Hundreds of ferry passengers spent more than the equivalent time of a flight to Los Angeles when their vessel finally docked in Picton after being delayed due to gale-force winds.
The Interislander ferry Kaitiaki departed from Wellington at 9am today with 570 passengers aboard, and was due to arrive at 12.30 this afternoon – but was only able to finally berth at 9pm.
Passengers on the smaller Bluebridge ferry will be in for an even longer haul, with their ferry having departed from the capital at 8am.
Interislander general manager Walter Rushbrook said strong southeast gales caused delays for Cook Strait ferries trying to berth, with winds gusting in excess of 40 knots (74km/h) down Picton harbour.
Part of the Picton terminal has also been damaged by the unusually high winds.
“We are waiting for a lull in the weather to be able to berth safely,” Rushbrook said.
“The weather is forecast to ease later this evening, but exactly when is unpredictable.”
Herald Wellington business editor Hamish Rutherford was on board the Kaitiaki and confirmed the ferry docked at 9pm.
He praised the ship’s crew for their “excellent” work and noted “they all pulled huge hours”.
Only 8.5 hours late
— Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) February 16, 2021
Earlier in the day just as the ferry was due to arrive it turned around to cruise around the Sounds waiting for the winds to calm down, Rutherford said.
Passengers could see the Bluebridge vessel, which departed at 8am, doing the same thing.
“Everything seemed to be going fine. The crossing was rough, but we’ve had much rougher in the past. But just as we went in to dock. the ferry spun around, the captain saying the wind was too strong and we’d do a lap of the harbour, and now we’ve been doing laps the last eight hours.”
Oh no! Thats terrible! So much sympathy for you out there. Heres what its like from@the foreshore
— Bronwyn Wood (@BronwynEWood) February 16, 2021
Rutherford, travelling with his fiance Aimee Gulliver to the South Island for their wedding on Sunday, said the mood aboard was “surprisingly upbeat”.
They’d been served complementary fish and chips, and offered refreshments.
“Everybody is pretty understanding, I mean the wind is very strong and just hasn’t dropped.
“People are surprisingly upbeat, there are a few school trips aboard, parents with their children heading down to university, people are understandably a bit ratty and tired but the mood has been pretty good. The staff have been very nice.”
Rushbrook said Picton tugs were in position to assist with berthing if necessary.
“Passengers have been kept advised of the delays and passengers have been offered complimentary food and beverages,” he said.
The delays have also affected later sailings, with two return services cancelled due to the weather.
Nothings like cruising on the Interislander than getting to Picton and being told its too rough to berth so youre off to go cruising in the sounds for an hour to wait for it to calm down.
— Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) February 15, 2021
“We are contacting all affected customers, and are targeting to clear the backlog of passengers and vehicles within 24 hours,” Rushbrook said.
“We apologise for the inconvenience, however the safety of our passengers and crew must be our number one priority.”
Bluebridge has been approached for comment.
Ferry crossing has now been going for eight hours (and counting). Shoutout to one of the staff who is meant to be on her last crossing (that was meant to finish 4.5 hours ago).
— Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) February 16, 2021
Captain of the Interislander has just announced that we may be able to attempt a berthing at about 9pm, 12 hours after we left Wellington.
— Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) February 16, 2021
The latest lap took us waaaaay out into Queen Charlotte Sound. Clearly even the captain is getting bored now.
— Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) February 16, 2021

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