02Jan2014, Bantry Bay
We are currently anchored in Bantry Bay in Middle Harbour. Here, although relatively close to the city, you could be 300 miles away. There are a few courtesy moorings here but they are rated for smaller vessels only, and in any case we feel happiest on our own tackle, which we trust.
This is a quiet and very sheltered bay, a bit snug as it's quite narrow and has shoals along its shores and at the head, but nonetheless roomy enough not to be hassled by other anchored or moored vessels. We explored Castle Cove and Killarney right up to Echo Point yesterday by dinghy, and found it very pretty but full of noisy water-ski and wake-board boats.
Today we had a late start and on a very high tide went ashore for some bushwalking. We took the Bay Track through Garigal National Park and joined onto the Bluff Track which climbs very steeply to Forestville, then along the edge of Garigal NP to join the very steep Timbergetters' Track down to the anchorage. It was a moderately strenuous walk but was worth the effort for the views and the beautiful native wildflowers and occasional fauna such as goannas and frogs.
We had anchored in a good NE breeze and were happy where we lay but a sudden SSE change made the western edge of the bay a lee shore so we upped anchor and dropped in a more central position in deeper water, so we can relax and sleep well tonight.
Have a look at some new pics - click here
Bye for now! And we hope 2014 is everything all our friends want it to be.
Cheers from us.
31Dec2013, Careening Cove, Sydney
We're back! After a total Sailblog vacuum for several months, we are back on the water; only in home waters mind you, but that can't last too long if I know me. All the family medical issues are sorted and equilibrium has been restored.
Well, almost. During this recent period of the equivalent of "home detention" John managed to get himself tangled up in far too much work, of a regular and millstone-like nature. Oh well, think of the money! Well, so did our son Matthew, who decided to marry Jane. It was, following their usual style, an understated and modest affair, but weddings don't come cheap however you cut it. But it was money well-spent, as they had a wonderful day and an adventurous honeymoon in Vietnam.
"Destiny" has not been coddled and fussed over the way she should have this last several months, but we are luckier than we deserve and she has survived a Winter of semi-neglect almost without any failures of note. John has been catching up on the maintenance these last couple of weeks - repairing one of the foot-actuated anchor windlass switches, maintaining the outboards, getting the heads plumbing running perfectly again, and so on.
We have been alongside at the Squadron doing this work, and will be heading out onto the harbour tonight to watch the famous Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks display. Shauna's sister Claire and her husband are anchored over in Farm Cove to watch the fireworks, and we took the inflatable dinghy over the harbour to visit with them this afternoon for lunch.
My, the harbour was busy - it was like crossing a freeway whilst on crutches, dodging ferries, speeding motor cruisers and water taxis. We stopped under the shelter of a rock face below the Prime Minister's Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, and waited for a bit of a gap in the traffic then bolted across the channel into a moderate breeze and chop, getting somewhat wet in so doing! But it was great to see them on their "Trident", another steel yacht, and share some relaxation - at least until the usual hoons in big motor cruisers came in and gave a display of careless, selfish and just plain ignorant anchoring that saw a few nerves strained across the bay.
Then back into the dinghy and across the freeway again, safe on "Destiny" once more. It's so calming to be back on-board and enjoying the simple pleasures again.
Shortly after we were back on board, who should come along the dock but James Kelman, an Aussie now living in Britain, who sailed on "Destiny" during the time Theo Taylor had stewardship of her. He came aboard and was chuffed to see how well she looks and was very impressed by Pete Walduck's changes and our fine touches.
We've put a few pics of the day in the photo gallery, including some shots from the Harbour Bridge of the crowds gathering early in the day in the various harbourside parks to get prime spots for tonight's display. Click here to see them.
As usual, we were sucked into the vortex of city life as soon as we pulled up at the dock at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Resulting in the blog lying neglected for two months.....
Our son Matt had left a car at the Squadron for us, so we were able to take our freezer-load of wahoo and tuna home, along with whatever we needed to clothe ourselves and get back into civilisation. Well, civilisation is a word they apply to Sydney life. We aren't sure. The very first thing John noticed was the ineffable rudeness and aggression on the roads as we drove our gear home - unprovoked, gratuitous and irrational rudeness - "If I let you into my lane on the bridge, I'm going to die!" kind of rudeness. After living at 5 knots for the last 6 months it's inexplicable and undigestible to us.
But we got to see Matt, Jane, Tom and Amanda and our wider families, as well as sailing and other friends, so that was part-compensation.
We arrived in Sydney on a Thursday, and had our first patrol at the Surf Club on the Saturday, and John got immediately into training a group of new Rescue Boat crew, so that has tied up Saturdays for him since then. Shauna is back managing First Aid for the Club and she is also busy teaching Advanced Resuscitation. It is so nice to meet up again with all our Surf Club friends, whom we really miss when away.
"Destiny" came through the season with only a few blemishes, and no really significant issues to address, so we count ourselves lucky. We are trying to use her this summer as much as we can, but time always seems to be the issue at home. We aren't handling the transition as well as "Destiny" - each time we go cruising, it seems to get harder to come back to life where stupid trivia and material trappings seem to be more and more important to people every year. This seems to manifest itself in all walks of life. It becomes more and more important to drive a gleaming 2 tonne 4WD capable of reaching 200KPH to go to the supermarket. Kids seem fatally infected with the virus that confers sanctity on "Fame" - trashy celebrities with nothing to say and less to do are the heroes and aspirational models for so many young people - bling is everything.
We miss the disingenuous, artless smiles and natural generosity of the Ni-Van people, their patience with life's problems and with each other. We feel more comfortable where someone can come up to you and say "Hello! I'm Isaiah - where are you from?" without arousing suspicion in us and making us look over our shoulders for their accomplices.
Plans for this coming season are uncertain, due to some family medical issues, but we remain hopeful of getting away from what we call "Compression Sickness". John is cooking up a plan to get some medical outreach going in Vanuatu, and we may have something to report on that soon.
The pic above is of a lovely moonrise we had while anchored at Ilot Mbe Kouen; Grande Terre is in the background, looking rugged and impressive, and the moon is shining over the calm waters of the lagoon like a good old friend coming to visit.
A few new photos are here.
18Sep2012, Coffs Harbour
Our visit to Brisbane was an in-and-out affair: arrival at Caloundra at 20:00 Friday night, the long motor into Moreton Bay and through the reefs and shoals to Brisbane River Bar, through the commercial docks and up to Rivergate Marina (arrival 09:00 Saturday - a long journey after "arriving" at Caloundra). Check-in, fork out $618 AUD, collapse into coma having had 2 hours sleep in the previous 48, wake and call Emma and Ian ("Desire ll") our cruising friends and arrange to meet them. Lunch Sunday with them, a quick trip to the IGA Supermarket and back on board to leave at 20:00 on the outgoing tide for Coffs Harbour. Same snake-like exit and then the open sea at 05:00 Monday morning.
We had a gentle trip to Coffs, with light NE breezes and no hassles for most of the voyage. From the moment we cleared Moreton Bay and slid south past North Stradbroke Island, we were almost surrounded by whales. They are prolific this year - adults and calves frolicking and sunning themselves - mothers seeming to instruct the young in the correct methods of breaching, tail-slapping and rolling. It is nice to see how the numbers have recovered in the last few years. We had one very close encounter as we raised the mainsail just out of Moreton Bay, near the fairway buoy, when one curious adult came and just sat watching what John was doing for a minute or so from a distance of 10 metres - close enough to smell his bad fishy breath!
Coming into Coffs we were set upon by a severe electrical storm but the winds and waves from it were insubstantial and we were able to motor into the Marina as it passed (we were within internet range so Shauna monitored its progress on the Met Bureau website - so useful!), and Pete Walduck was there as usual to greet us and help us onto the dock. A couple of very welcome lagers with Pete and a reheated curry saw us off to bed for 10 hours of the deepest slumber we have had for many a week.
14Sep2012, Rivergate Marina, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
As per expectations the early motor-sailing was followed by some delightful sailing for a few days. The front and embryonic low pressure centre started showing on the GRIBs as extending farther north than anticipated (especially, farther than anticipated by US!! and farther than anticipated by us BEFORE we left!!) Oh well, it wouldn't be a cruising season without a couple of days with the two of us both wondering whether bonzai or Barbie doll collecting wouldn't be a wonderful pastime. We definitely made the right choice to avoid going south into it but nonetheless there's a limit to how many multiples of Mach 1 a heavy old steel cruising cutter can do to avoid strong winds and seas.... So the front caught us, gave us a reminder of who's boss, but quickly moved on. We didn't put up a fight - just hove to and waited - no point in fighting City Hall as they say.
Following a patchy night's sleep jogging on the spot mid-ocean we continued the plan to clear in in Brisbane. The heaving-to of course put us a day behind, which most importantly meant that we were up for higher Saturday clearing-in fees. $618 AUD - for Australian citizens in an Australian vessel!! I really do think it's a bit much, but it's there and it has to be paid.
We'll only be here a few days max, as we have so many things to attend to back home. Everybody think REAL HARD now - moderate nor'easterly breezes for John and Shauna for four days - after a season of odd and unsatisfactory sailing weather, we feel we deserve it.
12Sep2012, Coral Sea
As we got further across the Coral Sea towards East Coast Australia, the GRIB weather files showed that what had a week ago shown as a weak low-pressure interlude between two high pressure systems was in fact developing a mind of its own and wanted to be noticed when it grew up. And so it came to pass - directly on our rhum line the cold front was whipping up the coast from below Tasmania and was slated to cause 35 to 40 knot average wind strength (that is gale force) and very confused seas - and worse, the 40 knots were going to come from precisely the direction we were planning to head.. Mindful of the fact that nobody is paying us to do this, and life is probably more fun if it's fun, we convened a meeting of our Cowardly Cruising Sailors Association branch and elected, after a conversation lasting all of three seconds, to divert north to Brisbane - where, other than a change in wind direction, little evidence of the front was expected. So this morning, Thursday 13 September at 06:00 hours local time, here we are pleasantly sailing on a beam reach to the north tip of Bribie Island, from where we will sail down the relatively sheltered waterway of Moreton Bay, inside Bribie, Moreton and Stradbroke Islands. Customs clearance in Brisbane is done at the Rivergate Marina, a good 6 miles up the Brisbane River - so it's quite a hike going north to enter the bay then south inside it then several miles upriver to the Quarantine dock at Rivergate. We could see this as time-wasting, but almost anything's better than a gale from dead ahead. We'll be in the Bay at about 02:00 tonight and should dock at about 11:00; as we'll then officially be in Internet Land, we'll put up some more pics. Cheers from us
10Sep2012, Coral Sea
Well, we left Noumea Saturday lunchtime for Australia. We expected to have to motor-sail the first night, which we did, and then about 0700 the wind kicked in from SSE and we have been sailing in 15 to 20 knots since then. The breeze is fine but we have had a significant swell from the south which has been quite annoying at times. We are now at 22deg 18 south latitude and 159deg 58 east longitude. Progress has been good with beam winds for the last 18 hours. We would like to be in Coffs Harbour before the next cold front comes up from the south, but it's a bit difficult to know if we can as the fronts pass up the coast at quite a variable rate. Anyhow, one way or the other we should get to Coffs by the weekend. Cheers to all, John and Shauna