide. A hell of a lot of fun. My life will never be the same again.

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Names: Delatbabel


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