Iconic View from the cockpit
Saturday 16th December 2017
It had felt like an impossible dream, the chance to sail into Sydney Harbour. About a thousand miles south of the traditional Around the World route it had looked too far out of our way. However by spending an extra winter in the Pacific Islands we have another cyclone season to fill south of the tropics, so here we are. Tuesday afternoon we droped our anchor just metres from the opera house, the harbour bridge looming in the background.
An hour earlier we had excitedly turned into Port Jackson the entrance to Sydney Harbour and were met by a scene of frenetic activity. As we tried to concentrate on finding the channel, distractions were everywhere. Two beautiful 90ft racing boats came past, impossibly heeled over, well trained crew sitting on the rail, an international regatta of a hundred or so sailing dinghies filled the waters to our left, power boats, sailing boats, fishing launches came from behind and towards us and powering through it all, keeping determinedly to their course, were numerous large and fast ferries. We cautiously made our way through the chaos, camera poised ready to capture the first view of the city centre.
First glimpse of the centre of Sydney
We motored into Farm Cove right next to the Opera House, dropped the anchor and drank a very special “got here beer”. Unfortunately unprotected from the busy harbour it was far too bouncy to stay for long, so after taking the compulsory Opera House and Bridge shots we moved under the bridge and into Balls Bay further upstream.
Celebratory “got here beer”
Balls Bay was protected from the worst of the harbour chop but had no obvious place to leave the dingy. Determined to enjoy our first night out on the town, with our friends from Moonshadow we tied the dingy to a steep ladder on the waterfront. We climbed with difficulty on to the wharf only to find ourselves in a gated apartment complex. With no clear way out it took us a while but eventually we found the road and took a taxi to Darling Harbour for dinner. On our return, with a falling tide, the ladder was even more precarious and the now revealed bottom rungs encrusted with razor sharp Oyster shells, not exactly an ideal place for a rubber dingy. This was not going to be the place to restock.
Fantastic as it is to be in the middle of such a great city, Sydney turns out to be rather difficult for cruising yachts. The marinas are expensive and, at least until the Sydney to Hobart racing boats leave Boxing Day, all are completely full. Anchorages are few and far between and getting ashore for groceries and to enjoy the sights is proving difficult. To complicate things further the water upstream of the bridge is full of diesel from the ferries and too dirty for our watermaker.
After much googling we found a marina where for $30 we could tie up to the shopping pontoon for a few hours and visit the grocery store. We made the best of our time, I managed to get to the hairdressers, Rick took a taxi to the Chandlers and we stocked up with food but there was no fresh water. With the water tanks almost empty we motored back under the bridge and out to Rose Bay. It wasn’t the most comfortable of anchorages, Raya being rocked continuously by the harbour traffic but it had a nice beach for stretching our legs, a dock for the dingy and clean water. However with the weather deteriorating we decided a wet and bouncy trip ashore could wait and instead were entertained by a stream of motor yachts that anchored close by full to bursting with Christmas revellers. We watched as the storm approached and the sky darkened, a fleet of yachts appeared around the headland, undeterred by the lightening they raced around a mark just a few hundred metres behind us. We sat in the cockpit enjoying the action and the peculiarly atmospheric light.
Turneresque scene as the storm closes in
We have now returned to the inner harbour and are currently anchored in Blackwattle Bay right in the centre of town, there are no less than two dingy docks, shops and sights are close by and it is calm. It does have a few downsides, it sits next to a noisy flyover, it is rather shallow for us, at low tide we have just a metre to spare under our keel and the water is too contaminated for the watermaker. But with our water tanks full from our trip to Rose Bay we can at last take some time to enjoy the city.