Australia Day 2017

Jan 27, 2017| 0 Comment

Saturday, January 21st – Last night, exhausted by the winds of a midnight Southerly Buster, we motored into Broken Bay seeking the shelter provided by Barrenjoey Head, that green hammerhead shark shape at the right edge of the photo.  We then proceeded up the watery arm on the lower right to anchor off Whale Beach.  At the head of this arm, Pittwater River empties into the bay.  Above this area is Cowan Creek which, unlike a creek as one might define the word, is wide, deep and navigable. To the north is the Hawkesbury River whose waters and fertile shores figured prominently in the early settlement of this land.  What a natural outdoor recreation area these 3 bodies of water and the rugged terrain rising up from them create! Though there is significant development along stretches of the coast, vast areas have been set aside as Natural Parks. Trails crisscross the area with access available in several spots for those camped out on the water.   Isolated beaches and quiet nooks are scattered here and there along the coast, and a sheltered bay can always be found to cozy into no matter the wind direction.  It’s a spectacular setting, and we are happy to be back.

We wake to a brilliantly blue sky.  Avante is anchored quite aways off shore and far away from other anchored boats, but this does not surprise us. At 0230 in the absolute darkness at the end of that brutal passage, we were not about to cruise the dark anchorage looking for a closer in spot. With the help of our flashlights, we had motored just near enough to know we were in a safe place to anchor. With daylight, we move closer to shore and the other boats moored or anchored in the bay.

The day is spent relaxing and detoxing from that passage.  Other than transferring fuel from our auxiliary jugs and some boat clean-up, we are content to watch the Saturday afternoon boat traffic out on the bay where, for once, we are glad to see them out there and us in here securely and quietly at anchor.

Sunday, January 22nd – The First Mate’s Birthday!  How to celebrate?  There’s a favorite restaurant called Cottage Point an easy sail from here.  Are they open for dinner?  We call.  Though not open for dinner, they can put us in for a late lunch at 3:30.  Knowing from experience that any repast here is a minimum of 2 hours, we take the reservation telling ourselves that it’s not a late lunch.  It’s an early dinner.

1140 – We weigh anchor to head out Broken Bay and down Cowan Creek to Cottage Point for our Birthday lunch. (See map above) Anchored in the bay across from Cottage Point Restaurant, we launch the dinghy to motor in for our repast. Dinghy secured to the dock, we walk to the entrance.  Yes, we have reservations.  Mrs. Grun will be shown to her seat, but Mr. Grun, they are sorry, is not allowed.  What?  Why?  His shoes! Boat attire in the tropics is minimal.  A cap to shade the eyes, a bathing suit as needed and shoeless for comfort. Here in Australia suffering through the hottest summer on records, this is the tropics. The Captain is appropriately dressed from knees to shoulders, but there’s the matter of a neglected pair of shoes.  While The First Mate sits in the breezy, shaded comfort of the porch admiring the view, The Captain dinghies back to Avante for the forgotten shoes.

With a sheepish grin on his face and shoes on his feet, he returns to be escorted formally to his seat.  A toast to The First Mate’s birthday, and a delicious meal is once again enjoyed at one of our favorite spots.

The next day we take a dinghy tour around the area. A small mooring field is located off Cottage Point where a number of beautifully restored, vintage Halvorsen launches can be found. We admire their sleek, distinctive lines, the bright white paint, the gleaming varnished wood, and the obvious love and pride their owners have in these beauties.

One can reach Cottage Point Restaurant by private boat as we did. There is access by road, and one can also take a charter plane.  From our perch in the dinghy, we watch a plane circle in to gracefully land off the edge of the field of boats.  It motors over to a mooring ball where the pilot climbs out of the cockpit to pick up the line to secure the plane. Thinking that mooring balls were for boats, it initially seemed strange to The First Mate, but then, why not?  It is probably cooling its wings while its passengers finish lunch at Cottage Point.

Even though the little bay in which we are anchored is open to the activity across the way at Cottage Point, it feels remote and private — just the way we like it. Looking in the opposite direction, it is all wilderness and uninhabited shoreline.

Tuesday, January 24th Two objectives are onboard for today. Get fuel and sail down to Sydney. Australia Day is in two days. Celebrated with as much national fervor as our Fourth of July, we want to be positioned in Sydney Harbour to enjoy all the festivities. By 0940, we are starting the engine and raising the anchor. As we round Cowan Point, wind is gusting between 10 to 20 knots, but as we pass Challenger Head, it settles down to a steadier 10 – 15 knots from the NNW. We raise the jib and turn off the engine. By 1120, we have crossed Broken Bay and heading into Pittwater where, with the wind blocked, we drop sail to motor on to the Royal Motor Yacht Club where, tied up to the fuel dock, we complete the first of the day’s tasks. Foiled we are, however, with our second task. Unable to access the internet for wind advisories from where we were anchored in Cottage Point, we could do nothing more than hope the winds would be with us for our trip south to Sydney. Now near the Yacht Club, The Captain pulls down the forecast. As luck would have it, another Southerly Buster is blowing in this afternoon. Enough already! Fueled up, we drop lines and head back out to Cowan Creek this time to shelter in Yeoman’s Bay where, securely anchored, we ride out the Southerly Buster that came through as predicted. We spend a dismal, showery evening hoping tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, January 25th – It is just enough better. On the move by 0840, we spend most of the trip south motoring into a light S to SSE wind. Skies are grey, threatening rain, but even with the overcast, it is still a thrill to round North Head whose formidable rock escarpment marks the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

Home from the sea we are, but vigilant we must be to navigate Sydney Harbour. Shortly after turning the corner to head down to the Opera House, the Sow and Pigs Reef must be avoided. It is well marked.  One can pass to either side of it, but one doesn’t want to wait until the last minute to make that decision. While keeping an eye out for the reef markers, a good watch for the many green and yellow ferries that transit these waters must be kept. A ferry waits for no one, and they don’t like making abrupt turns. An imperative horn blast will tell you to move it and get out of their way. The First Mate must add that the last sentence, embarrassingly, was written from first-hand experience.

Adding to the usual traffic in the harbour are the Wednesday afternoon yacht races. Not being a racing sailor, The First Mate is amazed at the speed and dexterity of these boats as they maneuver for starting position. Around and past several islands they go, up to the bridge and back again all the while keeping out of the way of the ferries who wait for no one.

We continue on enjoying the spectacle and anchor in Rose Bay north of Shark Island.  With a stunning view down to the Opera House and The Coathanger, as the Sydney Harbour Bridge is fondly called, we are content.

Australia Day, Thursday, January 26th – Eager to position ourselves closer to the Opera House for the day’s festivities, we are underway by 0845 to drop anchor in Athol Bay below Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Obviously, we have chosen the perfect spot, for not far from us a big P&O cruise ship is anchored, and behind us a floating bar has been ferried in for the day.  Though overcast, it is still pleasant enough to have breakfast on deck as we watch and wave to the merrymakers arriving on the scene.   A parade of decorated boats of all shapes and sizes starts the day, and as the parade ends, many of the decorated boats head over to our anchorage.  Ozzie pride and good humor is evident all around us. Laughter can be heard across the water. Music blares from a floating entertainment barge.

       A boxing kangaroo was even out there taking part  in the action!

A parade of tall boats takes place later in the day as well as a variety of aerial displays from jet formation flying to helicopters. Unfortunately, with the low ceiling on this dismal day, several of the aerial shows we had read to expect could not be safely done. Still and all, it’s a fun day, and we are glad to be there to enjoy it.

The evening fireworks are the day’s only disappointment, for we had assumed, though not researched, that they would be off the bridge as they are on New Year’s Eve. Instead they are held in an inner harbour we cannot get to, and all we can see are faint glimmers in the night sky.  We cannot believe that with all the people out here that there is no show for them. Well, nothing to do but head to bed, and just as we are doing so, fireworks erupt from over by the Opera House and bridge. They aren’t long lasting or particularly inspiring, but they are fireworks!  Wow!  A perfect ending to the day!

No —  the perfect ending to the day is the view of the Sydney Opera House lit up against the evening sky.

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