Charming Coffs

Thursday 15th March 2018

As Ex Cyclone Linda continues to ease and turn SE away from the Australian Coast, we sit under clear blue skies with just a light cooling breeze, the only sign of the strong weather to the north of us is the sound of crashing waves on the northern breakwater.

We have been tied up in Coffs Harbour Marina, since Saturday, enjoying the forced break as we wait for Linda to pass by. Well known amongst cruisers as an entry port into Australia, people have been surprisingly dismissive of Coffs Harbour being anything more than a place to go through customs or a stop off conveniently placed halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. Fair enough the pontoons and docks are a bit rickety, there is quite a bit of noise from the work going on to build up the breakwaters and to get into the town centre is a forty minute walk.

But we like it here, the place has a charming small town feel, an active fishing fleet occupies one half of the inner harbour and the green of Mutton Island dominates our view to the east. Mountains form the backdrop to the town and traffic noise is minimal. Walkways spread out in all directions and three great beaches are within easy reach. The marina itself has a friendly quaint quality, with most activity best being summed up as pottering. There are all the essential services, restaurants, laundry, showers and brilliantly the local Coles supermarket will deliver your groceries right to the side of the boat.

Climbing to the top of Mutton Island, a nesting sanctuary for migrating wedge tailed shearwaters, gives a great overview of the area.

View of the harbour from the top of Mutton Island.

The town of Coffs Harbour started to grow when it’s long jetty was built. Projecting into the harbour it enabled large ships access to the timber cut from the rich forests that cloaked surrounding hills. As roads and railways spread into the area and shipping timber by boat became less profitable, the focus switched to the growing of bananas. Although the largest crop produced now is blueberries and the economy is dominated by fishing and tourism, this area is still known as the Banana coast.

We were hooked on our first morning, we sat at the yacht club eating breakfast overlooking Park Beach, the sand stretched a mile or so to the north, the sun shone and the surfers played, the week of waiting ahead didn’t look so bad after all.

Rick enjoying the view

Wanting to get a few jobs ticked off, Tuesday we set out for the shopping centre in search of new trainers, wine glasses, pillows……

We took the path that runs along the back of Park Beach. Shaded from the midday sun by trees, the bright blue of the sea and sky invaded through the gaps. We love theses glimpses through the tree trunks, the tantalising hidden promise of the world beyond.

Turning into the town we came across the bowls club, the greens sat right on the road and we stopped to catch our breathe and watch for a while, the teams were surprisingly good and as the final bowl smashed all other contenders out of the way, it was almost exciting. The shops were disappointing as they often are, no suitable footwear or homewares, but we did find a box of Mexican Train. A game we have enjoyed on many other yachts, we snapped it up, another way to pass those evenings when anchored in paradise.

Keeping up my campaign to lose weight and get a bit fitter, I walked the couple of kms to take a look at the beach to the South and was rewarded yet again by a spectacular view.

Miles of beaches run South from the harbour

As I paddled back along the calmer inner Jetty Beach, groups of school kids arrived to have surf lessons. Rick is hugely jealous, this is not how he remembers PE at his school. What a great life these Ozzie kids lead.

The water was warm and waiting for the schools to leave at lunchtime, we were tempted back down to Park Beach for a swim. The onshore wind was flattening the waves from behind, the surfers were struggling but for playing in the shallows it was perfect.

Enjoying the tumbling surf

In between the fun we have been keenly watching the weather, firstly to make sure the storm didn’t decide to turn SW and arrive on the coast too close by to us and secondly once it had past to find a narrow window to sail up to Southport. We need a twenty four hour period when the large swell produced by the storm has reduced but before the northerly winds set in. Tomorrow looks like the day, thanks Coffs we’ve enjoyed our stay.


Saturday 10th March 2018

Newcastle city centre

Our short stay in Newcastle was extremely pleasant. As well as a convenient stop on our way north it is the home of our friends from Toothless. Their cruising life is on hold for the time being, Toothless sits moored in Lake Macquarie awaiting her next adventure. Having chatted on email and Facebook we realise that the last time we actually met was over eighteen months ago in Tahiti, it was a shock to see the boys so grown up, school bags in their hands and shoes on their feet. Our timing was particularly lucky as Chris was home for a few days in between legs, he is back competing in the Volvo Around the World Ocean Race. All our tales of extremes at sea pale into insignificance compared to what these guys, and increasingly girls, go through as they battle their way across the oceans. It was great to catch up and the main bit of local knowledge Chris and Megs imparted was to make sure to turn left not right out of the marina.

Like it’s English namesake was a hundred years ago, Newcastle, Australia is a large coal exporting port. At the estuary of the Hunter river, it’s northern banks house the docks and wharfs for the massive tankers that transport the coal and other goods around the World. On the southern side sits the marina and the city centre and sure enough directly outside and to the right of the marina the city is quite run down. However, this situation looks about to change, building is going on everywhere. Hoardings, adorning the building site fences, promise not only a brand new light railway network but also glass covered corporate office blocks, upmarket apartment buildings and wide open manicured public spaces. And sure enough as you walk left towards the city centre, that is what you find.

Wednesday, leaving Rick head in the computer, ear to the phone trying to sort out arrangements to lift Raya out of the water when we get back up to the Gold Coast, I joined the lunchtime joggers, cyclists and other walkers on the the foreshore walkway. Everywhere we have been in Australia these superb public paths and surrounding spaces are a revelation, such a great resource and although not crowded, all are extremely well used. I pass the many waterfront restaurants, glossy offices and apartments neatly fitting with the old buildings of the city centre, I was heading for the beach that we spotted as we sailed in.

Foreshore walkway

I walked on until I found the ocean, as the pathway entered the sand dunes this sign greeted me.

I hesitated for a moment, until the sight of dog walkers, mothers with buggies and strolling retirees, assured me that this was probably just a case of the Port Authority covering its back. Still I carefully watched my step as I walked through the dunes out to yet another magnificent almost deserted beach. The surf crashed in and with the lifeguards red flag flying the only people around were a few brave kite surfers. It was fantastic.

Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle

Back in the marina, in the laundry as is often the case, we found some more friends, last seen in Sydney, fellow Brits Dianne and Graham had arrived to ready their yacht Maunie to be shipped back to Southampton. We joined up for dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants, tales were swapped and too much wine was drunk. We spent Thursday recovering and preparing the boat to set sail, the marina was hosting a fishing competition at the weekend we needed to free up our berth by midday Friday.

We knew conditions weren’t ideal, the wind wasn’t bad but the swell was bigger than we would have liked, however, it was the current that was to be the killer. The Australian East Coast current that had whisked us Southward so quickly last November was now against us. Being bashed by the waves as we did 8-9kts through the water but achieving only 5-6kts over the ground towards our destination was really depressing.

On the upside we did get a great sunset, our first for a while.

Sunsetting behind the big swell

Sayonara Sydney

Monday 5th March 2018

After almost three months, on Friday we sailed out of wonderful Sydney Harbour and started our treck north. We have until mid July to cover the nearly 2000nm up to the very northern most tip of Australia, experiencing as much as possible of the East Coast on our way. This is, we realise, the start of our journey home. We can’t quite decide whether to be excited or downcast by this fact but it’s hardly relevant we’ve a long, long way to go yet.

Thursday evening we picked Sheridan and Daisy up from the Fish Market dock, for an early start the next morning. We were headed up to Broken Bay and into Cowan Creek. We motored for the final time under Sydney bridge. The iconic views and frenetic ferries were all very familiar to us now and it didn’t really sink in that we were leaving this fantastic city behind us.

Sayonara Sydney

Until, that is, we left the protected harbour waters and were back out in the ocean for the first time since our arrival last December. I was glad of the seasickness tablets I had taken, it was a grey and lumpy sea that met us and at only ten knots not enough wind for us to sail, we were in for a rolly trip.

Luckily it was just a short hop and within a couple of hours we were motoring in the calm waters of Cowan Creek. We returned to our favourite spot of Jerusalem Bay, glad to see the Ospreys were still soaring above us, a little less pleased to see the hundreds of jelly fish that again drifting past on the tide. After so long in the city the silence was wonderful and the surrounding bush enveloped us like a comfort blanket.

Jerusalem Bay, early morning calm

The Cowan Creek area is part of the large Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Saturday morning Rick dropped Sheridan and I at some makeshift steps in the rock and we climbed up to the join the Great North Walkway, a trail that runs, for a short part of its length, through the bush above the bays shoreline. With tree roots to climb over, tree trunks to dodge and rocky outcrops to negotiate, it is just rugged enough to seem like an adventure. The spaces between the eucalyptus and pines gave us glimpses of the bay and as we walked further the deep creek that feeds into it. Rich woodland smells filled the air, bird song and the piecing sound of cicadas filled our ears but the only physical sign of animal life were strange deep holes in the ground. Could land crabs be living up this high or were they home to something more sinister?

Sheridan on the Great North Walk, in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

The day was fine and we met quite a few groups of walkers out enjoying their weekend and when we returned to the bay our quiet spot was busy with small fishing boats, kids jumping from the high ledge in the rocks and jet skiers churning up the calm waters.

We however were moving for a few hours to Looking Glass Bay around the corner, after a too brief a visit Sheridan and Daisy had to get back to Sydney. The plan was for us to have lunch at the one populated area of the park, Cottage Point and then for them to get a taxi back to Sydney, a 40min drive away. This turned out to be rather more difficult than anticipated. When asked, the owner of the charming Cottage Point Kiosk where we sat eating, with a sharp intake of breath said “oh, you won’t find it easy to get a taxi out here”. The problem was compounded by no internet and a phone signal that could only be found up three sets of very steep steps and a climb up the hill. After a rather breathless and anxious hour or so, with the help of numerous kind locals, who even offered lifts, we finally had no less than three taxis vying for our trade and Sheridan and Daisy were on their way.

Guests dispatched Rick and I returned to Jerusalem Bay for one more calm day before setting back out to sea. Having yet again had to motor, today we are 45nm further north and back in the City, this time the centre of Newcastle. We are safely tied up in the Yacht Club Marina awaiting another set of friends. The crew of Toothless who travelled on and off with us from Europe to Tahiti, live locally and are joining us for sundowners.


Wednesday 28th February 2018

Nice to see the evening sunshine finally glinting off the tower blocks.

It was with relief yesterday that we finally saw some sunshine. All day Sunday and most of Monday it didn’t stop raining. Boats are not great places to be for extended periods of rain, a feeling of damp pervades everything and as so much of life is spent outside, with all hatches tightly closed, it feels rather confined below. Evidence of how bad things got was the appearance of the Scrabble box.

In fact it’s been a rather frustrating week all round, after a promising start to our return to Sydney things went rapidly downhill. The electronic charts I had organised before we left for Perth had not been ordered, the sprayhood we had sent off for repair was untouched and even with the new engine alternator we still needed to replace the batteries.

Never mind we thought, that evening we had tickets for a performance of Carmen at the Opera House. Unfortunately that was a little disappointing too, the production wasn’t in the expected flamboyant style we were hoping for. The set and costumes were ‘realistic’ ie rather drab and the main character Carmen, who in our minds should be sexy, larger than life and command your attention, was, well, rather mousy. The music was fantastic however and it would be difficult to beat the view from the bar.

We decided to delay our departure from the marina for a day so Rick could sort out the batteries and for the electronic charts to arrive, which all went to plan. The sprayhood however couldn’t be fixed until the end of the week, we put it back up unrepaired, a job to go back on the list. So half satisfied we headed out to Blackwattle Bay. Typically for this week, our favourite spot in the middle of the anchorage, with plenty of depth, was taken. We had arranged to pick some friends up here, we needed to stay, so we anchored out on the edge. This turned out to be problematic in the changeable weather. If we positioned ourselves so there was enough depth when the NE winds pushed us towards the shore then when the wind changed to the South we ended up outside the bouys that marked the anchoring area and were politely ask to move by the marine police. If we anchored inside the bouys for the southerlies then when the wind went back to the North we swung worryingly near to the shallows. Unusually, the wind has reversed three times this week, so yes we have reanchored three times also.

We persisted with this anchorage because our good friend Sheridan arrived in Sydney to see her daughter Daisy for a couple of weeks and they, plus some more friends, came for lunch on Friday. At the far end of Blackwattle Bay is the large Sydney Fish Market, we all met up there to select some goodies for lunch. Fish and seafood of all kinds adorn the extensive market stalls, there is a posh deli, a wine store, fruit and veg shop and a bakery. Particularly around lunchtime it becomes jammed packed with Chinese’s visitors, so actually getting what we needed was a bit of a bun fight but eventually we returned to Raya bags full and put together a great spread.

This wasn’t so good for the start of our new healthy life style. Heidi who has visited Sydney many times, informed us that we weren’t alone in our issues with weight gain, the food is so good here that this phenomena is quite common and has been nicknamed the Sydney Stone. Lettuce and water for lunch today.

With another wind change we have re-anchored yet again, but the central nature of this spot and the easy access to shore make it worth while. We pick Sheridan and Daisy up tomorrow and if the weather finally decides to play the game we hope to sail the few hours up to Pittwater on Friday.

Fascinating Freo

Tuesday 20th February 2018

With our time in Western Australia rapidly coming to an end, Friday we took a day to visit Fremantle. In the south of the Perth Metropolitan Area, at the mouth of the Swan River, it has been a main port for nearly 200 years and retains much of its original 19th century architecture. We found an eclectic mix of historic buildings, museums, craft markets, art galleries, trendy bars and restaurants.

As we entered the city we noticed the clocktower of the townhall had squares of yellow paint near its top, at first we thought it must be having some renovations done but as we walked down High Street we saw more seemingly random yellow daubs and then stripes curling up from the pavement and onto the buildings. Slightly perplexed we walked on until up the steps of the roundhouse at the end of the street we turned and all was revealed. It is the work of Swiss artist Felice Varini who creates 3D optical illusions in public places all around the world. Designed to be viewed from just this one spot, the yellow lines and squares come together to form a set of eliptical rings that appear to float miraculously above the street. It is mind boggling to imagine how the artist could even conceive such an amazing idea and impressive that the Fremantle council took the risk with one of its prime tourist spots to allow it to happen.

Amazing street art in Fremantle

Still glancing back over our shoulders we wandered into an art gallery at the top of the steps displaying beautiful underwater photos, the photographer had done some wonderful things with his images of coral, tropical fish, sharks and rays. Not having the ability to paint whole streets but thinking that we had, maybe not quite of the same quality, but very similar photos, perhaps we could create some of our own Freo inspired artworks.

In complete contrast we then spent an enjoyable hour at the shipwreck museum learning about the early Dutch explorers and more specifically the story of the Batavia. Part of the Dutch East India Company she was wrecked off the WA coast in 1629 amid tales of mutiny and murder. The museum has on display a large section of her hull, salvaged in the early 1970’s along with many arifacts, including cannons, domestic items and part of her cargo, a large stone arch destined for Jakarta.

The next day we were lucky enough to be included in a gathering of Taryn and Greg’s friends for a Peeking duck night. Greg and friend Pete had spent the previous evening preparing the duck. Part of this preparation required the skin of the raw duck being unstuck from the carcass to allow it to crisp more easily. An ingenious solution to this problem led to the bizarre sight of Greg inflating the duck using his scuba tank and regulator. The technique proved its worth the next evening when, after a fun few hours decorating the terrace, we all sat down to delicious Peking duck.

Peking Duck night

And then before we knew it it was our last day, we opted, before we started our packing, for one last swim in the Indian Ocean.. The surf was relatively small, the water warm and the colours as incredible as always.

Thanks Taryn and Greg for a great break

Yesterday evening we flew back to Sydney and this morning its back to business on Raya. Rick has his head in the engine room replacing the alternator with a new one sourced in Perth and I’ve just returned from the supermarket with some basic supplies. In my bags there is a heavy emphasis on healthy foods, our stay in Perth did nothing for our already expanding waistlines. However all the walking and swimming we enjoyed has motivated us to start eating less and exercising more. Watch this space……….

Super South West

Friday 17th February 2018

What a startlingly beautiful stretch of coastline. We have spent the last week exploring the Margaret River Region in the far South West of Western Australia. Under wide clear skies and impossibly bright sunshine, the colours are breathtakingly vivid. Long white sand beaches, blue and turquoise seas, rocky outcrops and rolling surf.

The stunning beach at Injidup

The area is sparsely populated so these stunnng bays are often deserted even though they are less than an hours drive from the charming seaside town of Dunsborough, where Taryn and Greg have a beach house. The only crowds are seen at the calm town beaches and at the many surf breaks along the shore.

Surfers Point near the mouth of Margaret river is home to pro surfing competitions and attracts surfers from all over the world. Kite surfing is also hugely popular, with the reliable afternoon sea breezes often providing perfect conditions. It is entertaining to stand and watch their antics as they ride the waves with ease, professing how if we were just a bit younger we would, of course, be out there with them.

Watching the kite surfers at Yallingup

Resisting the temptation to jump in we instead went rock climbing, enjoying the smooth granite boulders and the pretty oranges of the sandstone. We have always loved watching waves crashing onto to rocks and it’s been a while, our sailing life has us searching out much calmer seas.

Our favourite spot was Canal Rocks where the granite has eroded to produce ‘canals’ that fill and empty with a cascade of white water from each ocean wave. A large Ray, defying the strong currents, swam into the whirling water, as did, rather worryingly, a young girl, who without the rays swimming ability was washed violently back and forth before managing to grab the side and climb to safety. We chose an easier route using a bridge and some stepping stones to cross the canals and then clambered as high and as far out onto the rocks as we could to take in as close as possible the exhilarating view.

Taryn out on the edge of the Canal Rocks.

Another great place is the natural spa near Injidup. Here you can scramble over giant boulders to reach a protected rock pool where it is safe to enjoy the power of the crashing waves. All is tranquil until a large wave hits the outer rocks, this sends gallons of water gushing over and through the crevasses between the boulders, creating power showers and turning the calm water into a bubbling whirlpool.

Taryn and Rick enjoying the natural spa bath

This region is not just about beaches however, running the length of the coast are numerous vineyards all plying for your trade at their cellar doors. Taryn and Greg took us to their favourite, Vasse Felix. Set in green manicured gardens, modern sculptures greet you on the lawns and between the trees, the modern art theme continuing with a small gallery inside. At the tasting bar we tried eight of their wines, we resisted the $80/bottle of delicious Chardonnay and plumped for a more economical full bodied red to accompany our lunch. The wine was good, the views delightful and the food, exceptional.

A few days later we ventured a bit further south to Boranup Forest. The day was unusually cloudy and as we entered the forest there was a short shower. With the rain came a burst of smells, the scent of eucalyptus, mixed with the tang of damp moss and rich earthy leaf litter. The forest is full of giant Karri trees reaching 90ft tall, they regularly shed their bark in long narrow strips revealing striking trunks of orange, salmon and greys. We were surprised to discover these giants were members of the Eucalyptus family. We are coming to the conclusion that all the trees in Australia, whatever shape or size seem actually to be eucalyptus trees.

Boranup Forest

On our final day we drove down to Smiths Beach, where feeling the name was telling us something, we finally braved the surf. We ate a picnic amongst the colourful dune plants and then went for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm and although we had picked a calm spot, the waves were fun and still strong enough to dump Rick as he stood knee deep taking photos. As he tumbled concentrating on holding tight to the camera, he was stripped of his expensive and vital prescription sunglasses, luckily they miraculously ended up at my feet.

The Smiths at Smith Beach

With a final farewell to this beautiful coast, yesterday we returned to Perth. A few more days to enjoy before our flight back to Sydney.


Friday 9th February 2018

A five hour flight across this huge continent and we arrived in Perth to the welcoming faces of Taryn and Greg. It feels fantastic to shower in a spacious bathroom, with limitless hot water, it’s novel to cook in a proper oven and prepare a meal on the large work tops and most of all go to bed without the responsibility of thinking about the weather, the anchor or whatever else might cause us to sink in the night.

Our stay in Perth seemed to immediately become centred around interesting conversations while drinking great local wine and delicious food. All keen cooks we are having good fun creating meals, sourcing the ingredients from the plethora of specialist butchers and farmers markets that appear to be everywhere here.

The whole of this area, stretched as it is along the coast, is dominated by the Ocean. On our first morning we drove from Taryn and Greg’s house in leafy Wembley the ten minutes to City beach. A brisk SW sea breeze created copious white horses in the deep blue of the sea and with the beach stretching seemingly forever in both directions, we walked down to dip our toes for the first time in many years in the Indian Ocean.

City Beach, Perth

The daily arrival in summer of this cooling sea breeze is nicknamed the Fremantle Doctor relieving everyone from the often uncomfortably hot weather. Temperatures in Perth can regularly sore over 40C, luckily for us Western Australia is experiencing a mild summer with temperatures nearer to 30 C. The use of the word mild in this context sounds very odd to us, in England it is used to describe warm winter conditions. However, which ever word is used, we were glad of the perfect temperatures and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fresh ingredients deliciously combined, while admiring the views.

The following day Taryn and I went to visit the Botanical Gardens in Kings Park. High on a hill it provides excellent views of the city centre and the Swan River. Full of native plants, we wandered chatting, enjoying the calm as we followed a pathway through the trees and shrubs. Our favourite tree in the whole park had to be the beautiful Weeping Variegated Peppermint tree, but also impressive was the famous Boab tree. At 750 years old and right in the middle of a new highway project it has been carefully rescued and transported over 2000 miles south to its current position in the park. I was also rather taken by the grass trees, common to this part of Australia, but strange to us.

Trees in the Botanical Gardens in Kings Park, Perth

In complete contrast to our peaceful day was our evening at the Perth Fringe Festival. Staged each year in February, we joined the throng in the centre of town to enjoy some street food and then a show. Club Swizzle is a slightly outrageous cabaret group, performing comedy, music and acrobatics, we had a thoroughly entertaining and sensational evening.

We had arrived in Perth with one complaint, we had been in Australia for three months now but had not seen one kangaroo! Greg born and bred in Perth sorted that out for us, sending us off to Pinnaroo Memorial Park, a large cemetery planted with native plants and attracting local wildlife.

Kangaroos in Pinnaroo Park

Kangaroos ticked off we repacked our bags, we are off on holiday from our holiday, heading 3hrs south to Taryn and Greg’s beach house in Dunsborough.

Mountains of Maintanence

Sunday 4th February 2018

Rick has spent much of the past week working in a variety of confined spaces, contorting his stiff joints around corners, down steps and inside small holes, undoing tight bolts and jammed screws, sealing leaks and changing oil, pulling out rusted in impellers and testing batteries. We are tied up back at the Cruising Yacht Club Marina and working our way through a long list of jobs before we leave for Perth tomorrow.

Fixing a fuel leak on the generator

With the generator oil changed and a drip from the fuel pipe sealed, next on the list was changing the engine impeller, unusually for Rick this job defeated him, not able to squeeze into the right position to apply all his strength he just couldn’t get it to budge. What was needed was an engineer who knew all the tricks of the trade and someone perhaps, dare I say, a little younger and more flexible. Fortunately we found one such person that could pop in that day and after much huffing and straining he finally freed it and put in a new one,

Not wanting Rick to suffer his aches and pains alone, Thursday I somehow managed to trip on the pontoon. My fall was particularly ungainly as my main concern was to ensure the backpack I was wearing, that contained as well as groceries a years worth of contact lenses, didn’t end up in the water. Gratefully no one was around and I could escape with, if not my body, at least my pride intact.

So it was that Friday morning found us hobbling up the hill to the station, Rick with tired knees and a stiff back, me with grazed knees and bruised ribs. We were off to catch the train for the 2 hour journey out to the Blue Mountains. Near the top of my list of things to do in Sydney it had been pencilled in for a while, so despite the jobs still to be completed and our rather battered bodies, we decided to carry on with our plans.

The views were incredible. The high plain of sandstone has been eroded over millions of years to create a large canyon like valley. Cracks in the rock and intermittent layers of claystone, coal and shale, that are more easily washed away, have caused the sandstone sides to collapse forming vertical cliffs and striking pillars.

Pillars of rock known as the Three Sisters

We made the mistake of starting our day at the crowded Scenic World. A tourist attraction offering cable cars, skyways and the steepest railway in the world. It would have been a good introduction to the area had it not been full to bursting with coachloads of tour groups. It wasn’t until we escaped along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk that we could really appreciate the full grandeur of the views and the tranquility of the eucalyptus forests. If we were to do this trip again we would start with this dramatic walk giving ourselves more time to enjoy the waterfalls, cascades and trails further along the escarpment.

Walking along the Prince Henry Cliff

However as we had paid for the tickets we returned to Scenic World and took the small train, descending almost vertically into the valley. Protected by the surrounding cliffs from the harsh drying winds and extremes of hot and cold, the valley has its own unique microclimate and is home to a rain forest. We wandered along a boardwalk through tall trees, thick vines and thousands of wonderful large tree ferns, peering up through the canopy to the sheer rock above us. Thankfully there is a cable car back to the top and a hop on hop off bus to return you to Katoomba and the train home.

Wonderful tops of the tree ferns

Back onboard it was back to work. When sailing towards the marina last week the starboard primary winch suddenly started to make a horrible screeching noise. Rick, happy that he could work in the open and especially not on his knees, carefully took it apart, cleaned each of the 27 components, regreassed and oiled as appropriate and put it all back together again. Still the winch screeched. With stoney face and a certain amount of muttering, off it all came again, eventually he traced the noise to the gear coupling to the motor. He was in for another afternoon working in a tiny space, balancing on one leg, bending around the toilet and stretching past cables to remove first the ceiling panels, then the motor. The motor is very heavy and unfortunately his assistant has more brains than brawn and couldn’t reliably take the weight while he battled with the bolts. As luck would have it, in between being engineers mate, I was defrosting the freezer and with the available freezer baskets and books of varying thicknesses we managed to construct a tower to support the motor as it was removed and reattached. After a top up of oil and a thorough clean of the coupling, thankfully it ran perfectly.

Servicing the primary winch motor

Today’s big task was to take down all the canvas work, so it could be sent to the trimmer for a few bits of repair and two zip replacements. We are so use to being cocooned by the sprayhood that it is very odd to sit with a 360 degree view totally exposed to the elements. Luckily the day is pleasant and with just the watermaker to pickle, the bathrooms and kitchen to clean, the decks to tidy, etc. etc….. tomorrow we off on holiday.

Australia Day

Sunday 28th January 2018

Friday was Australia Day, so this is a holiday weekend, the weather has been sunny, the winds light and seemingly the whole of Sydney, in celebratory mood, has anchored next to us. The sound of partying is all around, the loud beer drinking lads on the brash motor boat in front of us, the excited teenagers leaping from the 8m rock on our left and the screeching kids upset by the bursting of their bright pink, floating flamingo. Paddle boarders and kayakers pass close by, families fish from the wharf and swimmers risk life and limb dodging the dinghies and tinnies that whiz between it all.

Spring Cove Saturday afternoon.

Why, you may ask, knowing it would be even more crowded than last weekend have we chosen to anchor here again. Well sometimes with no particular demands on our time we just need a place to be, a place to stop and past the time until the next errand or adventure. Store beach and the other bays in Spring Cove we know have good holding, are protected from the NE winds and the worst of the harbour chop and have clean water for swimming and our watermaker. The ocean breeze provides a welcome break from the heat and car fumes of the city centre and when the crowds depart, as they reliably do, it’s really rather lovely.

We had spent a few days at the beginning of the week back in the Blackwattle anchorage, using again the safe docks for the dingy and the closeness to all the facilities to top up the fridge and visit the chandlers. Rick successfully serviced the generator, I failed to find a repair for the spare iPad. We took another day to be tourists and walked through the centre of town to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

An enchanting place that despite being surrounded by the bustle of the city is an oasis of calm. The huge specimen trees create a barrier to the traffic noise and the pathways winding between them cleverly lead your eyes away from the tall office blocks to colourful flower beds, spacious areas of green and the blue of the harbour beyond.

Huge fig tree in the Royal botanical gardens

The most dramatic sight was the green wall. A living art work, which at 50m long and 6m high takes 18,000 small plants to fill. Constructed of narrow tilted shelves, each plant pot sits in its prescribed spot, in a intricately choreographed design spelling out the word pollination, the theme of the current display. Just keeping them watered correctly requires over 1000m of pipes and a misting system. The back room of greenhouses providing the mixture of plants all at the right stage of growth must be an exemplar of organisation.

Green wall in The Calyx

Also this week we have, yet again, been touched by the generosity of the people we meet on this trip. First were the couple off Maunie, another British registered yacht, seeing each others blue ensigns we of course got together. They introduced themselves as they dinged past and we invited them over for sundowners. Such is the way with cruisers, having discovered that we were sailing on to Indonesia and South Africa, while they, for work reasons, had taken the decision to ship their yacht home, arrived arms full with valuable charts and a cruising guide to the Indian Ocean.

A few days later we were lucky enough to celebrate Australia Day with a group of Australians. Friends, of friends, of friends in England, Gerry and Carol kindly invited us to join them for lunch at the Manly Skiff Club. We ate, drank and enjoyed lively conversation about everything from the intricacies of night watches to the Australian love of travel, from the politics of Donald Trump to the current controversy of Australia Day itself. Celebrated annually on the 26th January it marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788. Promoted as a day to celebrate Australia’s diverse cultures, the indigenous population and those supportive of their cause have begun to label it as Invasion Day and there is a growing movement to change the date.

However looking around us and from the chat at the crowded Skiff Club, as far as we can tell, it is mostly seen as a day at the end of the school holidays for everyone to take a long weekend and enjoy the Australian great outdoors.


Sunday 21st January 2018

Nooooo! Was the plaintive cry, as clambering from the kayak to the swim deck, our beloved much used camera slipped from Ricks shorts into the water and sank almost immediately out of sight. Being too deep to dive down after it and with the evening sun low in the sky, too dark to scuba, our hearts sank too. Why hadn’t we invested in one of those snazzy strap flotation devises, why hadn’t I downloaded all last weeks photos, why hadn’t we passed the camera up by hand as usual!?!?

We pulled ourselves together and swung into action. With the boat swinging back and forth in the brisk breeze I tried to keep my eye on the spot it went in, Rick dug out our marker bouy and dropped it at our best guess of the cameras location. With nothing more to be done until we had more light the next day, we consoled ourselves with a gin and tonic trying hard to enjoy the setting sun.

The next morning we were glad to see the orange buoy still bobbing nearby. Rick kitted up in his scuba gear and descended through the murky water, miraculously after just five minutes he was back camera in hand.. It is waterproof and rated for depths of up to ten metres we were anchored in about nine, but was that ten metres for just an hour or could it survive being at that depth overnight? Apparently yes it could, it seems to have suffered no damage at all from its extended visit to the seabed.

Well done Rick, operation rescue camera completed successfully.

We continue to spend our time criss crossing Sydney Harbour as weather, provisioning and activities dictate. We started this week in Blackwattle Bay. The southerlies from the weekend continued to keep the temperatures cool, so being in the city centre we took the opportunity to be tourists for a couple of days.

We wandered around the maritime museum which displays Australia’s rich maritime history. Then went outside to look around the 1970’s submarine they have on display. Basically just one long corridor from front to back with bunks squeezed in between a maze of piping, pressure gauges, pumps and engines. The mind boggles as to how 69 men lived so dreadfully cramped together for so long. We had first visited the HMAS Onslow about 15 years ago, now ocean going sailors ourselves different questions come to mind; How did they cope with all the heat from the massive engines? How did they make water and how on earth did they manage to fix that joint buried behind a metre deep tangle of pipes?

Not much more spacious were the conditions on the Endevour, the ship that in 1770 James Cook first sailed to Australia but at least the crew onboard her could escape on deck. The ship in Sydney is a replica of the original and actually still sails, in fact she is off to New Zealand next month, we’re certainly glad we don’t have all that rigging to contend with.

The Endeavour moored in Darling Harbour.

Wednesday we walked to the Rocks, an historical area with many original sandstone buildings and cottages from the first development of Sydney by the early settlers. Historically it was a rough area occupied by convicts and run by gangs, even up until the 1970’s it was so run down it was nearly demolished. Now properties are snapped up by wealthy Sydneyites and being next to the cruise liner dock, it is a busy tourist area full of museums, old pubs and art shops. Luckily there was no ship in the day we were there and we found plenty of room to sit, enjoy views of the harbour and eat a very nice lunch.

The promised improved weather moved in on Thursday and we moved out to Manly. We were there to pick up a friends daughter and a couple of her friends for a day on the boat. We filled up with goodies for lunch and picked them up from the ferry terminal.

We love the Push-me Pull-you ferries that run every half an hour between Manly and Central quay in the city.

We all had a great day, chatting, eating and drinking, in fact so pleasant were the beach anchorages. Rick and I decided to spend the weekend off Store Beach. A very popular spot but the crowds don’t seem to appear until around midday and all disappear again around 6pm and so even at the weekends there is plenty of time and space to enjoy a swim, take out the kayak or lose a camera.

Anchored off Store Beach