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ships log
Friday 11th January 2008
Camden Haven/Laurieton, New South Wales

Hello everyone,

After sitting out the worst of the bad weather from our last posting, we left Port Stephens Wednesday 19th December at 4am for Broken Bay, Sydney – 92 nautical miles. Unfortunately the sea hadn’t settled down as much as we’d like - Gillian got sea sick and the boom-vang and topping lift were damaged. Later on that afternoon, the sea eventually settled down so much that we needed to motor sail much of the way. Very tired and cold (what’s up with this weather ?), we finally arrived at Broken Bay at 10pm. We picked up the first available mooring on the Hawkesbury River at Refuge Bay (very aptly named) and collapsed as soon as we could, leaving all the tidying up for the morning.

What a difference a good night’s sleep makes. We awoke to a beautiful, still and peaceful bay – kookaburra’s laughing, lush green steep banks dotted with bright red Christmas Tree Bush, the air nicely warmed by the morning sun and only 5 other boats in the bay – delightful. Sailing’s very much like childbirth – you forgot the bad bits very quickly :-)

Our time in Sydney seemed to be very busy and it flew by. We caught up with Brian’s family in Pittwater for Christmas and overindulged at the magnificent Christmas lunch – thanks Stella and Fred. Various family members took up our offers of “learning to sail” day trips around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River. Rafting up with three other boats at Akuna Bay, Hawkesbury River was a new and very enjoyable experience for us. And before we knew it, it was time to depart for Sydney Harbour for the New Year fireworks.

Par for the course, we again had big swells sailing to Sydney, so we dropped anchor quickly at Athol Bay (off Bradleys Head, in front of Toronga Zoo) looking directly onto the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House on our left – an awesome spot for watching the fireworks. All that was left to do was relax, have lunch, and watch the spectacle of the masses gathering for the fireworks. Which they did in droves.

It was particularly interesting watching the public vantage point on Bradley Head getting more and more crammed as nightfall approached (5,000 maximum capacity). Woops of delight and screams of joy from revelers jumping off the concrete pier to “cool off”. A squadron of Tiger Moth doing hourly fly-bys and acrobatic routines. “Sky writing” messages drifted away on the afternoon breeze. People chilled out on the back of their boats with a bottle or two (or three). Everyone around us was in good humour – and why wouldn’t you be ?

9pm saw the start of the first fireworks display, especially put on for children with early bedtimes (but really for those of us that can’t stay awake !) The “Parade of Lights” followed - all the commercial ferries are lit up, motoring in and out of the anchored boats.

Just before midnight, the atmosphere was buzzing. Absolutely amazing to hear everyone around us counting down to midnight. And then the fireworks began ……

There were two fireworks barges either side of the bridge (one barge was very close to where we’d anchored), fireworks were also on the Harbour Bridge and surrounding office buildings, with the display synchronized to a soundtrack broadcast over the radio. The firework reverberations pulsed through our bodies and the boat, with the noise drowning out the soundtrack valiantly playing at “full-blast” on our and the surrounding boats. Fireballs and colour were exploding everywhere - 3D boxes, clock faces, blood red hearts, pulsing balls, squiggles – our senses were totally overloaded. It was brilliant, mind-blowing, fantastic and well worth the effort of sailing there to see it.

We overnighted where we’d anchored and did the obligatory sail under the Harbour Bridge on New Years Day, avoiding the “sailing” traffic as much as we could – as busy as Sydney Harbour is normally, imagine what it’s like on a public holiday, when everyone’s on the water, and it’s also still business as usual ? A stint on Middle Harbour to catch up with friends allowed us a break from the frantic speed of Sydney and a chance to sit out some more bad weather (of course !)

Middle Harbour is accessed through the Spit Bridge, on the notoriously busy Spit Bridge Road. The bridge is raised seven times throughout the day, if any boats are waiting at the designated times. There’s only 8 minutes or so for all boats on either side to get through once the bridge is open, and even as the last boat is almost under (which was our position on first entering Middle Harbour) the Harbour Master is already dropping the bridge – quite a scary thing to see the bridge dropping down towards your mast ! No holding up the road traffic here !

Once under the Spit Bridge, it’s a jaw-dropping experience sailing past the architectural wonders of the surrounding steep sloped mansions - one wonders at who can afford to live here and how many people actually occupy these huge homes. Soon we’re sailing into incredibly beautiful, deep-water tranquil bays – we feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Occasionally we hear the noise of passing traffic in the distance, but otherwise it’s only the birds, oarsmen gliding past and fishermen roaring around that we hear. Oh, almost forgot, there’s also the “cappuccino” boat - yes, seriously – were else but in Sydney can you still get your coffee hit, ice-creams, newspapers and ice whilst on the water ?

Before long the weather turned back in our favour and we had to leave the paradise of Middle Harbour to head back towards Brisbane for the end of January (for some boat and human maintenance). We’ve since had 2 day sails from Sydney, overnighting in Pittwater and then Port Stephens. Then a brilliant night sail to the delightful town of Camden Haven/Laurieton, where we’ve anchored for a few days break from sailing.

Happy New Year to everyone, hope you enjoy our recent photo's and till our next post from Brisbane, take care ……
B & G