Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Down Under Rally: FUN

Having sailed with the Island Cruising Association (ICA) Pacific Circuit Rally from Opua, NZ to Tonga, we rejoined them in Vanuatu for the passage to New Caledonia. It is fun to be with a group of people and participate in a number of activities. This is a nice way to get to know other cruisers from all around the world. The ICA encouraged us to join the new Down Under Rally which is based in Newcastle, AU.

Dennis with John at a NCYC function.
Originally, we had planned to sail to Brisbane, AU, but decided to try the Down Under Rally and Newcastle. Several people bad-mouthed Newcastle as a blue-collar mining town. We said, “So, we are from Detroit and don’t see a problem with Newcastle!” Right we were!

Newcastle is a coal mining town that has done a major transformation over the last 15 years. We are very happy we came to Newcastle – and because it is close to Sydney, we will get to sail into Sydney Harbour after all. And we will spend New Year’s Eve at the Rocks near the bridge where it is all happening! 

The Tram Tour was a fun way to get an overview of the area.
As for the Down Under Rally, John and Leanne Hembrow and Howard Keegan, the Dock Master at the Newcastle Marina (and he is Mr. Newcastle Marina and Cruising Yacht Club!) have created a fantastic week of fun and friendship. We highly recommend participating in this rally. Newcastle has welcomed us and opened the doors to their yacht club with complimentary social memberships while we are here.  The members and staff are great; good food and drink and wonderful facilities. No one should ever bad-mouth Newcastle! I hope this rally is successful for years to come!

The week was filled with fun activities, Happy Hours and many meals together. Here is a sampling of what we did:

  • Yoga for Yachties (every other morning): I dragged my stiff weary body out to do this and found it very enjoyable. I think my back would rather to yoga at 9 AM instead of 7:30 AM, though.

  • The lovely Memorial Bridge walk.
    An Aussie BBQ: Our first introduction to the barbeques for which Oz is famous. Apparently, throughout the country in the parks and along the roads, there are BBQ stations where you put in coins to use the propane Barbie, then clean up after yourselves for the next people to use it. Steak, chicken (chook, here) and sausages (bangers) are the usual fare.

  • Discover Newcastle Tram Tour: This was a fun day of riding on a restored tram car to get an overview of the greater Newcastle area including across the river at Stockton. We saw their famous walkway that goes for miles between the harbor and the southern area of Merewether. Along the way we visited the oceanside saltwater swimming pools, a number of beaches and walked on the famous Memorial Bridge.

  • What a view from Memorial Bridge
    Cruising New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD): It is now obvious that we should have planned for two years here! There is a lot to see and do both on land and by boat. The cruising grounds all along the coast make it one of best cruising areas in the world. And they speak English –sort of!
Dennis and Michael, a new sailing friend from California.
  • Newcastle by Bike Street Art Tour: Bicycling is big here. And so is street art and pubic parks. Like New Zealand, Australia is a real outdoors place. We did not participate in this as we were scheduled to do a different bike tour that got canceled. We did ride bikes from the marina all the way to the end of the breakwater at Nobby’s Head. It is about a three mile ride out there. So I consider a six mile trek my exercise for the day!
And this was just the first half of the event! More to come...

Not a coast where you want your engine to fail!


  1. Thank you Sherry for taking the time to share your Down Under Rally and Newcastle experience.
    We enjoyed having you and Dennis as rally participants. The energy & enthusiasm our participants in no small way to making the rally a success and we are grateful to you all .

  2. Just brilliant Sherry and Dennis, we fell in love with Newcastle on our way south down the Oz east coast a couple of years back. Very glad you loved the Down Under rally, John and Leanne put on a great program and are the perfect hosts for this event.
    John and Lyn, ICA


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