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The Voyage of Spectacle Sydney Harbor at 3:00 a.m.

The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Sydney Harbor at 3:00 a.m.

We arrived into Sydney Harbor at about 3:00 a.m. this morning completely haggard and physically and emotionally exhausted.  It was such a strange experience coming into Sydney Harbor in the middle of the night.  Before we left on this trip back in December of 2006, an oft-asked question was what locations we were most excited to visit and experience.  Well, there’s so many to choose from, but highest on my list was Sydney Harbor.  I had fantasies of what it would be like to sail into the world’s most famous harbor … sunshine, huge blue Australian sky, yachts everywhere flying spinnakers, salutations of “G’Day Mate,” the Opera House in all its glory, champagne, etc.  Then we would tie to the dock, hit the yacht club, and regale in the stories of our macho Tasman crossing to cheers of “Goodonya!” 

Um, not exactly how it happened…

First, we rarely approach land at night; we almost always stand off until dawn.  But the harbor is well lit, the ocean was extremely rough and we were totally exhausted and cold, so we decided to go in.  Andy set some waypoints for our approach, and because we were so tired and worried about accuracy and stupid mistakes, we each double-checked the waypoints twice.  We were having difficulty visualizing the approach because it was pitch dark with not even a sliver of moon.  Furthermore, the ocean was so big that while trying to see the approach, a huge wave would come through and block out the Sydney skyline– that will cure you of fixating on the horizon pretty quick.  Not surprisingly, Andy’s waypoints were perfect … always the master navigator … but better safe than sorry.

Using the waypoints and Ryan on deck with a high-powered flashlight looking for obstacles, we steered between the highlands … suddenly there was absolute quiet and the boat went flat.  After 9 days of being heeled over, bounced around, constantly grabbing for something to hold on to, we were flat and calm and quiet.  Then we looked around.  Sydney was sleeping, obviously.  Not a single boat in the most famous harbor in the world except for us.  We turned up into the very light wind, and rolled in the mainsail.

In an effort to reenact some of our fantasies about sailing into Sydney Harbor, I cranked up the stereo and played “Ride of the Valkyries.”  Unfortunately, as the Opera House came into the view, we were a bit dismayed because we couldn’t quite locate it … the lights had already been turned off for the night. 

So we headed towards the customs dock in Neutral Bay.  The dock was difficult to locate as we slowly maneuvered through the crowded and unlit anchorage.  Finally, we saw some orange reflecting vests moving around and assumed that was the place.  Australia requires notification 72 hours prior to arrival, so they were expecting us.  All three of them were very nice guys, but they wanted to chat about the crossing and our trip.  Tying up to something hard, with a flat and still bed so tantalizingly close, really exacerbated our exhaustion to a whole new level.  Andy was so tired and saying such random things that I became a little concerned about his health and well-being.

The check-in process was plenty bureaucratic, but we dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s fairly quickly.  They informed us that officials from the quarantine department would call us in the morning and that we weren’t technically allowed to leave the boat until then.  The supervisor bent the rules and granted us permission to spend the night tied to their dock since nobody else was scheduled to arrive.  Nobody else scheduled to arrive?  Yep, we’re the only idiots to do this.   

Once they left, all three of us realized that we were starving.  We had eaten very little throughout our week at sea and our safe arrival quickly did wonders for our appetites.  Since the refrigerator crapped out, we were short on fresh food, so I went hunting through dry storage for something to cobble together.  I found a package of long-life tortillas, a can of refried beans, a jar of Old El Paso taco sauce, and a sealed package of tasty cheese that was minimally acceptable in the mostly defrosted refrigerator.  Quesadillas voila!  We then slept the sleep of the righteous.  I hadn’t showered since New Zealand and I didn’t even care.  Seriously, what’s another day without bathing?  Bed was the only item on my agenda.  Eight o’clock reveille came so quickly.

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