Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Port Hacking to Sydney
2/5/16 – 7/5/16

( Blog readers please note - by left clicking on  photos you will see them full size and a photo gallery below. The same applies for previous blog posts..see blog archives below.)

It is less than 20nm from Port Hacking to Sydney Harbor and we were bent on supping on every inch of this journey. In addition we hoped to cross bows with good friend Rod Hunter on board a 50’ Catamaran making south with new owners, bound for a new home in SA. As we rounded Cape Baily just short of Botany Bay, we glassed the cat out to sea on the horizon, making for Jervis Bay and Ulludulla. Maybe they would get to see the elusive Point Perpendicular, although, with cold fronts brewing in Bass Strait, and a significant anniversary pending for his partner Sal only a week or so away, Rod’s thoughts were no doubt more on the challenges that lay ahead.
Entrance to Botany Bay with skyline of Sydney behind

The craggy battlements of sandstone that typify the coastline north from Cronulla to Sydney are breached in a handful of places where some of Australia’s iconic beaches are to be found. Coming from our background in Surf Life Saving, these beaches are Australia’s surfing heartland, and with the ocean a shimmering mirror and our feeble mainsail aloft but without purchase, we could make our northing close in to see them at close hand for ourselves. Maroubra, Coogee, Bronte, Tamarama, and the doyen of them all, Bondi, with its sea-bathing pavilion from a pre latte era, all glided away to port as we basked in the pre-winter sun. Soon the Macquarie Light and the signal station atop Dunbar Head told that the Heads, just past the notorious Gap, were not far away.

Bondi Beach

It is fitting that South Head is adorned by the unique, candy-striped Hornby Light, and when you have passed abeam of it you have entered Sydney Harbor. We just reveled in the placid nature of the sea, and the grandeur of the day to take it all in. Sydney, beautiful, unforgettable Sydney…yes you can be one of the thousands who arrive on aluminum birds at Sydney Airport, but to arrive there by sea is something else. To arrive by our own hand, on our little ship, piloted across many sunsets to get there is something else again. On our journey, we cherished our arrival at Sydney as a significant milestone; just unforgettable!
South Head

Piloting a small craft into Sydney Harbor though does not leave much time for dewy-eyed contemplation, for in a nautical sense it was important to have one’s marine wits about you. Leaving behind the lonely horizons of passage making where ships large and small were often a novelty, the mixed grill of vessels both large and small that seemingly emerge from all quarters requires sharpness and not tardiness at the helm. Ferries, yachts, pleasure cruisers, barges, kayakers (yes, kayakers!), apart from the odd Cruise Liner or Tanker now kept us on our toes from all quadrants of the compass.
Plenty of traffic as we enter Sydney Harbour

 In 2010 we had anchored in Collins Bay, Spring Cove, where, near the old Quarantine Station, excellent shelter was to be found in the company of a remnant population of Fairy Penguins that cling tenuously to their life alongside the challenges of suburbia. This population, the only one now to be found on mainland NSW, is jealously guarded by Environmental authorities,Taronga Park Zoo, and by the locals of Manly. Everyone has been devastated of late by the ravages of a lone Fox which breached security and killed many of the birds. Noting the new anchoring restrictions in the area, and making a mental note to return to this delightful location we made our way around to the waters off Manly Pier, where the Manly Ferry has been operating its famous run from Circular Quay and across Sydney heads since the days of steam.
Collins Bay

Alongside the Manly Ferry Terminal, is a sandy beach, a swimming enclosure, and courtesy moorings for visiting vessels such as ours. Here it is possible to pick up one of the public moorings and overnight here for….wait for this …FREE! International cruisers are staggered that here in Sydney Harbor, there are many places where anchoring is permitted or where courtesy moorings have been installed, and you can stay here for FREE. Yes, we know of cruisers who have moved around Sydney, dining on its delights, for months on end without paying a cent. It is one of the world’s great freebies we think, especially, in a place like Manly, if you dip into the internet for “Cheap Accommodation in Manly” to gauge the cost of sleeping ashore. Yes, as we glided in to pick up a mooring – you can anchor further out on sand to protect the sea grasses if you prefer – there was a care-worn cruising vessel that would never head beyond the harbor, with a lone guy on board, surfboards on the deck, and no rent to pay for a life afloat. Back at Winifred Falls we had met a young couple now resident in Sydney, who were dumbfounded when we let on that our accommodation in the great city would cost us zilch. They ruminated on what it was costing them for a pokey one bed apartment with no view and zero ambience. We could of course head for one of the dozens of up-market marinas that dot the harbor, and pay accordingly, but to us the mooring in the epicenter of Manly would do us just fine!

Our mooring in the epicentre of Manly

Now, as we found to our utter delight, we had another sail – surf cruising destination to add to our list. A short duck ride in and a stroll down Manly’s mall had us emerge on what is probably Australia’s silver medalist in the iconic beaches list; Manly Beach. Warm sun, warm sea – compared with home – and all the delights of one of Oz’s most popular tourist destinations would have been sufficient, but to the mix we added the proximity of the 125m swimming enclosure just meters away and the ever present thrill of being just here, right alongside the Manly Ferry precinct; this was enough to have one pinching oneself time and time again. In addition, there was the obvious practical advantage of walk-to re-provisioning, and the chance to head inshore to maybe find a Thai or Indian eatery, where BYO rules the day and, if we had to justify our accounting, what we saving on accommodation, and some, made us eligible for a culinary treat or two, ashore. Fabulous.
The ferry " Queenscliff "

Watching the great Sydney ferries, Freshwater, Queenscliff, and Narrabeen, all named after North-Shore beaches, dock at Manly from ringside seats was not at all like the allure of a remote anchorage, but had a very different attraction all of its own. What is more, whilst we feared that we would be plagued by ferry-wash through the night, we found that with these ships slowing to come alongside the pier, their wakes were left out in the harbor and we nid-nodded on our tether in perfect harmony. To get up in the middle of the night, to see one of the ferries nestled alongside the pier, and the lights of the cove dancing across the waters had us saying…”just look where we are”! Yes, Manly Cove.

Lights of Manly

View along to Manly Beach from North Steyne

Ashore, we walked from the Pier area to glean more from this unique destination. One stroll took us to the end of greater Manly Beach, beyond South Steyne beach and its art decco Surf Club to Queenscliffe in the north. Following the suggestion of the Information Centre staff, we took the North Head walk, treading warily through penguin country in Spring Cove before heading along the National Park trail to Shelley and eventually Manly Beaches. Up on the headland Banksias were in flower, not far away from the spot where Sir Joseph Banks first saw them and named these unique flowers in 1770. There was so much to discover in Manly and we had prime seats to take it all in.
Our  ocean pool, with our ship moored on the left

We were reluctant to slip away from Manly, but with the weather still delivering brilliant sunshine, we opted to take a self-guided tour of Sydney Harbor, wondering, again, what one might have to pay to hire a boat to do as we were doing. Across the Heads we cruised through Camp Cove and Watson’s Bay, keeping the Sow and Pigs reef to starboard as we made our way via secluded and exclusive coves to Rose Bay. Here there were more courtesy moorings, where protection from one of Sydney’s famous southerly busters was available for those who needed to seek shelter. Just beyond Rose Bay came the exclusive beyond exclusive headland of Point Piper, where Sydney’s well heeled, and social glitterati lived in residences that are close to priceless.

Mansions on Point Piper.....then the famous view!

A sea of masts in Rushcutters Bay and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

Rounding Point Piper the world famous Sydney Harbor Bridge and the graceful lines of the Opera House hove into view, explaining, in part why properties at this location are beyond bankcard. The opulence did not stop there, and continued on through Double Bay and around Darling Point to Ruscutter’s Bay where sleek oceanic greyhounds emerge from the Cruising Yacht Club of Sydney each Boxing Bay to make for the Heads, and Hobart, some 640 nautical miles away. Our life aboard Calista, is as far removed from their rarefied life of testosterone, carbon fibre and kevlar as it is possible to be. In their time though, Swanson 36ers, like Calista fared well in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, because they were built by the Swanson Brothers to take weather in their stride without flinching. We can vouch for this. We might trail the fleet if we entered this year’s race and then again if the weather turned dirty we’d probably prefer to head into Bermi to the River Rock Café rather than to stay out at sea.
Close encounter with the Naval Ships!

Whereas gleaming white was clearly the colour of choice for floating palaces nestling in the harbor, the environs of Potts Point was dominated by the hues of military grey, with Australia’s naval ships clustered around the base at Garden Island. Happily, in spite of the enhanced security to be seen anywhere near sensitive facilities these days, we found that the buoys indicating restricted areas in Woolloomooloo Bay gave us plenty of scope to get up close and personal with Australia’s ships of war, although in recent years they have performed magnificently in our region promoting peace and friendship following natural disasters, without firing a shot. May this remain the case.

It is a bit hard to believe, but not so long ago a cruising yacht could drop anchor and overnight in Farm Cove, ducking ashore as it were, dragging the tux and gown from out behind the wet weather gear and strolling up to opening night at the Opera House, to hob nob with those who have had to get there the hard way, overland from Point Piper. Sadly neither our ship’s wardrobe, or waterway restrictions will allow that now and there are clipped warnings on yellow markers to say, yes glide past Australia’s most famous building, but stay 120m away, and make sure that you comb your hair and put on some lippy as you’ll be on a thousand images in cameras and iPhones from visitors who flock here from all over the world. Smile…you are on Calista at the Opera House.

WOW.....The Sydney Opera House!
...then under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

In reality there was a limited time to ooh and aaah as just around the corner from Bennelong Point where the Opera House sits grandly, is Sydney Cove, and Circular Quay, where at any one time a wandering yacht stands a good chance of being mown down by any one of a plethora of passenger craft, all driven to the max to meet tight schedules around the harbor and to whom, having to duck around a cruising yacht lolling around taking panoramic pictures would be an irritation, if not a danger. Still, by adroitly keeping a ferry and water taxi watch we were able to take some time to take it all in, saying, “look where we are…just look at us…Circular Quay…..and….. we are about to go UNDER SYDNEY HARBOR BRIDGE!...wooo…hooo…what a buzz….oops here comes a fast cat, and the Kirribilli Ferry, a water taxi…and a tug…head to port….no starboard…maybe we should get out of here!..” Yes, going under the grand arch of the Harbor Bridge is really something to those like us who have had many nautical miles pass under our keel just to get here. There is no doubt that in spite of our love of wilderness and remote places, the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House capture one’s attention as no other objects ever built here, and yes they are our Taj, our Eiffel Tower and our Statue of Liberty. To see them as we did on a superlative azure blue day, on our own little ship was again unforgettable.
Darling Harbour and Maritime Museum below

But it did not end there. Just around the corner from these famous landmarks lies Darling Harbor, where we have the fondest of memories of enjoying a dockside beer during the Sydney Olympics, and realizing that at the next table enjoying the moment just like us were the greats of the Dutch swimming team, having finished their competitions and doing just as we were. Can’t help but think, as well, of a girl from Tassie also there, who meets a young guy who says he is a Prince from Denmark….as they all do! We bet that they, like us, remember that special time in Darling Harbor, watching craft of all shapes and size come and go, just drinking it all in. Yes, we now wanted to be one of those craft, so after allowing a ferry to pass we idled in to see the Sydney Aquarium, the Maritime Museum with its famous ships, and watched throngs of visitors wine dine and take pictures without end. Maybe, without knowing it, we will feature in a slide show somewhere in a Penang hall, or in downtown Osaka, sometime down the track.
On approach to the Anzac Bridge
The anchorage at Blackwattle Bay

Not far from Darling Harbor, a turn to port takes a vessel through White Bay which is now a popular cruise liner terminal, before ahead lay the impressive cable stayed Anzac Bridge, described by Alan Lucas in our much thumbed guide as “looking like Madonna’s brassiere”, although we had to take a couple of closer inspections to discern the likeness. The bridge itself perennially swarms with cars like an ant nest stamped on by a bushwalker, and its lofty span is way above the mast height of any yacht we are likely to set foot on.  Below it sits the forlorn swing bridge, the Glebe island Bridge, that it replaced, now permanently set to open with lights-controlled access via the eastern span, allowing passage into Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays. Here in buoyed zones, anchoring is permitted for visiting vessels, and again for free. We like to have plenty of what is termed “swinging room” when anchoring, but it was clear that here we would have to take what we could, and set a shorter riding chain than normal, given the benign state of the weather.

The famous Sydney Fish Markets

After a memorable day on the harbor, it would have been understandable to relax on board to take it all in. Not far away though, was the acclaimed Sydney Fish Markets, so we launched our auxiliary vessel complete with its 2hp drive unit, for the trip across Blackwattle Bay to take a look. We had been there in 2010 and now there was only space for commercial fishers alongside and others like us were left to duck in, tie up on the designated pontoon and go fishing – gold coin style. To step in to the market where both fresh and cooked seafood was available in volumes was to abandon any sense of solitude and country. We could have been somewhere in Asia, but certainly not Sydney as both the vendors and the droves of customers were unmistakably from backgrounds to our north. It was fun to see a Japanese tour guide - we think he was Japanese – try to issue instructions and advice to his wayward group above the din and hubbub of sellers, buyers, groups bantering, families, kids in strollers, old, young, in between and everybody else, trying to raise their voices above those of others. It was mayhem with purpose, as commerce and tourism met head on. Clearly though, visitors were agog at the platters of seafood that could be procured for a pinch of costs at home, so they ordered by the truckload and consumed, it seemed, in kind. We saw some visitors eyeing slivers of sashimi by the plateful with tears of contemplation in their eyes. Our modest purchase of a brace of fresh sand whiting fillets for an on board repast, put us amongst the small fry, and with booty in the bag, we were able to manufacture an escape on our little ship back to our larger one. Working at the Fish Markets must be as busy as a pre-school excursion to the zoo. Fabulous experience, though, for two simple folk who come from a simple country life where three is a crowd.

Magnificent Moreton Bay Fig Tree

Still we were not quite done for the day, as a walking trail astern of us that curved around the bay, toward Rozelle Bay, was just too good to ignore. Local environmentalists had been keen to re-establish a green corridor of local habitat and maybe, in the process engender a balance between its peace and tranquility, and the eternal cacophony of the Fish Markets. This was a noble goal given the overweening thrust of city and suburb that was all around. On the walk we thought we could take a look at the Rozelle Bay anchorage, and maybe find the Light Rail station at the head of the park that we could employ the following day. Yes the park walk was delightful, with a brace of Moreton Bay Fig Trees of immense size dominating the arboreal landscape, and from the numbers of locals using the trail to stroll, skate, cycle and run, the corridor project was a winner. And, yes, we found the Light Rail station at Rozelle which gave us a curious opportunity to construct for the following day. Back on board, we noted a sharp looking yacht nearby called Blue Dog, with what seemed like a South Australian registration. When the owners rowed past, we discovered to our astonishment that yes, Blue Dog was from SA, built in a backyard in Yankalilla. Yankalilla! How many times have we driven through Yankalilla on our way to Calista’s berth at Wirrina? What were the odds of us connecting here? That evening, we finally settled in our cockpit and we compared our incredible day with that of those now rushing across “Madonna” Bridge; in a peak hour that never ended.

Nightscape Blackwattle Bay
Attending the Sydney Olympics for a few days in 2000 was a time of great excitement for us both, especially the night that we splashed out and went to a brace of swimming finals. We have always wanted to swim in THE Olympic Pool and now maybe we had our chance. Getting there though might have posed a problem, until we discovered the Light Rail connection that would deposit us via Darling Harbor and the markets to Central Station. From there we could board a train for Olympic Park, just a stroll away from the pool. Having checked the best times to attend, we had the immense pleasure of finding lanes there to ourselves. There, you have to rate your current speed in the water though, and there are lanes for Fast, Medium Fast, Medium and Slow swimmers, apart from the squad and training lanes where the water was steaming. Cookie was on good form and was quick to say, “Well that’s bad luck, there’s no lane for you.”  “What do you mean?” I enquired, puzzled. “Well, swimming pace…there’s no lane for glacial !!” In the end we both completed 1000m in the Olympic Pool. Same water as Susie, Kieren and Thorpie…just a different finishing time!

Catching the Light Rail at Fish Market Station
Rio here we come!

Later that afternoon we trundled out of Blackwattle Bay, under “Madonna” and dropped our anchor at Ball’s Head Bay, on the North Shore, not far from the Harbor Bridge. Here in a bay headed by a park and surrounded by forested headlands, one can anchor, yes, for free. The holding here is excellent and Alan Lucas cites a Canadian family who left their boat at anchor there for two months whilst they headed to the outback. They returned to find that their boat had easily ridden out some stiff southerlies, and was lying happily where they left her. At this anchorage, we left our ship at anchor for a morning in relative calm whilst we walked up and across the highway, to the nautical retailers, Whitworth’s and Boat Books, but leaving Calista for two months? Never.

Balls Head Bay

Next day, with the stellar weather still holding, we retraced our way down the harbor, under the Harbour Bridge, this time examining the northern aspect of the great waterway. Just beyond the Bridge and abeam of Kirribilli Cookie suggested that she go below, grab some cheese and crackers and tie up outside “Malcolm’s”, to invite them down for afternoon tea. We glassed their Prime Ministerial abode, but there were no signs of anyone there hanging out the washing, or doing the front lawns.

Malcolm's House

Taronga Park Zoo is one of Australia’s finest but apart from the ferry wharf outside that seems always busy, there are courtesy moorings available where, the roar of lions and tigers notwithstanding, good shelter can be held from weather out of the north-east under Bradley’s Head. By mid-afternoon we had re-crossed the heads, making again for Manly, to re-provision before heading north, and to re-connect with Brian and Maree on Urchin who had just arrived from Port Hacking, in Spring Cove. There was just time to squeeze in a swim at the Manly enclosure before the short journey to Collins Beach, Spring Cove, one of our favourite places to anchor.

The anchorage at Taronga Park

Re-connecting with Brian and Maree led to a fine meal on board the cat, and a welcome chance to compare notes about passages, places we have visited and our plans for the next part of our respective voyages. Like us, Brian and Maree gained a great deal of satisfaction from their arrival in Sydney, and they were eagerly looking forward to seeing Sydney’s sights much as we had. For us, the next day promised to deliver a fine morning before winds built from the north. This would give us a chance to leave the Harbor, make our way north to Barrenjoey Head before turning to port into the magnificent waterways of the Hawkesbury and Cowan Creek River systems. Here, according to many, is to be found some of Australia’s finest waterway cruising, in the superb Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This opportunity was high on our “must do” list leaving South Australia, so whilst there were many more things to see within Sydney Harbor, the allure of what was to see to the north was too much to resist.    
Sunset on board Urchin at Collins Bay



  1. C&C, were arriving in Sydney Thursday 19th (late) then to Newcastle Monday 23rd & north on Essex Girl from Port Stephens soon after. Seeya somewhere? Jonathan & Wendy

  2. Hey guys, love your blog. I'll be keeping up with your antics from here on in. Not sure how to leave a comment on any particular pic or para, but I'll work it out. Your blog is so well written, that I suspect you are still up to a grammar lesson or two. Do you have holding tanks in Calista? Cheers for now.

  3. Hey guys, love your blog. I'll be keeping up with your antics from here on in. Not sure how to leave a comment on any particular pic or para, but I'll work it out. Your blog is so well written, that I suspect you are still up to a grammar lesson or two. Do you have holding tanks in Calista? Cheers for now.