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The Voyage of Spectacle Sydney Harbor

The Voyage

Spectacles

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

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Sydney Harbor’ Category

Sydney Harbor at 3:00 a.m.

Posted by: melissa

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.

Spectacle in Sydney — Day 1

Posted by: melissa

 The alarm went off and we were all really dragging.  That little tease of sleep wasn’t totally satisfying, but after a caffeinated beverage, a slightly less intense adrenalin-high kicked in to assist us through this day.  We moved the boat over to Rushcutters Bay to the D’Albora Marina.  Once we arrived and tied to the dock, I suddenly became obsessed with bathing … a hot shower was my mission in life.  So we packed up the shower bag and headed up to the office to get the key to the facilities when the quarantine guy showed up.  He delivered a minor admonishment for leaving the boat without clearing quarantine, and I didn’t care.  I said something to the effect of:  “I haven’t showered in over 9 days so I need you to clear me and my person immediately because I am going to the shower right now.” 

Andy stayed with the quarantine guy as he looked for potential dangers, organic material, and introduced species.  His services cost AUS $416 making this the most expensive check-in process we’ve ever experienced.  He indicated that a good chunk of the charge was overtime to come on a Sunday.  We could’ve avoided overtime rates by staying on the boat until Monday morning, but that just wasn’t in the cards.  And he did take out all of the garbage in a fancy trash bag with official “Danger” and “Quarantine” stencils on it.  Whatever.  I didn’t care as I was luxuriating in a hot shower! 

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

As it turns out, Andy’s close friend from Mizzou was visiting Sydney on business travel from Bangkok, where he now lives and works.  As we pulled into the marina, Jason was waiting for us with hot flat whites and wow that was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had!  After we cleaned up a little, we jumped in a cab and headed over to Icebergs, the famous restaurant with sweeping views of Bondi Beach.  We had a fabulous lunch with plenty of wine, and experienced the same “land sickness” episodes that we usually experience at our first onshore meal.  I started to relax a little, but I still felt like I was running pretty high on adrenalin.

After lunch, the boys went to check out the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia which is right next door to our marina.  The CYCA sponsors the annual Sydney to Hobart race which is both famous and infamous.  Since we had just crossed the Tasman, we were feeling a special affinity towards those brave enough to take on sailing in those latitudes!  Additionally, tenants at D’Albora Rushcutters are welcome to the private bar and restaurant so I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of that in the future!  I, on the other hand, went for a relaxing lay down with my book.

Soon it was time to get up and eat again!  There’s so much great stuff to do in Sydney, and with Ryan on his last day, and Jason in town to visit, we were eager to get to it! 

We hopped in a taxi and went to an area called The Rocks which is right on the Bay and across from the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  It’s a very cool part of town with all sorts of outdoor bars and restaurants and people milling around, so we decided to sit down and have an adult beverage.  We happened to be there during the Luminous Festival, and Sydneysiders were treated to huge, high-powered light shows with the Opera House as the canvas.  It was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing. 

Finished with cocktail hour, we headed to dinner at Quay, which is considered one of the very best restaurants in Australia.  It’s perfectly located also across from the Opera House so our viewing of the light show continued all evening.  The food was amazing, the wine was exquisite, and the company was fabulous … a truly magical night and a far cry from fighting the elements in the Tasman Sea!

Getting Ready to Say Goodbye

Posted by: melissa

We’re working hard to get ready to leave Sydney, and it’s very difficult since we like it here so much.  I could easily live here.  But we’ve got a good weather window coming up, so it’s time to get going.

After checking three different chandleries, I finally located a shackle for the headsail that will probably be acceptable.  It’s not perfect, but it should do fine.  This shackle attaches the top of the headsail to the furling drum.  The shackle needs to be sufficiently strong; the pin needs to be small enough to fit into its slot in the furling drum; and it needs to be big enough to contain the loop of the sail which is quite bulky.  Unfortunately, gusty winds are forecasted for today and tomorrow, so we’ll have to delay hoisting and refurling the headsail until we get some lighter conditions. 

The sail loft was successful in repairing the staysail, and will be returning it on Monday.  I don’t know how much it will cost since the secretary has “gone crook,” which in Australian English means that she’s sick.  Two cultures separated by a common language, as they say!

We hired a rigger to go up the mast and follow up on the furling drum that I was unable to retrieve.  He tightened the connections on the forestay sleeve, and the furling drum just slid right down exactly as it was supposed to.  He also removed and brought down the burned out bulbs of the tri-color and anchor lights so I could buy new ones.  He also confirmed my suspicions that the forestay was a bit too loose, and he tightened up the backstays.  Unfortunately, the backstays are adjusted as tightly as the adjustable backstay can be tightened, so if we need to tighten more in the future, a more significant rigging change will be required.

The refrigerator guys have dropped the ball so egregiously that we’re beginning to think that they just didn’t want to take the work in the first place.  This happens in areas where there are a lot of really nice yachts.  Apparently, the refrigerator job is either too small, or not small enough.  It might be too small in that the opportunity cost of delaying a job on super yacht is too high.  Or, the complexity of our refrigerator problem makes the job not small enough … they don’t see an easy 3-billable-hour solution so they don’t want to waste time figuring it out, especially when I will resist paying a guy to take it all apart and stare at it like it’s from outer space.  Hopefully, we’ll find someone more motivated and less expensive by the hour to take a look at it somewhere up the coast.

I was a little disappointed in the trimming guy as well.  I see him around the marina very frequently and he’s always walking fast and frantic as if he’s late for a big deadline.  He said that he would have a quote for me weeks ago, and he finally delivered it yesterday.  I would see him in passing and he would promise to meet me in an hour or first thing tomorrow morning or whatever, and he would never show up.  So, too bad for him.  I’m not going to beg him to take my business if he won’t show up when he says he’ll show up.  Well, for cosmetic work anyhow.  If I need a diesel repairman, I beg.

Otherwise, everything is fairly cleaned up and ready to go.  We just mailed a huge box of books home which freed up some storage space.  I purchased paper charts from Port Jackson to Brisbane.  I made a reservation at the marina in Newcastle.  I need to return our borrowed space heater and extension cord.  Pay the marina bill.  And that’s about it.

Tour of the Northern Beaches with Friends from Billy Kwong

Posted by: melissa

About a week ago, we had dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Billy Kwong.  Billy Kwong is not an actual person, but the first name of one owner and the surname of the other owner.  Kylie Kwong is a celebrity chef in Australia specializing in Asian fusion cuisine, and she was there that evening standing in front of the semi-exposed kitchen at the service pass-through expediting orders.  The food was outstanding.  As we left, Andy waved and gave an effusive thumbs-up towards her, and she gracefully stepped to one side and gestured a bow to the uniformed chefs in the kitchen.  So incredibly classy. 

Anyway, Billy Kwong’s is quite a small restaurant, and as such, the tables are small and very close together.  In these types of scenarios, I always know that we’ll be making new friends since Andy just can’t not talk to the other tables … he’s very outgoing, he can’t help himself!  So, we met a lovely couple … Chris and Angela who live in Dubai and are visiting family in Sydney.  Suffice it to say, they are engaging people with very interesting and unusual life histories, and we got on like a house afire.  We had dinner together last week at a restaurant called Buzo, which was very fun because of good company but less successful for the cuisine.

Chris and Angela invited us for Yum Cha and after a delicious and super fun lunch, we decided to play hooky from boat preparations and take a drive to the northern beaches and Broken Bay.  We were especially interested in seeing Broken Bay since we had already decided to skip it by boat and head straight for Newcastle.  Those suburbs of Sydney are very beautiful, and the car tour turned into pitchers of beer by the water, and grill-it-yourself steak dinner and wine.  We didn’t get much done today, and we’ll probably delay our departure by one day at least, but who cares.

Arrival in Newcastle

Posted by: melissa
Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Yesterday, we ate lunch, showered, paid our tab at the chandlery, paid the marina bill, and we were off.  We headed off to find a diesel dock since the D’Albora Rushcutters Bay Marina was remodeling its diesel dock rendering it unavailable.  We were referred to the Point Piper marina at Rose Bay, but when we called the port captain, he did not know how deep it was at his own diesel dock.  We were quite amazed at that, but we figured we’d head over and get a look-see for ourselves. 

As we entered the fairway, we noticed that most of the dock was occupied by power boats … that’s usually a sign of shallow water since power boats have much shallower draft than displacement boats.  I yelled to some guys on the dock and they were not optimistic about our chances of clearing the bottom at the diesel dock.  As they were giving me a rash of shit about my All Blacks fleece, the wind caught the bow pretty severely and everybody scrambled to fend us off of several huge power boats.  One of the guys suggested the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron near the Opera House, so we set off back the way we came. 

RSYS was able to accommodate us, and we filled one of our two tanks with diesel in hopes of a cheaper price per liter outside of Sydney Harbor.  Then we went for our final pass through the Harbor, under the bridge, and by the Opera House.  We both felt really sad to be leaving.  As we went through the headlands exiting the fabulousness and safety of Port Jackson, I experienced some post-traumatic stress as well … we were voluntarily going back out onto the Tasman Sea which had beaten us up so badly on our previous passage.  But it was relatively calm.  I was suddenly shaken out of my thoughts by a hearty “G’ Day!”  There was a guy in a kayak right next to us!  We had a quick chat, and then he turned and went back into the Harbor.

The overnight sail was rather uneventful.  The East Australian Current is hard to predict and a very big consideration since it can be extremely strong.  It runs in a southerly direction, oftentimes up to 3-4 knots.  Since we’re going north, we will normally assume adverse current, but there are eddies where the current reverses direction.  The current effect is less pronounced closer to land, so that was our passage strategy.  And yes, we have been looking for Nemo!

We arrived at the Newcastle approach about two hours before dawn, so we puttered around in circles until the sun came up.  And since it was dawn, I was obviously on watch.  Right at first light, at least 20 freighters set off to sea all heading in various directions.  It was pretty neat.

I woke Andy up and we began our approach between the massive breakwaters into the well protected harbor in Newcastle.  We easily found the marina, tied up, checked in, had some breakfast, and settled in for a nap.


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