08 March 2019 | Blue Mountains, NSW
03 March 2019 | Sydney Opera House,
04 February 2019 | Bantry Bay, NSW
15 January 2019 | Woolloomooloo, Australia
12 January 2019 | SCG, Australia
11 January 2019 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
31 December 2018 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
30 December 2018 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
26 December 2018 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
25 December 2018 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
18 December 2018 | Pittwater NSW, Australia
17 December 2018 | Newcastle, NSW Australia
12 December 2018 | Newcastle, NSW Australia
03 December 2018 | Redcliffe, Queensland
30 November 2018 | Fraser Island, Queensland
26 November 2018 | Bundaberg, Queensland
13 November 2018 | Bundaberg, Qld
04 November 2018 | Bundaberg QLD
27 October 2018 | Bundaberg, Qld
26 October 2018 | Pacific
Beautiful Blue Mountains
08 March 2019 | Blue Mountains, NSW
One of the things we cruisers really appreciate is cheap, or even better, free public transport. Whether it's the courtesy buses provided by One 15 in Singapore, Shelter Bay in Panama or Bundaberg Marina, the "Dollar Bus" of the US Virgin Islands or the free Transit zone of downtown Newcastle, we love an easy way to get around to both attend to business and to sightsee. Here in Sydney, Sunday is Public Transport Funday with fares capped at AUD2.70 max, irrespective of distance travelled. All you need is an Opal Card with a few dollars credit and you can happily tap and go!
We made the most of this sensational deal last weekend, heading off for a day in the Blue Mountains, some 100km out of town. Leaving early, we hopped on the Light Rail at Glebe, then jumped onboard the Blue Mountains Train at Central for our 1 hour 45 minute trip to Katoomba. After trundling through miles and miles of suburbia, we caught our first glimpse of the mountains as we crossed the Nepean River and entered the foothills. Named for the blue haze created by the evaporation of eucalyptus tree oils (the technical term is Mie scattering), the mountains form part of the massive Great Dividing Range. They were the home of the Gundungurra, Darkinjung, Wiradjuri and Darug peoples long before they were spied by European settlers and according to Dreamtime stories, they came to be when Mirigan and Garangatch, half fish/man and half reptile/man fought a mighty battle, scarring the landscape and creating what is now known as the Jamison Valley.
We arrived at Katoomba station just after 0930. The mountain air was crisp and clean as we headed down the main street (Katoomba's own Cappuccino Strip) for coffee. Then it was on to the bus for Scenic World, our plan being to do all the rides before the tourist coaches arrived and the place got too crowded. First we took the Scenic Railway; with its 52 degree incline, it's the steepest passenger railway in the world and it's one heck of a ride down a sheer 310M cliff face and into the rainforest below. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can ramp up your seat incline to 62 degrees ... it's called the Cliffhanger experience and it's electrifying! The views out across the valley through the glass-roofed carriages are spectacular ... although hanging on for dear life makes it tricky to get any photos when underway !! Alighting onto the lower level boardwalk, there's a delightful 2.4 km pathway through Jurassic-era rainforest, filled with stunning ghost gums, red gums, waratah, banksia, lilly pilly, stands of ancient cycads, mountain ferns and limitless species of flowering bush plants. It's home to lyre birds, to glossy black cockatoos, to sooty owls; even the tree dwelling booroolong frog, and if you're lucky, you can hear it's soft "craww craww craww" across the silence of the ravine.
As you look up to the top of the imposing cliffs from the rainforest floor, it's hard to imagine that once, coal mining was actively occurring in the mountains until you spy the remains of a 19th century pulley system that was used to cart buckets of coal and shale from down in the Jamison Valley to the rail siding above. The industry declined following a banking crisis and localised depression in the late 1890's although the scars of old shafts still show if you peer closely at the landscape. Scenic World has also set up a stylised display using discarded original coal skips and digging tools plus a replica miners hut.
With our rainforest meander over, we jumped on the Cableway and headed 545M upward, the amazing panorama of the iconic Three Sisters and Mount Solitary laid out in front of us as we ascended. The Sisters are named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. According to legend, they fell in love with three men of a neighbouring mob and with tribal law banning marriage between the clans, the men decided to kidnap the sisters. A battle ensued, and to protect the girls, the Kurdaitcha man turned them to stone. This elder was then killed in the fighting, and his magic could not be reversed.
As we reached the cliff summit, we gazed out over Orphan Rock, once a favoured hike up a set of rickety wooden steps for daredevil tourists. It was permanently closed in the 1970s following a significant rock slide which destroyed the track and much of the staircase. Our cableway driver indicated that the occasional "rock jock" will give in to the temptation of scaling this amazing sandstone pillar ... however the police reception upon descent is less than congratulatory.
With the park starting to fill up, we headed for the Scenic Skyway. This aerial cable car, with it's partial glass floor, provides a sensational 360 degree view of Katoomba Falls, the Sisters and the vast landscape as you travel 270M above the Jamison Valley floor from west to east. Once on the other side, there's a Bush track that will take you to Echo Point and the base of the Three Sisters. You can also follow a path that leads you to the top of the waterfall, although at this time of year, there is limited water flowing. After a wander towards the Sisters, we headed back on the Skyway to pick up our next bus.
Following the road around to Leura, the bus passed the Echo Point Scenic Lookout, which was absolutely heaving with day trippers. We opted to instead make our way into town for a good old fashioned pub lunch at the Alexandra Hotel. Built in 1903, this elegant Queen Anne style two storey property, built on a hill to capture views of the mountains, is the only licensed hotel in Leura. There's a 26 metre sandstone paved front balcony and inside, the original kauri staircase is a stand out feature We opted to sit out in the very inviting beer garden, listening to a local musician strumming gentle folk rock whilst we tucked into delicious country fare.
With lunch over, we jumped on our next bus and headed out to Gordon Falls and hiked downhill to the lookout. There's a fabulous view across to the back of the Sisters, there's the drop off of the falls and you can just see a sliver of Lake Burragorang off in the distance. Other than a couple of young French backpackers, we had the place to ourselves. Heading back up the hill, we came across an "Open Edible Garden", one of several taking part in an annual meet and greet the public event. We were invited in to view their organic fruit trees, vegetable beds herb gardens and apiary and as we wandered around to the back of the property, we were hit with the most amazing view of Mt Solitary. It was great to chat with the owners and to learn a little of their organic gardening principles; their honey was sensational and we happily handed over a few dollars for a jar of their golden sunshine.
Time was ticking away so it was back on the bus and off to the train station for the return trip to town. We've only scratched the surface of these beautiful mountains and will definitely be back to explore some more! We arrived back onboard Elevation just after 1815 - it had been a long, exhilarating, interesting and enjoyable day out.
All well onboard.
Singing the Praises of the Sydney Opera House
03 March 2019 | Sydney Opera House,
We fell in love with Sydney the very first time we visited back in the early 1990s. I'd been honoured with a State Award for exceptional client service by my employer which gifted Paul and I with an all expenses paid long weekend in the Harbour City. We stayed in a plush CBD hotel; we picnicked on Shark Island while we watched all the action of the 12 Metre Challenge Yacht racing; we explored Circular Quay and The Rocks; we meandered throughTaronga Park Zoo and we checked out Doyle's Seafood Restaurant, at the time the most popular eatery in town. We even sat on the top table with then Managing Director Don Mercer and the famed Aussie yachtsman Peter Gilmore for dinner one night! We've had several trips to Sydney since - always full on visits - but somehow, we've never had time to get to the Opera House.
A must do photo op location in Sydney( it's apparently the most Instagrammed place in town), this iconic building with its towering shells is instantly recognised and loved the world over. I remember how the marina office at Le Port, Reunion with its own arched "sails" surprised and delighted us with its homage to the Opera House when we arrived there onboard Elevation back in 2013. Spending summer around the city, we were determined to finally schedule a visit and so late last week, we headed to Circular Quay to join a SOH one hour walking tour. What a great experience! We started with a "Welcome to Country" acknowledgement honouring the Gadigal traditional owners. The Opera House sits on Bennelong Point at the eastern tip of Sydney Cove; this land being an important gathering place well before the arrival of Europeans. It was known as Tubowgule, or "the place where the knowledge waters meet" and was both a fertile fishing ground and a ceremonial location. I've been really impressed with the way that Sydney today embraces this ritual and consciously recognises First Nation culture and history.
With our individual headsets in place, we were ushered through the building by Jess, our very knowledgeable and entertaining guide. We were provided with the history of the House from conceptual design through to planned future renovations as we made our way into the various performance spaces that make up the complex. We learnt how back in the 1950's then Premier Joseph Cahill and his government identified that the fast growing city was in need of a new, larger multi-purpose arts facility and how they sourced 233 entries through an international design competition, offering a prize of £5000. The winning entry was by Jørn Utzon, at that stage a relatively unknown Danish architect who championed what he called "Additive Architecture"; his designs always emulating the patterns of nature. We learnt how the building came to life from Utzon's preliminary drawings though to completion, the construction taking from 1958 to 1973 with a hiatus due to cost overruns and a bitter battle between Utzon and subsequent NSW governments. We learnt how Utzon was continually questioned by Davis Hughes, one time Minister of Works, about everything from design to cost estimates and how Hughes eventually stopped payments to Utzon. This effectively forced Utzon to withdraw as chief architect in February 1966; even though he was supported through public protests by the people of NSW, he was forced to leave both his project and the country. Understandable angry and disappointed, he vowed never to return and sadly this ensured that he was deprived of the opportunity to see his completed work in person. He did, however, accept an olive branch offered by the Opera Houses board in 1999, re-engaging with the administrators and agreeing to develop a set of design principles which now act as a permanent reference guide for all future changes to the building.
We were shown the amazing vaulted support system, the "ribs" of the structure. We got up close and personal with the shells, covered with over a million two tone tiles to capture the suns rays. We checked out the various theatres of the House and we sat awhile in the stunning Dame Joan Sutherland theatre before taking a backstage walk through "La Stupendas" underground props area. We walked the purple carpeted steps of the Concert Hall, stopping to admire the stunning views out across to "The Coathanger", the Harbour and Pinchgut Island. We toured the Concert Hall proper, the beating heart of this sensational building, learning the Grand Organ, with its 10,154 pipes is actually the largest mechanical organ in the world. We got an understanding of the current acoustics and the soon to be implemented improvements to both sound and venue accessibility. Apparently the biggest complaint made by both tourists and concert goers is about there being too many steps!
With our tour at an end, we strolled out through the double glass doors and into glorious late summer Sydney sunshine. We stood on the expansive granite Monumental Steps, taking in once again the magnificence and beauty of this Eighth Wonder of the World. We had gained a new appreciation and understanding of a remarkable Danish visionary, whose stunning work was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO during his lifetime. We'd been thrilled to see the intricacies of the House, and we're so very proud of the hard working 10,000 + Aussies who breathed life into Utzons dream. It's a very fitting, modern structure that celebrates and ensures the continuation of an revered and ancient meeting place.
All dazzled onboard.
Beautiful Bantry Bay
04 February 2019 | Bantry Bay, NSW
There is something surreal about sitting on a mooring in the midst of native bushland just a few kilometres away from the centre of Sydney's bustling CBD. Bantry Bay, the sole remaining undeveloped cove in Sydney Harbour, is the centrepiece of the 2202 hectare Garigal National Park. Estimated to have been occupied for tens of thousands of years before European settlement, the park is home to over 100 recorded sites of the Guringai people including shelters, cave art, rock engravings, an abundance of middens and several tool sharpening grinding grooves. The traditional owners were coastal dwellers; the most famous being Bungaree, the first Aboriginal to be recorded in print as Australian. Bungaree accompanied Matthew Flinders onboard HMS Norfolk in 1798 acting as interpreter, guide and negotiator whilst Flinders completed a coastal survey of the NSW coast. He rejoined Flinders for the 1801-1803 HMS Investigator coastal exploration, providing diplomatic, interpretive and survival skill services as the expedition completed a full circumnavigation of Australia. Flinders was very much a fan of Bungaree, and his memoirs note his "good disposition and open and manly conduct", his bravery and his ability to defuse potential conflict situations with other Aboriginal peoples as they made their way around the continent.
Garigal forms part of a very important wildlife corridor spanning from Sydney Harbour out to the Blue Mountains. It's home to an amazing array of native animals, including the tiger quoll, the southern brown bandicoot and the eastern water dragon. There are stunning sandstone cliffs heavily forested with scribbly and red gum, grass trees, banksia, Australian tea tree and even the occasional stand of cycads. It's not old growth - the area was extensively logged in the 1800's - but it does provide a snapshot of how this whole area would have looked prior to colonial settlement. Today, you can follow the Timber Getters track from the National Park wharf to Seaforth Oval, a steep if short hike which provides amazing views of Bantry Bay below.
Gazetted as a public recreation area in 1879, Bantry Bay quickly became a popular daytrip and weekend destination known locally as "The Pleasure Gardens". By the start of the 20th Century it boasted a dance hall, picnic ground, a dining area and several summer gazebos and was serviced by the Balmain New Ferry. The seclusion led to the resumption of the land in 1906 for a government run explosives battery - despite an enormous public outcry - and the complex remained operational until 1974. The battery was mostly run as a commercial operation and stored explosives used for such projects as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the cities underground tunnels and railway system and the Newcastle Highway as well as servicing the NSW mining industry. During WW2, it was commandeered by the Allied Forces and used as a munition's depot for the war in the Pacific. Following its closure, the land was incorporated into the Davidson State Recreation Area. The NSW Government agreed to repair the complex however with contamination from lead and zinc, to date only one building has received any attention. There are eight public moorings in the bay provided through the very impressive NSW Road and Marine Services courtesy mooring scheme however other than a small public toilet block at the Timber Getters picnic spot on the eastern side of the bay, there are no other facilities.
We'd been informed by some local cruisers that Bantry Bay is a bull shark breeding site and that a number of attacks, including two fatalities, had occurred over the years. No swimming here then! Luckily the very pretty, clear water Flat Rock Beach is just a dinghy ride away should we need to cool off.
We are loving the serenity of the bay and each morning we are woken by the raucous laughter of the resident kookaburra choir. As we enjoy our first morning cuppa, the air explodes with the whip-crack duet calls of the eastern whip bird, a small, slim and black crested avian. As we consider breakfast options, the air reverberates with the cacophonous shrieks of cheeky sulphur crested cockatoos. Throughout the day assorted fish break the surface from time to time, silver gulls wheeling overhead endeavouring to share in whatever delicacies the fish are attracted to. On one very still, very hot Sydney afternoon we were amazed to see a metre long dragon swimming across the bay; we later spied a lone little penguin bobbing happily along the surface. As dusk arrives, we once again become the audience for the native birds, the kookaburras always being the last to sing the sun behind the western clifftop. It's a glorious reminder of the stunning natural beauty of our Lucky Country.
All well onboard.
A Wander around Woolloomooloo
15 January 2019 | Woolloomooloo, Australia
Just a few kilometres walk from the CYCA is the inner city harbourside suburb of Woollomooloo. Today it is a very upmarket location, but once, it was a sacred site and hunting ground for the Gadigal people. Gifted to the NSW colony's commissary-general, John Palmer in 1793, its fertile land was cleared for farming and Palmer dubbed his homestead "Woolloomooloo House" in deference to the Gadigal's name for the area, which is believed to mean "place of plenty".
The suburb's impossible-to-spell name has long captured the imagination, and understandably has been the subject of many a ditty. Children were encouraged to commit it to memory through this old spelling rhyme
Near Sydney Town there's a place of renown,
Which is well known to you, it's called Woolloomooloo,
It's easy to say, I know very well,
But Woolloomooloo is not easy to spell.
Double U double O double L double O M double O L double O
Now make that a feature, and I'll be the teacher,
Let everyone here have a go.
Of course, being Australia, most people just get around the problem by calling it the 'Loo.
With our marina job list completed, we took a stroll through the very well patronised Rushcutters Park and leafy, restaurant filled Elizabeth Bay. We made our way down the 113 sandstone steps of the McIlhone Stairs, built in 1904 and once called the "Stairs of Doom" for both the walkway connecting the exclusive settlement of Potts Point with the early 20th century slums of Woolloomooloo and for the nighttime sexual encounters offered on the steps and landings by local prostitutes. Interestingly, the stanchions of the stairs were used as a drop off and pick up point by 1960s Russian Embassy worker and spy Ivan Skripov who was arrested by ASIO in 1962. We strolled along Cowper Wharf Road, pausing to look over the home ported fleet at HMAS Kuttabul. There has been a naval presence here since the 1850's and today Fleet Base East occupies the bay. Nearby is the famed Harry's Cafe De Wheels, home of the iconic pie floater (aka Harry's Tiger) , which has been serving sailors, soldiers, cabbies, police, firemen and night owls since 1938.
Next, we checked out the redeveloped and heritage listed Finger Wharf. Owned by NSW Maritime, it was initially constructed in the early 1900's to berth shipping used in wool export and is the longest timber piled wharf in the world. Today it's the inner harbour 's fashionable address for luxury residential apartments, restaurants, a marina complex and the Ovolo Hotel. It's the perfect location for the contemporary Sculpture on the Wharf 2018-2019 exhibition and we happily checked out the amazing works positioned all around the area. My personal favourite was the very striking "Emerging Dragon" piece by Mike Van Dam, created from 4000m of 4mm 316 marine quality stainless steel chain. Just stunning! If you happen to be in Sydney before the end of March, add the exhibition to your "to do" list.
All artily impressed onboard.
Cricket, Culture and Crazes
12 January 2019 | SCG, Australia
We love cricket and we've really privileged to have been able to observe it in its many formats at so many different and varied locations across the globe as we've circumnavigated. How opportune to discover that the first One Day International match between Australia and India was scheduled to be played in Sydney - a perfect reason to both visit the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for the first time, and see our country's players in action.
With Opal cards in hand, we hopped the ferry from Darling Point to Circular Quay where we picked up the 373 bus for the 20 minute trip through the city and out to the SCG. One of the oldest and most prestigious sporting venues in Australia, the ground was established on a section of the second Sydney Common in 1851 when colonial troops levelled, graded, grassed and prepared the area for an inaugural Army summer competition. As other recreational locations were resumed across a growing Sydney for both commercial and residential use, many clubs amalgamated and relocated to the then "Garrison Ground". By the 1870s, administration of the ground was passed on to the newly established NSW Cricket Association and the name changed to the Association Ground. Two grandstands were built in readiness for the first England V Australia Test Series of 1882 and by 1896, the ground was rebranded as the SCG, boasting a further 3 stands plus two public grassed mounds, known as "The Hill" and "Paddington Hill". Today, the entire ground is filled with a series of stands, the only heritage structures remaining being the 1886 "Members Pavilion" and the 1896 "Ladies Stand". We made our way to our under cover seats in the Victor Trumper Stand, ideally located directly in front of the wicket at the southern end of the ground and settled in for the day/night action to come.
It's been some time since we have been in a confined location with a horde of others (our overseas matches have all been at much more intimate venues) and for us, there was a degree of culture shock as we waited for the commencement of play and then throughout the game itself. First, we found ourselves in the middle of "Selfie Land" - thousands of individuals all busily snapping away with their smart phones in all manner of poses across obviously strategic locations within the ground. Of particular intrigue were the many young men taking self portraits, checking their screens, fixing their hair and then taking more shots in pursuit of that perfect social media image. Next we learned of "The Floss", an arm and hip swinging dance routine which apparantly was a 2017 viral phenomenon, as the SCG's pre-match on ground presenter encouraged the crowd to demonstrate their abilities. The traditional coin toss, won by Australia, was followed by a moving "Welcome to Country" ceremony then reditions of both ours and India's National Anthems rang out across the stadium.
The game got underway and we got our introduction to the "Swami Army", India's passionate, musical, loud, colourful and enthusiastic answer to the British "Barmy Army". These cricket loving folk certainly raised the energy levels of the stands and for most of the afternoon, there was a continuous Mexican wave rippling around the ground. Given a score of 288 to beat and having to overcome the loss of three quick wickets, the Indian batsmen took every opportunity to smash out 4's and 6's. The Swamis exploded and we felt like extras in a lively Bollywood movie as they fist pumped, danced, played drums, blew whistles and chanted. Victory however, went to the determined Aussie team!
One disconcerting trend we have noticed is the proliferation of uninspiring, banal and vacuous conversations happily trotted out for all to hear in public. We had the unfortunate experience yesterday of having to endure hours of three self proclaimed professional 30 something ladies who spent their entire time at the SCG talking across each other about a whole raft of featureless and interminable topics. When did communication become so dumbed down that sentences now all seem start with So and what is with the active overuse of the word Like? An example - "So I like met up with like a couple of friends and we like decided to like head to blah blah blah for drinks". It's just such a slow death of our beautiful English language. These girls were so involved with their own so called conversations that their understanding of the game in front of them was limited to watching the big screen replays after each big hit, each magnificent piece of fielding and each wicket taken ... they would have been better placed to have met at someones home to talk over the top of the telecast of the game!
1st ODI over, and we joined the remaining 37,995 throng exiting the stadium. Kudos to the NSW Transport Authority for their efficient programming of shuttle buses to Central which managed to move the crowd as quickly as possible. We picked up a taxi outside the station for a backstreets trip back to CYCA. We loved the adventure, we loved the excitement of the game and we really enjoyed the opportunity to see the SCG. Our preference, however, is still far away from the madding crowd - give us blue ocean, deserted white sand beaches and the opportunity to converse with like minded people anytime!
All well onboard.
Some Sydney Harbour Time
11 January 2019 | Sydney Harbour, Australia
We're well into the second week of January and thoroughly enjoying our Sydney Harbour experiences ... there is so much to see and do! After all the magic and sparkle of New Years Eve, the first day of 2019 dawned bright and sunny. It was Dale and Kellie's last day onboard and as they were keen to see more of Port Jackson, we pulled our pick and headed out towards the Heads straight after breakfast. After a quick sightseeing stop at Watsons Bay, we decided that Manly would be an ideal location given the forecast northerlies. No chance of jagging one of the five courtesy moorings on a public holiday, however there was plenty of anchoring room just off the Manly wharf. Once dug in, we dropped the tender and headed ashore for lunch at The Bavarian, a German tap house and restaurant which was buzzing. From there, we took a leisurely stroll along The Corso, originally built as a wooden boardwalk in 1854-55 by Henry Gilbert Smith, the early developer of the town. An odd sort of moniker - it was actually named in honour of the Via del Corso of Rome, Smith's favourite promenade in Italy. The route follows the traditional track worn across the sand spit between Manly Cove and Ocean Beach by the Kay-ye-my mob, a clan of the Guringai people. How interesting to learn that the area was named by Captain Arthur Phillip in honour of this tribe after he encountered them whaling in the cove - Phillips remarking that "their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place".
Since the early 19th century, Manly has been an incredibly popular seaside holiday resort; it's the place where restrictions on daylight bathing were first challenged in Australia and going by the hordes of people on the beach on NY Day, it is still a very popular swimming, surfing and sunbathing spot. Not the type of deserted, sandy beaches we are used to! Our friends headed off on the ferry to then fly home; we decided to spend a few days enjoying the ambience of the anchorage - we even managed to catch up with David and Pattie from SV This Way Up, who we had last seen in Kota Kinabalu. Good water clarity offered the opportunity for Paul to do a little cleaning on the hull .... although the water temperature is unseasonably cool at < 20 degrees due to the Coriolis Effect (just need a couple of good southerly blows to bring it back up to average summer temps of 22-25). Overall, Sydney weather has been somewhat crazy - we copped a massive thunderstorm prior to Christmas, with one monster hailstone actually piercing a small hole in our bimini clears; January's rainfall is way up on average; there have been a couple of days with thick sea fog; and we've even experienced the phenomenon of "mammatus cloud", the cellular pouch shapes caused by cold air sinking and forming unusual udder or mammary shapes (had to Google that!) We've also had some amazingly stunning days with clear skies and sunshine; it's been a total mixed bag.
After Manly, we headed back to Blackwattle Bay for a couple of days where we caught up with our new Brissy buddies on SV Joule. We're now enjoying the hospitality of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia; the legendary hosts of the Sydney to Hobart offer reciprocal rights to us as members of the Fremantle Sailing Club. With a great location, marina and clubhouse, it's a fabulous place to do a couple of maintenance jobs and a perfect base for a few days of tourist activity. We've caught up with Tony Buizen, one of our boatbuilders, and his lovely wife Vicki and we've finally met up in person with David Henry, a fellow Buizen owner (Sweet Chariot) and world circumnavigator.
All well onboard.