Patina of names Marlborough Sounds

Here in the Marlborough Sounds, there are more headlands, coves, bays, reaches, mountains and other landmarks that you can shake a stick of kelp at. It seems that everyone would have had a go a naming something.

And with my long-standing interest in the patina of names that cloaks the skin of Aotearoa, I’m intrigued to see that three types of namers-of-places are represented: those happy to hold on to te reo Māori nomenclature, those with imagination, and those with a little less. And sometimes an overlap of all three.

So we have visited the Beef Barrels Reff (actually avoided them), passed through Te Aumiti French Pass (at slack tide natch – the current can run at up to nine knots here), paid ourrespects to Kathy who runs the lovely wilderness lodge at Catherine Cove ( we cam upon her serving up platters of about 30 crayfish to a group of fishing folk).

Beyond that we have encountered Stewart and Titi Islands (alternative one), Stephen’s Island, the place made notorious for the sad tale of the lighthouse keeper’s cat, which made extinct an entire population of endemic wrens. It now also goes by the name Takapourewa, with the appellation Marine Reserve. Perhaps a wee bit late.

The Ninepin Rocks lived up to their name. As did Ngāwhakawhiti Bay, off World’s End Reach, which is itself off Tennyson Inlet. Billed as ‘the most beautiful bay in the Sounds.’ Which it really is, with hillsides clothed in virgin bush. But sadly, no birdsong. But there are predator controls in place, so here’s hoping.

Opposite is the wee town of Penzance – no, I hadn’t heard of it either. But beyond Waiheke, I reckon it’s the prettiest place in the country. Perfect to retire or otherwise chill out. Only two and a half hours to the nearest town, via windy roads, or longer, via even windy-er sounds.

In the average imagination naming list, there’s Wet Inlet. No I didn’t fall into that one, did that Catherine Cove, and can attest that yes, the water is wet in these parts. And there’s also The Reef, Pigeon Bay, Penguin Bay, Sheep Point, Picnic Bay, Post Office Point, Camp Bay, Homestead Bay, Goat Point, Marv’s Bay. Good on him. And Duffers Reef. Thankfully, we missed crashing into that one too.

But mystery abounds too. What, for instance is the origin of the names Yncyca Bay and Lord Ashley Bay and Alligator Head? I’d love to know their stories.

D’Urville Island is obviously a reference to the great French explorer who traversed French Pass in his ship the Astrolabe. At Cathy’s Wilderness Lodge there’s a lovely history book Angelina, about an Italian woman who travelled all the way from Stromboli Island to marry her love, a shepherd working on the remote island. Film rights have been sold for Gerald Hindmarsh’s tale about his grandmother.

The patina has a nice balance, with many lovely te reo names still enlivening the nautical chart. Waitātā Bay and Reach, Te Hoiere Island (also known as Maud, home of the lonely kakapo Scirocco), Tawhitinui and Tarakaipā Islands, Whakamawahi Point, Hikoekoea Bay, Ōpani-āputa Point, the Kokomohua Islands (a small marine reserve), and Whakatahuri, site of the most remote boatyard. And boat wreckers. The Smash Palace of boats.

The last two of which remind me: I must dive over the side into Endeavour Inlet to free a large piece of bull kelp which has lodged in our daggerboard case. I’ll share the Bay with a seal who is tossing his breakfast around. and the other fish who survived. Will keep you posted.