Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Exploring the Land of Oz!

Newcastle is a lovely area on the Tasman Sea
Australia is huge! Although the boat will be here for about 10 months, we will not. Visa restrictions require us to leave after 90 days and then return for another 90 day. We can do this for twelve months. So in between the trips outside of the country, we are trying to figure out when and where to go and this is very weather dependent.

At Swansea, NSW, you have to schedule a bridge opening
to enter or leave Lake Macquarie. It is too shallow for us.
It is now Spring and moving into Summer. We have had some 107 degree days here in Newcastle, NSW already. It doesn’t last too long as a Southerly Buster blows in with cold air dropping the temperature 30 degrees within minutes and shifting the winds 180 degrees. You can actually see it happening!
For us, the problem is that it is too hot to go to the Outback until next April. So we are heading to Tasmania in December and have been told that it is chilly down there and to take our woolies! It might be a welcome change for a while.

Lake Macquarie. Not even close to Michigan lakes!
We have started exploring the New South Wales coast area, in addition to the places we went with the Down Under Rally. One of our local excursions was to find a shopping center and Bunnings, which is like a Home Depot or Lowes.
Dennis is finding the driving similar to New Zealand as it is a right-hand drive car and they drive on the opposite side of the road as we do in the USA. The biggest difference is that they drive faster and cut in and out more than the Kiwis.  

Coal is the major product around Newcastle. There is very
little dirt or pollution due to modern techniques.
We are not buying a car here as the distances are too great between the sites we want to see. Instead, we will do Fly & Drive trips to the selected areas. The bus and train systems are very good here. And the walking areas are boardwalks and sidewalks with room for bicycles and they go for miles along the beaches. If you like walking, you can walk for miles and miles.

We drove south to Lake Macquarie, which is a large inland saltwater lake with a channel in from the ocean. The entrance is too shallow for us to enter so we drove all the way around the lake. It took a couple of hours, but is nothing like the Great Lakes.
Maybe put Houghton and Higgins Lakes together and you have the same size. Or maybe only Houghton Lake! We see no reason to go there to sail. Plus you have to call the draw bridge an hour ahead and wait for a time for it to open.

Dunes just south of Nelson Bay.
A drive to the north along the ocean took us to Nelson Bay and the Port Stephens area. Along the way we found a road to the beach and were delighted to see where were: at the north end of the 18+ mile beach that starts just across the river from the marina here in Newcastle!
The sand dunes at that end are awesome. They give Sleeping Bear Dunes a run for the money! The beach is enormous, but I think Sleep Bear Dunes are higher.

Lunch is always an adventure on our road trips as we like to find places where the locals eat. The experience at Lake Macquarie left much to be desired. In fact, neither of us felt like eating dinner and I still felt less than good the next day.
The Aussies live at the beaches: surfing, swimming, biking
and walking. A real outdoor lifestyle here!
However, we hit the jackpot in Nelson Bay. We ate at the Rock Lobster Seafood Restaurant. Dennis was like a kid with a super happy meal! He loves his seafood! The food was really good and we were so full that no dinner again, but this time, no crummy feelings either. 

Then we topped it off with ice cream which is a real treat when sailing. I am not sure the sundae was called for, but appeared to finish off the “happy meal!” I found a new favorite flavor of ice cream: Baily’s and Almond. Really good!

We have seen several of these chess sets in parks.
So far, Australia has shown us some really special things and then some ho-hum ones. I guess we are lucky to have so many wonderful places in America that it takes something outstanding to top it. There is no place like home, but we have seen some pretty amazing places!

Next exploration: We will go to Sydney for the holidays and to Tasmania by air for a driving trip along the east coast.

The harbor at Nelson Bay

Great lunch stop

Dennis' critter lunch

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Year's Eve in Sydney!

We had a German lunch of sausages and beer here.
We are back in Sydney again. This time was planned as we decided back in September that being in Sydney for the New Year's Eve fireworks would be a once in a lifetime experience for us. Being rather cautious sailors, we decided not to join the chaos in the harbor and left the boat in Pittwater. The hotels make you buy the NYE package and pay in full when you make your reservation. Let me just say that this is the most expensive Holiday Inn room we have ever had - and it is nothing special.

Interesting mix of architecture in Sydney.
The Sydney NYE event makes it special and so the high room rates. And if you want a dinner, they start at abut $150 per person and go from there. Some have fireworks tickets included. We don't need tickets because we go up to the pool deck on the roof for a barbeque and drinks. The view is perfect as we are between the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. There are eight barges in the river so there will be fireworks the full length as far as you can see in either direction. Oh, yes, our room came with a bottle of champagne and chocolates decorated with fireworks paintings.

Inside the Queen Victoria Building
Since the room packages are for three nights, we came in on the bus on the 30th and will leave on January 2, 2016! (How did it get to be 2016 so soon?) Our time has been happily spent sightseeing and enjoying this fabulous city. It is filled with people and great places to eat. There are beautiful gardens and, of course, the waterfront to enjoy. We saw the Queen Victoria Building that has been repurposed into a vertical shopping mall. The Museum of Contemporary Art was fun.

Old and new tastefully integrated within the city.

Martin Place near the Royal Botanical Garden

When we retuned to the hotel from our explorations on the 31st,, we had to show our room key to get in the door. Only registered guests and no friends are admitted. There is no jamming extra people into your room or on the rooftop for the celebration. Hotel guest only. I like that plan.

If you rub this boar's nose, you should have good fortune!

We have friends out in the harbor on their boats and others down on the street in the crowds, but we can see it all from our room! Nice. But, of course, we will go up to the roof!

In the Royal Botanical Garden
There are so many places to walk to in the downtown area. It is a little like San Francisco with the hills and mixture of old Victorian buildings mixed in with the variety of modern structures.

And there are so many little shops as well as major stores. I wonder who supports all of them. We did visit a very exclusive pearl store and saw the most valuable pearls in the world. It is the Paspaley family business and the legend is as follows:

The crowds are arriving at Circular Quay
"One pearler emerged from the harsh early days of natural pearl diving to create a glittering future. As a refugee, the late Nicholas Paspaley MBE crossed the world’s oceans on a tramp steamer from a tiny island in Greece to reach his destiny on the remote northern coast of Australia, where rich pearl beds teemed with life and hidden treasures."

They farm pearls in pristine waters on the northwest coast of Australia. The water is the least polluted in all of the oceans and oysters make exquisite pearls. It is an amazing company that supplies most of the world's high-end pearls. I found a few beauties, but left them there for someone else.

Staking out their place for a good view of the fireworks
that are still ten hours away and it is hot!
I used the time between dinner and the 9 PM fireworks to upload photos and catch up on my blog. The early fireworks are for families; the real show is at midnight so we will be back up on the roof for those, too.

There was a lot of entertainment going on out on the water and on land to keep the crowd of about 1.5 million people occupied before and between shows. I heard they had added 1000 buses for the night to get people out of the city and back to the suburbs as no vehicles were allowed anywhere near the waterfront.

There was a light display on the bridge, a water gun fight between two tug boats, a show of airplanes, and a parade of lighted boats all over or on the water. While on land, there were musicians, mimes, jugglers, and a vast array of activities.

The crowds are filling the streets and enjoying drinks and signing. They have three more hours to go and I imagine they will be in fine shape by the time the big event sets off!

The whole waterfront on both sides of the river were lined with spectators for several miles on either side of the bridge. And the various bays were jammed with boats of every size and type. It will be interesting after the midnight show when they all try to raise anchor and head to their marinas! We will be finishing the chocolates and champagne and relaxing without their worries!

Here's to you: Happy New Year and Health and Success in 2016.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Boxing Day in Sydney=Rolex Sydney to Hobart

This is Wild Oats XI - the one that was supposed to win!
However, American owned Comanche took line honors.
Boxing Day! It is a big deal within the Commonwealth, but even bigger here in Sydney with the Start of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race. This annual event is one of the toughest yacht races in the world. And the boats are magnificent! I can't ever calculate the multiple millions of dollars in boats and equipment we were watching!

And it was an exciting start for what is now being call one of the most challenging Sydney to Hobart races in history! Three boats crashed into each other before it even started. How frustrating for the owners! One boat did not follow the rules of right away and caused the whole mess. And probably a lawsuit or two.

It has been fun following the race. The weather was predicted to be wild at the start - and it was - as well as when they got further south. Australia  has these weather systems called "Southerly Busters" that blow in fast and furiously from the south triggering winds of 30-50 knots. It would be similar to our Nor'easters, but with rain instead of snow. And the wind is strong and kick up wild seas.

Brian & Phil watching the "anchoring games!"
Wild Oats was in the lead when the Southerly Buster hit and it ripped its mainsail and took them out of the race. Two American boats were in the lead the rest of the way just edging ahead of an Australian boat that stood a chance to win. All three hit something that destroyed dagger boards and rudders. So they all limped across the line with Americans taking first and third - losing second place by three minutes!

We had a great "ringside" view of the race from S/Y Angela, a yacht owned by new friends from Hobart, Tasmania. Barbara served a lovely lunch of fresh cherries, Asian noodles and a huge bowl of fresh prawns. I am sorry I didn't take a photo of the gorgeous prawns before we devoured them.

We gals (me, Barbara & Sue) had the best seats!
Several of our Down Under Rally boats were anchored in Rose Bay between the entrance to the harbor and the harbor bridge, so they were in a good position to see the boats start, pass by and leave the harbor as they turned south toward Tasmania.
Getting from out hotel at The Rocks near the bridge only took an hour bus ride out to Rose Bay where Brian from S/Y Darramy picked us up in the dinghy. Very nice of him to do so in the rain! We were all going out to the Start Line on S/Y Angela.
The Sydney Opera House as seen from the water.
I can't begin to tell you how many boats were moving in the harbor in addition to the 100+ racers and ferries. Big power boats would rush to drop an anchor to squeeze out smaller boats. The smaller boats would still anchor in tight spaces which ticked off the big guys. We ended up with a good view as we were anchored just inside the zone and all of the big guys who tried to anchor in front of us were moved by the police! The fun really began when boats started dragging anchors and trying to re-anchor! Oh, the joys of boating!
At the end of the day, we caught a ferry at Rose Bay Wharf and headed back to Circular Quay (pronounced "key" as I was corrected by an Aussie). After collecting our duffle bags from the hotel, we were off on the bus to Pittwater/Newport. All was well until we realized we had no way to get from the land to our boat! Opps, not the ending we were hoping for after three wonderful days in Sydney.

and under Harbour Bridge.
Public transportation in the Sydney and Newcastle areas is efficient and affordable. However, the water taxi is a different story! Since there was no one around on the water when we arrived at the Newport Wharf and the marina office was closed so Rod wasn't available to give us a lift back, we were stranded. We called the two nearby yacht clubs hoping for some help, but got no offers to assist us. After several attempts to get through to the water taxi company, we finally order a taxi.

The good news was that he would come in the rain in about 20 minutes. The bad news was that it will cost $92! That is right: $92! Just to go 400 feet, but the only alternative was to swim out to the mooring ball with our luggage. NOT! That ride cost more than all of our bus and ferry rides for the past three days combined! We will have to make different arrangement when we go to Sydney for New Year's Eve weekend.
This is the view to the right side of the Opera House from
our hotel roof on George Street near the Harbour Bridge.
A great view from our room at The Rocks in Sydney.
Before we left Sydney, we mad a visit to the roof of our hotel from which we will be watching the New Year's Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour. What a spectacular view: the bridge to our left and the Opera House to our right. It will be great fun and an experience to remember. And we will wave to you! Can't wait to get back there for NYE! Happy New Year!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge at night from our hotel.
This will be a great view of the fireworks on NYE!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Unplanned Christmas in Sydney

A view of the Harbour Bridge from the Opera House
That is right: unplanned. Actually, we had "planned" to sail into Sydney Harbour on December 21st and anchor near other sailing friends for Christmas. We had tickets to see an event at the Sydney Opera House on Christmas Eve Day at 11AM.

Like I mentioned: we had "planned," but like many plans in the sailing world, Mother Nature rules! And so do mechanical issues. We left Newcastle as planned and went to Pittwater to grab a mooring ball near Newport for a few days. This way we would be able to leave for Sydney Harbour early in a morning and still get in with time to find another mooring ball or anchorage. From there we would plan our next move in the area.

Our view as we passed on the ferry
While friends, John and Leanne on Songlines, suggested we join them in an anchorage in a nearby bay, we opted to go further in and make arrangements to leave S/V Trillium for the New Year's holiday while we go to Sydney. That was a good decision as things went downhill from there!

Inside Sydney Opera House
We actually found a good, but tight, mooring and prepared to go ashore to make arrangements. The dinghy was lowered into the water; the new Mercury 5 hp motor was put on and we were ready to go. NOT! The new motor would not start!

Great architectural design.
Okay, no problem; we have another outboard - our old Yamaha 8 hp. So we swapped motors. The Yamaha started with a bit of a protest, but it hadn't been used in several months so it didn't surprise us. We made it to shore and took care of business. On the way back to the boat, it quit! Just froze up so Dennis couldn't even pull the starter rope!

This is where the oars we struggled to get two years ago back in St. Martin came in handy. It was a long way back to the boat. We learned of a Mercury dealer between where we were and the boat, so we decided to row there. Fortunately, a helpful sailor offered a tow which we graciously accepted.

The exterior roof is tile. That is how it can bend.
Of course, it is a few days before Christmas and they are not accepting any new work. Can't even look at it until January 4th! It seems that places close between Christmas Eve Day and New Year's Day.

Okay, plan C or is it D? Then we rowed to the boat. Online I found a Yamaha dealer in the area, but too far for rowing. We wanted to buy a new Yamaha, but learned the 8 hp model we wanted would not be available until April!

So we bought another 5 hp from him. Now we have to get the motor delivered from somewhere and commissioned before they close for Christmas. Mission accomplished and we got the new one in time. Rod Waterhouse of DBY Sales gave Dennis a tow to pick it up and leave the older 8 hp for service. Merry Christmas, Dear. Santa just delivered early!

Interesting angles and details everywhere!
Now I am depressed as it had been raining for two days and was forecasted to continue for several more. We have been stranded on a mooring ball without a motor and we may miss our Sydney Opera House event! My dear hubby accepted my suggestion that we take the bus to Sydney and instead of staying just for the day, we stay for Christmas. Thank you, Dear.

Okay, where are the statues?
Christmas in Sydney did not feel like Christmas at home, but it was wonderful. We saw "The Impressionists 1903" in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. Loved the performance and the architecture! Our hotel is the same as where we will be for the New Year's Eve celebration, so everything is within walking distance.

It helps to be in the Catholic Church when looking for statues!
By a stroke of fate, I messed up the directions to the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve. We thought we had found it, but once we sat down we knew something was missing: Mary, the Crucifix, etc. I asked the gal next to me for the name of the church: St. Phillips Anglican! I loved it because the Protestants can really sing and the Carol Service was the right place to be on Christmas Eve! 
On Christmas Day, we found the Catholic Church for Mass. It was across the park from St. Phillips! Without family or friends near, we had nothing to do on Christmas Day after brunch and Mass so we decided to take a ferry ride in Sydney Harbour.

A view of Manly Beach, New South Wales
We will be sailing into the area after the New Year's holiday celebrations are over, so we thought it would be good to look at the entrance to see where we might anchor for the first night. The Manly Ferry took us from Circular Quay in The Rocks area to the town of Manly.

Just a short walk from the wharf through the town on the Corso took us to the Manly Beach. It is one of the most popular in the Sydney area. Manly Beach is located on the north side of the harbor and Bondi Beach is on the south side. We will visit there on our next trip to Sydney.

One family celebrating Christmas at the beach.
We enjoyed the Christmas decorations in the city square and watching families celebrate Christmas Aussie-style! They take a picnic and their gifts to the beach. After eating, the gifts were passed out and opened. No one was dressed up; no big dinner, etc. Just summer fun at the beach. It was difficult for me to get in the Christmas spirit here, but it was interesting to see how it is done by some in the warm climate of a summer Christmas.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Down Under Rally: FUN Part 2

As you can see from the previous post, The Down Under Rally has done a wonderful job of keeping us busy and connecting with all of the yachties in the rally. John and Leanne Hembrow have really outdone themselves along with the help of Howard Keegan and the many sponsors of the event. All of their efforts were frequently applauded by the ralliers. The events continued for a few more days:
They even served Vege-Mite sandwiches. Dennis loves it.
I can't stand the smell of it. Most of the sailors hated it!
I guess you have to be an Aussie to enjoy Vege-Mite!
  • Straya Mate Lunch: This was a most interesting event! Originally I did not sign us up for it because I didn’t know what it was. It turned out that “Straya” is a nickname for Australia, but with the accent, I did not put two and two together! So once I had been enlightened, we joined in and found it fun and informative.John shared a lot of Aussie humor and terms with us. It was hard to understand some of it due to the accent and speed to speech, but it was obviously funny for those you got it. I laughed hard at John laughing at some of the things he was showing and Robin was saying with emphasis on the humor. There are a few things we need to know:
Refer to your butt as bum and NOT fanny (vagina here!) So you fall on your bum, not your fanny!

A bathing suit is Bathers or a Budgy smuggler (Also: Budgie smuggler) which is a nickname for Speedo swimming trunks for men! Cozzie is another word for swimming suit.

I laughed so hard at John laughing at the Aussie humor!
But I missed a lot of it due to the accent and lack of context.
Bikie is someone who rides a Harley Davidson, but most commonly used to describe the member of a bikie gang, while a Bikkie means cookie (short for biscuit).
Chuck a sickie means to call in sick to work for a day off.
Dead horse means tomato sauce (ketchup).

Dog’s breakfast means something is a mess; Dog’s eye is meat pie.
Fairy floss is cotton candy.

To be Knackered is to be pooped; tired; exhausted.
You can buy some Lollie water (soda pop) at Maccas, the nickname for McDonald’s (pronounced mă-kahs or mackers).

Me = Depending on where you are and who you are talking to, some Aussies say “me” in place of “my”, so instead of asking “Where are my sunglasses?”, they might say “Where are me sunnies?”
Off your head means high on drugs. “Caz was totally off her head last night at the party.”
Brian's idea of Glamour???
On the piss means drinking alcohol.
A Poo man is a plumber and Poo tickets are toilet paper! And a Sparky is an electrician.
Power point = Power/electrical outlet, not a Microsoft program.
To Rug up = Bundle up to keep warm when it’s cold outside.
Snag means sausage and Snag bag is sausage roll.
Thongs = Flip-flops. So when the sign says No Thongs, it is not referring to your underwear!
Up the duff = Pregnant (usually referring to an unplanned pregnancy).
Woop Woop is a made up name for a tiny town in the middle of nowhere.
And a Yank is an American. Not intended to be offensive at all. Whew!

Glamour Girls having fun!
So these are just a few of the Aussie terms to give you an idea of how difficult it is to follow a conversation at times. Then add the Aussie accent to it and hope you don’t make a fool of yourself when you respond! I hope I can speak proper American English when I return!

Since it was such a busy Rally Week, the saga continues here.

    And the winners are ...
    The Welcome Cocktail Party with a theme of Glamour was a highlight for us as we won the prize for being the Most Glamorous Couple. The prize was a night in a local hotel with a suite including a bath tub! I love a bath so I am really excited because the last one I had was in December! Of course, I do shower regularly just in case you were wondering. Anyway, it was a fun night and will be a fun night!

  • And then there is Happy Hour every night!
    The daily schedule included several informative presentations on Aussie culture and language, when and where to land cruise this big country and when and where to cruise their beautiful coastline. Of course, the timing is important for both types of cruising due to high heat in the Outback during summer months as well as the cyclones north of New South Wales during that time period. So we are planning our travel accordingly. We were also given a bit of information on the 10 most dangerous creatures on earth that live here. I am not too excited to meet any of them!

  • At least it was cool in the tasting room. We (I) bought
    some good wine to have onboard for dinner parties.
    This pool felt soooo good on a 107 degree day!
    There was a day of learning to surf. Dennis and I took a pass on that.
  • We did enjoy the Mecure Resort Hunter Valley Winery Day Trip with a tasting at one of the larger wineries. It was on a 1070 day! The bus was air conditioned as was the tasting room so part of the day was very comfortable. The rest of the day was outside where the breeze was about 85 degrees. Fortunately, the resort where we had lunch allowed us to use their swimming pool so we did! It was a lovely way to spend a hot afternoon. The wine was good as was the food, but the swim was the best.

  • The rally hosted Down Under Dock Pizza Party and a number of lunch sessions and Happy Hours daily at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club (NCYC). Our final event was a Down & Dusted Party at one of the sponsors, The Albion Hotel. I gathered that Down & Dusted is a saying that means: this party is over!

Friends from Vancouver and England at the Pizza Party.
All in all, the rally was a fun and well organized event. Now we need a week of rest to recover. Some of the boats have set sail to other destinations. We will be here in Newcastle for a while and do some land travel. Then for Christmas we will head to Sydney by boat. We hope to see the start of the Sydney to Hobart race on Boxing Day then sail north to Pitt Water. We will return to Sydney by train or bus to spend several nights there over the New Year’s holiday. So we will be among the first to ring in 2016!

An international group of Ocean Cruising Club members.