Large waves cancel ferry, break Wellington Airport buoy loose, soak onlookers
Heavy swells and big waves have battered Wellington's south coast, causing ferry cancellations, washing rocks on to a car park and soaking anyone who ventured too close to the surf.
The rough conditions in Cook Strait forced the cancellation of Tuesday's 2.45pm sailing of Interislander ferry Aratere from Wellington to Picton. Passengers and their vehicles were transferred to later sailings.
An hour before the Aratere was due to depart, the Kaitaki set sail from Picton, with passengers warned to hold on for bumpy ride.
People with young children were told to hang on to them and keep them close, passenger Patsy Sziranyi said on arrival in Wellington on Tuesday night.
Experienced sailor Christine Rentoul said there were a "few decent" waves and the boat was moving around a bit. "I loved it, but there were a few people looking a bit green."
The big swells are forecast to continue on the eastern side of Cook Strait for the next few days, and KiwiRail would advise if they reached cancellation levels again, a spokeswoman said.
Earlier in the day, the waves washed rocks on to a car park on Wellington's south coast car park, breaking an airport warning buoy loose, and drenching onlookers.
Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said the large marker buoy, used to warn tall ships away from the southern flight path, broke free on Tuesday morning as waves estimated at six metres high slammed into the coast.
The buoy, which sat three metres above the water and a "considerable amount below", washed up on Lyall Bay, where it was salvaged, he said. The airport was investigating how and why it had come loose.
It was designed to handle larger swells, and was attached to the sea floor by an engineered rubber rope, he said.
At Moa Point Rd, beside the runway, waves were making their way through the seawall and sending plumes of spray up through grates and on to the other side of the road.
The waves were also washing rocks on to a car park at the eastern end of Lyall Bay.
Wellington City Council said it was keeping a watch on south coast roads, and warned it would close them on Tuesday night if the high tide made them too dangerous for motorists.
James Grigg, who co-administers the Lyall Bay Facebook page, said damaging swells were becoming increasingly common.
Monday's swells were larger than Tuesday's and were undermining a car park at the eastern end of the bay. "It's bringing up quite a bit of rubble."
For surfer Dan Clarke, the big waves were an opportunity not to be missed. He jumped in the surf from a rock sea wall, timing his entry between waves.
"It's wild, it's messy, there's a lot of movement in the ocean, but it's great fun."
At one point his surfboard leg rope was yanked off and he had to swim near to a rock wall to get his board back. But he had no regrets about getting in.
"It's fun. I love it. We want big swells."
MetService meteorologist Emma Blades said the swells, had been generated by a deep low off the east of the country, which had also created the cold, snowy conditions over the past two days.
The swells were expected to ease from Wednesday morning.