|AUSTRALIA NSW, SYDNEY HARBOUR|
We had a good sail from New Castle to Sydney and reached the mouth of the harbour by mid afternoon. Because we were against the tide coming into Port Jackson, it was a slow entrance. Being the weekend, Sydney Harbour (Jackson's Bay) was frenzied with motorboats, yachts, ferries, fishing boats, sailing dinghies and the like.
We decided to drop anchor just inside the bay at Spring Cove, near the town of Manly. The anchorage was occupied with several other local boats enjoying the little strip of beach away from the bustle of the city.
We had just finished supper when the wind switched to the South and really picked up. Boats all around us immediately began to drag and were sailing past us in every direction. It was very unnerving until they all eventually left. We remained securely set but the sea state had become quite uncomfortable although, having just come from a passage, we were able to endure it. However the next morning we thought we should find a better location and headed into the main part of the harbour.
The wind was blowing 30 knots in our face and we were surprised at how busy the bay was with ferries, power and sail boats, fast cats, police boats and the like. We cruised through a few bays searching out an anchorage but mooring balls took up all the available space. It was an extremely busy time of the year with the Christmas/Summer holidays in full swing and the start of the Sydney Hobart Race in a few days.
We finally spotted an opening in amongst the throng of boats on mooring balls in Rushcutter's Bay and dropped the hook. However we were inundated with wake from boats and ferries to the point that we did not feel secure. We took our dinghy into the nearby Cruising Club of Australia where all the boats entered in the Sydney Hobart Race were berthed. We immediately were befriended by a wonderful gentleman whose name was Merv. He was so kind and helpful and before long the Club had offered us a temporary mooring ball. Then Merv personally drove us around the area and took us shopping for groceries. He even arranged passes for us as "Sydney-Hobart Race Crew" so we could use the facilities of the Club. We will always remember his generosity and hope someday we will see him again.
Although we were snug on our mooring ball, we were close to the main passageway in the harbour so had to put up with endless rocking and rolling from all the boat traffic. But at night the waters were calm so we could sleep. It was fascinating to watch all the activities, especially the long sleek racing sleds sail past us for their practice sessions. We especially enjoyed the nightly migration of thousands of Flying Foxes as they left the Botanical Gardens and flew directly over the boat to feed.
We found everything in the area to be quite convenient with the supermarket only 15 minutes walk away and King's Cross about 10 minutes. King's Cross is a colourful area known for its nightlife, a red light district and home to various Backpacker Hostels. Internet was really cheap at only $2/ hour. Also at King's Cross was the train station that was a quick transport to downtown Sydney. There was also a bus that stopped near the marina.
December 25, 2005
The day we had been waiting for had arrived! The day Chris was coming to visit for Christmas. We had arranged to get to the airport via the Shuttle that would pick us up at a nearby hotel so we were up early and very excited.
After enthusiastic welcoming hugs, I had to hold back my tears of joy as we had not seen Chris since his visit last Christmas. We hopped back on the shuttle and were fortunate to be dropped off last, giving Chris a chance to get in a quick tour of many of the highlights of downtown Sydney.
Chris got settled in at the boat and we began our Christmas celebrations. I had decorated the boat once again but for our Australian Christmas, we had a little tree covered in koala bears!
We spent the morning opening our stockings and just enjoying the company.
In the afternoon, we took a bus from Rushcutter's Bay to Rose Bay where we began a coastal walk to Neilsen Park. The route took us through some exclusive residential areas with a lot of hill climbing that afforded great views of the city. We eventually reached the Neilsen Park Beach but it was jam-packed with people, enjoying the hot sun on Christmas Day. We stayed only long enough for a beverage, then took the bus back and returned to the boat.
Boxing Day 2005
Today was the start of the much anticipated Sydney Hobart Race. We had been fortunate enough to be moored right near the yacht club where all the contenders were preparing their boats and crew for the big day. We had seen a lot of the sleek racing sleds close up as they slipped past us into the bay for practice sessions.
The harbour was packed with hundreds of boats and the shores lined with spectators waiting for the yachts to plough through the harbour heads to participate in the famous grueling race to Hobart, Tasmania. Unfortunately Gord and I were still onshore making Christmas phone calls when many of the boats paraded past Ascension on the way to the start line.
Royal Botanical Gardens
We walked from our anchorage to downtown by way of the Botanical Gardens. The route took us through some residential areas, then past the commercial government docks where a number of war ships were berthed. The Botanical Gardens is a huge waterfront area with well tended flower beds, duck ponds and native birds. We followed the waterfront to Mrs Macquaries Chair, then around Farm Cove to the Opera House.
The Sydney Opera House is an icon of Australia with its white roofs, evocative of full sails and white shells. The final price tag on building this structure was $102 million, fourteen times original estimates.
We did not tour the inside but had an interesting walk around its perimeter.
Close up, the building consists of thousands of chevron shaped white tiles. Inside, there are five performance arts centres plus two restaurants, several cafes and bars, an art gallery and souvenir shop.
December 27, 2005
Gord's 50th Birthday!!
Unfortunately, Gord's 50th was pretty low keyed as there were no other cruisers around us to party with. Instead we had very busy day, walking around downtown Sydney.
With a population of more than 4 million Sydney exudes multicultural energy. We took the train to the downtown core and wandered the vibrant streets through modern skyscrapers, impressive historical government buildings, from the Town Hall, down Market Street, and Haymarket which is predominately Sydney's Chinatown, ending up at the Queen Victoria Building.
Built in 1898 and since restored the QVB houses an upmarket shopping meca. We were only on the lower "Bargain" Floor but the windows displayed name brand high end items like watches, jewelry, and a general focus on fashion, many of the price tags being in the high hundreds and even $1000+ range.
The building was crowded shoulder to shoulder with line-ups waiting to get into all the shops. Most of the shoppers were oriental. After an attempt to get a bite to eat we could not get out of the congested, noisy claustrophobic atmosphere fast enough!
We continued our walk down George Street, the oldest street in Australia, to the historical Rocks, where we explored the narrow alleys and streets with charming little courtyard cafes tucked into nooks and crannies throughout the area.
The bustling Quay is the launching pad for harbour ferries, busses and trains. The area is lined with fast food outlets, newsstands and trinket shops. Bordering the harbour, the walkway has great views of the city.
And entertainment provided by street performers keeps you busy while waiting for your bus!.
We thought the monorail would be an interesting way to see some more of the city center but the train was always so crowded that we had a hard time getting on. Finally we reached Darling Harbour which is the popular entertainment and retail precinct centered around the redeveloped old wharf. Darling Harbour and the adjacent Cockle Bay is very touristy with dozens of restaurants.
Part of the Maritime Museum, located at Darling Harbour, is home to the navy destroyer HMAS Vampire and a submarine, the HMAS Onslow, both permanently on display. Chris and Gord were eager to tour the vessels while I was content to rest my feet on a nearby bench in the shade.
The boys had an interesting time exploring the war ship and submarine. Also on display was a replica of the James Cook's Endeavour.
We continued to enjoy the attractions of Darling Harbour stopping for a bite to eat at one of the restaurants on King Street Wharf.
Then we headed to the Sydney Aquarium to see some fish.