During a happy hour one night in Musket Cove, Fiji, when asked what we would do in Australia during cyclone season, we started giving it some thought. Many happy hours & beautiful tropical anchorages later, with all memories of sailing in the variables fading away, we arranged with new cruising friends Lynn & Larry Lewis on the American yacht Zephyr to rendezvous in Brisbane & cruise south for the summer.
After a somewhat weather delayed passage down the Queensland & New South Wales coast we finally arrived through the heads at Port Stephens early December, the sky was a brilliant blue, a gentle breeze was blowing & we were lucky enough to pick up courtesy moorings right in Nelson Bay. These are provided in a variety of anchorages on the Australian coast and come with a tag on them indicating maximum boat weight & length and permitted length of stay. They are just great, often available, & as we were to find out shortly, this one was big & strong.
Time was marching on and we wanted to be in Sydney by Christmas so out into the big blue wobbly stuff again for an overnight passage south to Broken Bay. This huge sheltered waterway north of Sydney comprises of the Hawkesbury River, Cowan Creek, Brisbane Water & busy Pittwater. About 90 per cent of the shoreline is unspoilt National Park, there are numerous coves & inlets, many with courtesy mooring buoys again, so we spent several days exploring all the nooks & crannies of this magical spot. It’s not great for sailing as the distances are small & the wind funnels through, but for getting away from it all it’s superb with so many anchoring options. Late one afternoon we experienced our first taste of how hot the breeze can be if blowing from the outback, within about 20 minutes it rose 8 degrees, sure warmed things up! Again we did some great walks, startling wallabies in the wild, searching out aboriginal paintings & having well earned breaks atop rocky outcrops, taking in the incredible vistas. Happy hour creek dinghy excursions were always well rewarded with kookaburras, cockatiels, & all other manor of birds abound in their evening chorus.
Christmas was approaching so southbound once more to our final destination for the year, Sydney Harbour. As an Aucklander I confess I thought sailing into Sydney would be nothing special, I take it all back. Through Sydney Heads, around Bradleys Head, & wow, there’s the Harbour Bridge & Opera House silhouetted against the vivid blue sky. The seabreeze had filled in, we had full sail up, there were ferries, speed boats, yachts, kayaks, all coming from every which way – but Mark had not had so much fun since Thursday rum racing - he was not to be deterred, wanting a quick blast past the Opera House for a photo opportunity. Here we learnt that we can do a speedy controlled jibe two handed if the other option is colliding with the Opera House! Then it’s under the Harbour Bridge, sails down – phew – & we motored up past Darling Harbour, under the Anzac Bridge into Rozelle Bay, where we squeezed into the 2.5metre shallows & claimed a spot amongst several other cruisers. Made it!!!!!
We had a month in Sydney & each day was filled with a new adventure. From our anchorage in Rozelle Bay we would dinghy over to the famous Sydney Fish Markets in Blackwattle Bay then walk 20mins to Darling Harbour or beyond. Alternatively we would dinghy ashore metres from the boat & have a very short uphill walk to Glebe High Street, where overflowing with exotic cafes and deli’s we sampled some of the best & cheapest of Sydney’s culinary delights.
On reflection of our time in Sydney we would give it 10 out of 10. There was an amazing variety of anchorages & we did not need to marina Balvenie once, they even have a “dial a fuel station”, who offered prompt service at dockside rates, excellent. Was it worth the overnight passages down the coast???? – well, as Tasmania was our next destination, it was just sort of on the way!!!!!!