Sydney Arrival - the journey ends....
jT - Sun and wind, with clouds coming
12/16/2009, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Sailing into Sydney is a magnificent ordeal. All of the twelve thousand miles we have sailed fall away into memory as we finally arrive. The trials and accomplishment of what we have done is fulfilled with the end of the journey.
Sydney harbor is by far the grandest harbor into which we have sailed. High sandstone heads protect a inner harbor that has great arms directly ahead and to the left. We leave the arm ahead - Middle Harbor, and the Northern Harbor of Manly for later exploration. We proceed to the left down into Port Jackson and the city of Sydney. The harbor is a hive of activity, with ferry traffic of all sizes, pleasure motor boats, sailors galore, it's all happening on Sydney Harbor. Kirsty was snapping away photos as I steered us through the mayhem.
We have picked an excellent day to arrive, as the Maxi yachts are racing in the Big Boat Challenge. Super Maxis are racing sailboats of incredible size and speed. Just under 30m or 98-foot, they have masts that tower up 42 meters (~140 feet), so compared to Nemesis with a 18.5 meter mast (60 feet) they dwarf us. With cruising speeds of 12 knots under motor and up to 35 knots under sail, they can MOVE! A few of the big maxi's were practicing and coming right at us. A small correction and these huge sailboats roar past us, yet hardly make a sound.
We continued into the harbor and rounded Bradleys Head and watched as the Opera House and Harbor Bridge made their appearance. Spectacular! They make the view of the harbor and without them, Sydney would just be another big city port. We sail further in and snap off hundreds of photos, hard to believe we are actually here after all the time coming across the Pacific. With the Opera House and Bridge photos complete, we return down the harbor to position ourselves for the Big Boat Challenge.
The race is a racers dream. Huge boats scream away from the starting line. After rushing out to the heads, they come screaming back, tacking up the channel with asymmetrical spinnakers as they fly downwind. The lead is the Australian yacht Wild Oats, with the New Zealand Alfa Romeo close behind. They are on separate tacks, so they weave a zigzag back and forth, only meeting once per tack. As they approach us, we are right off the top turning mark. Spinnakers come flying down as they round the mark. Wild Oats is barely in the lead with Alfa Romeo no more than ten feet off their stern as they rush by us. Incredible! But even more so is the rush of motorboats that are following along behind them. From fast RIBs to 100' motor cruisers and catamarans, over a hundred boats chase after the leaders. The harbor waters were relatively smooth as the Maxis glide past, but with all the chasing boats, it quickly churns into a froth! It's like being out in the ocean, waves confused and everywhere... too funny, we've came this far and some of the most confused seas we meet are in the Sydney Harbor.
Wild Oats had a wine glassed spinnaker (when the spinnaker gets a twist in it midway up, looking like a wine glass) on the last part of the downwind run. It was just enough to let Alfa Romeo thunder past and beat them convincingly. Looks like it will be a Aussie-New Zealand showdown for the 2009 Sydney-Hobart race (Wild Oats has won the last four Sydney-Hobart's in a row).
With the racing done, we settle into the protected anchorage by the Sydney Zoo. It is a perfect view of the city, Opera House and Harbor Bridge as we sip cocktails and watch twilight come. Occasional ferry wakes gently rock us as we soak in the view...
Ahhh Sydney... we are finally home...
Alfa Romeo with an overlap
jT - Photos by KB
12/16/2009, Sydney Harbor
Now that's what I call an overlap! 100' yachts with just a few feet between them... You can just see the stern of Wild Oats on the left, and the maxi Alfa Romeo in profile...
Sydney Harbor Maxi Racing
jT - Photos by KB
12/16/2009, Sydney Harbor
Wild Oats and Alfa Romeo Super Maxi racing yachts rounding the mark (lower right - the Orange buoy just behind the stern on the blue boat on the right side). Wild Oats barely has a lead and will force Alpha Romeo outside the mark. Note the size difference, as the foreground white and blue yachts are 12+m boats. The Maxis are 30m with 42m high masts!
The Pittwater and Hawkesbury
jT - Windy, Clouds and Rain coming
12/12/2009, New South Wales, Australia
After spending the last seven weeks crusing down Australia, we finally reached our destination... Sydney.
We had a quick sail down from Port Stephens, covering 80 miles in a little over 12 hours. The Northerly held long enough to get us into the Pittwater, which is just 20 miles shy of Sydney. We anchored and were amazed by the shear number of sailboats moored, anchored and in marinas! Literally thousands of them in a fair sized bay.
A few boats we know were going out for dinner at the local pub, Honeymoon with Seth and Elizabeth, and Victory Cat with Tim and Ruth. We met up and had a great dinner, good to catch up. Also congratulations to Seth and Elizabeth, as we found out she is pregnant. Their journey ends just in time to fly back to San Francisco and settle back into life. Andy and Jane on Drimia invited us to dinner, but we were just heading out so we'll see them on Christmas Day.
After a few days relaxing in the Pittwater, we moved up into the national parks of the Hawkesbury. Just one turn left near the headlands entrance and all the boats and busyness of the Pittwater disappears. Left are beautiful shores of trees and sandstone cliffs. Quite a beautiful part of the coast and so close to Sydney, I'm sure we'll find our way up here for weekends to just get away from the bustle of Sydney in the coming months.
After a relaxing night on water as smooth as glass, we headed out for Sydney around 6am. Our friends on Honeymoon and Victory Cat were also planning to leave, so we ended us meeting them right around the headlands. Only 15 miles of sailing and once the wind dropped, motor sailing to go and our goal will have been achieved.
No more overnighters.... hooray
KB, Blue Skies and Sunny
12/11/2009, Underway from Port Stephens to Pittwater
We are cruising down the coast of NSW heading towards the Pittwater, which is about 20 miles north of Sydney. It's a 60 mile run down from Port Stephens, where we have spent the last week. A great day for sailing, 10-15 knots out of the North East, we have the swell and a small current running with us to help us along, the sun is shining, you cant ask for more. I'm on watch while Jeff takes a nap.
We did our last overnight sail a week ago moving Nemesis from Surfers Paradise to Port Stephens - what a relief to not have to do any more night watches. It took us 2 days and we had a little bit of everything, northerlies, southerlies, we sailed, motored and watched an amazing electrical storm, thankfully it was off in the distance, not a place you want to be with your 60 foot mast presenting a perfect lightening rod to the sky. We pulled into Port Stephens last Sunday. It's a huge bay, bigger than Sydney Harbour they say, and we found a nice, very protected anchorage - Fame Cove - to spend the night. With water like glass and a few friendly dolphins living it the bay it was a great place to sleep off the passage. Monday morning saw me heading down to Sydney on the bus to do some job interviews. Jeff stayed in Port Stephens, looked after the boat and even managed to get in a race at the local club on Wednesday afternoon, just as I was arriving back from Sydney. My two days in Sydney went in a blur, running around doing job interviews and generally trying to get back into the swing of life in the big city. My feet are certainly not ready for it, after a day of walking around Sydney in high heels I limped back to my friends Larell and Matt - who kindly put me up for a couple of days - with blisters on every toe. The next day I started out in thongs, a very stylish accessory to my little black suit, but at least I could walk. Problem was, later in the day, I was running short on time between interviews and ended up running down Pitt Street in my heels, lets just say that bleeding toes in a job interview is not the best look!
The last couple of days have been at a much slower pace. We moved over to Nelson Bay, still in Port Stephens, and picked up a mooring ball for the first night and then fueled up at the marina and took a courtesy berth so we could do some boat maintenance for the second day. Jeff had to do some minor engine repairs, the hose clamp came off the heat exchange line and all our antifreeze leaked into the bilge... bugger. Next job was to go up the mast again so that we could rerun our main halliard, the knot from last time came undone so without it no main for the sail down to the Pittwater, which slows us down a lot. Having done that Jeff decided to wash all the rod rigging, its now sparkling in the sunlight.
We will spend a couple of days in the Pittwater while we wait for the next Northerly to come through and then we will make our final 20 mile sail down to Sydney. We both are really looking forward to sailing into Sydney Harbour, what a great place to end our amazing adventure.
Russell Island to Surfer's Paradise, what could go wrong?? :)
jT - Windy, but warm and sunny
11/25/2009, Southern Moreton Bay to The Broadwaters
After a relaxing night spent with Georges and Annie on Trio, well at their actual HOUSE on Russell Island, we got back to Nemesis and prepared to leave the anchorage. Kirsty has been majorly stressed out over all of the shallow spots between Moreton Bay and Surfer's Paradise. As we are checking tides and planning a time to leave, our friends Paul and Lynn on White Hawk call and let us know they are passing by. We plan to meet up with them on the far side of Russell Island in the main channel in about an hour.
We pick up anchor, after fighting with our stern anchor in the shallow water and flooding tide, and finally are on our way. I love the scenary around Russell, low islands with lots of trees and folage, pleanty of wildlife for Kirsty to spot! Dodging ferries and other boats, we pop around the island with no major depth issues... albeit we are in 10 feet of water with a 7'10" draft! Hmmm maybe that's why Kirsty is stressing? :)
We meet up with White Hawk and they take the lead on the next few miles down the Main Channel. We safely pass under a huge set of power lines that feed Russell Island, our 18.5 meter mast clearing the 23.5 meter low bit by tons... funny how it still looks awful close! Around a few bends we close on the boat ramp at Cabbage Tree Point, seriously shallow and seriously close to shore! We are in 9 feet of water and not more than 40 feet off the beach, and this is the deepest part of the main channel!... According to the charts, we have now passed the shallowest bit of this passage... A few bends later we anchored at Jacobs Well for the night. Nemesis hosts White Hawk for a night of Mexican and Margaritas... I think we are all glad the tide doesn't start rising until early afternoon the next day!
The last section we have been told to worry about is just a few buoy's down from Jacobs Well... it is marked "Shoals" on the chart, but all the books and charts show it to be 2 meters at low tide... no problem! NOT! We pop into shore that morning and go talk to the guys at VMR Jacobs Well. (Volunteer Marine Rescue - they dot the Australian coast and log boats on passage, provide on the water assistance when needed and generally do a great service to boaters.... all as volunteers!) We inquire as to when the section below Kangaroo Island has last been dredged, as it's listed at 2m in our charts... They LAUGH at and with us... Dredged?... Never, not that we have ever seen! So with some updated info from the VMR, we find out the low tide depth will be 0.7 meters... and the tide is only 1.2 meters... hmmm that only adds to 1.9 meters and we have a 2.3 meter depth! What to do, what to do! Kirsty votes to turn back, but of course I want to go have a look and make sure it's really that shallow...
So we plan to inform VMR when we go thru, and they will come out in the Rescue boat to assist in needed... We also get on White Hawk and they agree to set thier depth sounder to feet and call out the depth they see as they proceed in front of us... Kirsty and I agree that if they see much less then 7 feet, we'll reconsider... thinking about waiting a week for higher tides or going back to Brisbane and taking the sea route outside to Surfer's Paradise... with the departure delayed for 1.5 hours, we are full of plans, contingencies, and assumptions... and we all know what assume means (ASS-U-ME).
So at 1:30pm we take off in convoy with White Hawk... the VMR boat had to go and pull another power boat off a sand bank they found after running out of fuel, we we are going it alone. With White Hawk in the lead we trail after them like a lost puppy ... I had spent my time waiting by securing all the mast head halyards to a rope and rigging a front towing bridle if we need it. White Hawk ghosts ahead of us and passes over the shallow shoal with a reading of 9 feet of water! Yeah!!! We follow close behind and I try to stay in the same track I recall them following... CLUNK! Well, more of a SWISH... and a quick deceleration as the sandy bottom grabs hold... Our keel is a straight fin keel, so when we touch bottom, it is only a small section three feet long by about six inches... this allows us to 'plow' through small bits of shallow sand. With that said, I slowly start to power through the shoals... Kirsty is NOT happy, but I try and distract her by having her watch the GPS to see if we are moving at all. Back at the helm, I can feel the bottom as we slowly move over it.... even the little bumps and undulations on the bottom can be felt if your in tune with the boat.
We are about 2/3 of the way through when the VMR boat shows up from their other job. They ask if we need help, I tell them I'm making headway through the sand, but if they wouldn't mind grabbing our halyard line and tilting us, it would make it much easier on the boat, engine and shoal bottom! They come up and take the line from Kirsty and pull away. It was kinda fun to watch the VMR guys, three volunteers in a souped up rescue boat all with grins like big kids at Christmas! I'm thinking they don't see too many deep draft sailboats in this part of the world :) (it's mostly motor yachts and catarmarans in this part of Queensland). So with a quick check over the radio, VMR pulls us over to a 30 degree heal to the starboard. It's a normal feeling to heel in Nemesis, but they only thing missing was the wind and waves that normally go with it! Within seconds the keel un-mucked from the sand and we are doing 4 knots through the shoals.
The VMR boat stays attached as we cover the few hundred yards to the last shoal. This time I call out my depth and let them know when they need to start pulling us over. Just as we start to touch the bottom, a gentle pull by VMR gives us an extra 3 feet of depth. Finally through the shoals Kirsty is wearing a huge smile, elated and relieved! Half a slab of stubbies donated to the cause, the VMR is well thanked and on their way back to base. Kirsty still argues that we were 'rescued', but since we were technically still moving forward, they just did us a big assist :) See, always Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus... go figure :)
Safely through the narrow shoals, the rest of the afternoon trip into Surfer's Paradise is a breeze. It's quite a beautiful part of the world, very shallow, but I'm liking the scenery! We get around all the ferry and boat traffic to find a very protected anchorage at the Spit, right off of Sea World. We have been warned that it is Schoolies week in Surfer's so we'll see if there really are high school graduates all over the place, drinking and doing other things according to the new reports. More in the next blog!