However, today's Aussies don't think much about their beginnings any more, except perhaps on Australia Day. It is celebrated kind of like our Labor Day, yet another day for BarBies and going to the beach, but one marking the end of the school holidays. For this we will give thanks, as the crowds on the beach will thin out, but, more importantly, finding a parking place during the day will be possible again!
Our Australia Day was celebrated with a daysail aboard a 50' Fontaine Pajot catamaran. Our friend Tricky of Lionheart (reincarnated as Richard in his business guise) has become a partner is a new dealership for "pre-loved" catamarans. The FP 50', however, was a brand new, million-dollar boat! Apparently, taking the boats out is one of the perks!
The day started with rain and we thought our outing would be cancelled, but it fact as we maneuvered off the dock and out the channel, the sky cleared and we had nice easy conditions. We got the sails up, and sailed northward along the coast for an hour or so. If was grand! There is nothing to beat being out on the water with the wind in your hair. We all did our best to try out every lounging spot available on the boat. If the pup Dudley hadn't gotten seasick, we four might just have found ourselves back at Wide Bay Bar.
Just as well, we had to get back for the Barbie at the Yacht Club.
Apologies to the visual set: I forgot to take a camera!
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Not that there was really, truly any suspense, …but you never know. The termite inspection is a part of the process of importing a boat into Australia. A visit by a dog is not automatically required, but for a boat like Tackless II, 26 years old with an interior entirely of wood, there was no avoiding it. The moment the Quarantine inspector stuck his nose below last week and saw all the wood, he announced we would have to have the "Category II inspection", aka the termite dogs. Well, duh, we tried to tell you that from the start. It sure seems like they could have saved us the first hundred or so dollars and brought the dogs to begin with!
If it weren't for the cost (we are yet to be billed, but it is expected to be in the $800AUD range!), it is actually a pretty interesting experience. The dog handler is a contractor for the government. In our case it was John Elder who drove all the way up from Yamba in NSW to do our boat and two others (including our friends' just-sold Hallberg Rassey Whisper).
First the handler comes aboard and inspects the boat looking for evidence of termites…we're talking termite poop here, which is little round balls. Then, he went over all our wood with a moisture meter, not unlike was used during our bottom job. We were pleased to learn that Tackless II's wood was precisely where is should be! Whew!
Finally, John brought in Dolly from the parking lot. Dolly, a harrier, is one of three dogs he brought on the trip, (just in case one were to get carsick or something). Dolly, he told us, can find a swab of termite placed in an auditorium in three minutes! Incredibly, John didn't even open up any cupboard doors. While we sat out in the cockpit, John worked Dolly back and forth through the boat, tapping the walls for her to sniff.
With her tail fanning, it was kind of cute to watch, although we wondered what she would do if she found any.
Fortunately, we had to ask to find out. John says that, when she finds evidence, she will sit and put her paw on it! (I found a video on line from another company if you want to see how it is done; go to http://www.termitedetectioncanines.com/)
Dog #2 - Dudley
Not long after Dolly left, we had another doggy visit from our little buddy Dudley, this time with Tricky in tow.
Tricky, who is a new partner in a catamaran company, had a boat on our dock to check out, so he brought Duddles along and we puppy sat. If your face needs cleaning, we can recommend Dudley!
Dudley, who is half Staffordshire Terrier (aka pit bull) and half Maltese, has a somewhat humorous look. He is basically white, but showing through his sparse wispy white hair are enough black spots to give a Dalmatian pause!
His eyes are pink-rimmed on the outer edges and black on the inner, and when they close they make a checkerboard pattern! Even his paws are spotted pink and white, and he has a black spot onthe roof of his pink mouth! However every time I try to take the camera to him, he is not cooperative.
However, while visiting he had his first Skype experience when we got a call from the Wells in North Carolina, and we introduced him to Tikka, the all black Shih Tzu. I don't know what it means, but his attention wasn't engaged until my dignified brother-in-law Bob barked at him. Definitely should have gotten a picture of THAT!
All this doggie diversion is why we missed seeing the Inauguration live. Well, that and the fact that we got our days confused. We did spend much of the afternoon watching replays, and got to see the Leader of the Free World boogie at the Ball. I can't tell you how reassuring it is to have a President who can dance like a normal person!
Seriously, having read Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, I am primed to believe in the man. Watching the coverage of the crowds in the mall, the optimism was contagious. Don and I were both quite moved. And when Obama spoke his line about sixty years ago his father might not have been served in a restaurant there, I was moved to recall my first exposure to racial prejudice when I could not bring Lucy's daughter to D.C.'s Glen Echo Amusement Park. I simply could not understand it then, and I have never understood it since! I love what yesterday stood for.
Life in Mooloolaba
Life in Mooloolaba continues to be pleasant. We are itching to get out traveling, but we have had to wait for the quarantine and import issues to sort out and, this week, to get our applications for visa extension in. In the meantime Don has refurbished virtually all the interior varnish, and the boat is looking as beautiful inside as out. We are walking 6-8k every morning, hitting the Sunday morning farmers market, and catching the Wednesday night cruiser dinner. Oh, yes, and Don is burning up the Internet researching jobs and business opportunities for when we finally get back. We welcome suggestions.
I know it sounds to everyone like we live a life of leisure, but in fact, in between the adventures is a fair amount of work. It's just no one pays us for it. Plus work is both boring to write and read about. Lately the work has been on Tackless II's interior cosmetics, and once again, Don has been the main miracle worker and his media has been sandpaper, a little Golden Oak stain, and varnish. An experiment in touching up a corner looking a bit shabby produced such unexpectedly impressive results, that he has been working his way through the entire boat. Wow, what a difference! No one is going to be able to resist her!
So that's what the day off was from, and how it was spent was in the company of our across-the-dock neighbors, Rod and Sue. Rod and Sue live on a 70' powerboat named Idlewise. Idlewise is also a mature lady like Tackless II, but with very gracious interior spaces and an engine room to make us rag-boaters weep. After having up to 12 family members visiting over the holidays, Rod and Sue were ready for a break themselves, so they invited us to join them for a beach drive.
A beach drive is executed in a 4WD vehicle, which in Rod and Sue's case was a cushy Toyota Land Cruiser. Unlike America, where most of the coastline is developed, Queensland still has miles and miles and miles of natural shoreline. Our drive took place on the approximately 50km of beach we'd sailed past in November between Double Island Point on the north end and Noosa Head on the south.
The beach is backed by hills and cliffs of colored sand behind which is a wide wedge of preserved forest through which flows the Noosa River. It is part of the Great Sandy National Park which also includes all of Fraser Island, also renowned as a 4WD destination. Given unlimited time, we could have caught one of the ferries we'd seen at Inskip Point and continued driving another 75 miles right up the outside of Frasier.
It was a bright sunny day with a good swell running, and the turquoise waves were crashing close by on our right. We were not alone on the beach.
There were plenty of cars traveling at what feels like a breakneck pace in both directions. According to Rod, however, regular road rules apply, which means the speed limit is 50kph and northbound vehicles keep left. Of course, left is where the softer sand was, so things could get a little swishy when we'd pull left to give southbound cars room between us and the surf. Clearly Rod was eating this up. He's been doing this for years and never wavered in his assault!
We stopped twice to explore sand canyons and scramble up through soft stuff to reach various vantage points for photographs.
The sand got very hot with every step away from the water. Although we had worn swimsuits ("swimmers" in Aussie-speak), the sea was rather rough-looking plus there was evidence a blue bottles, a small, blue stinging jelly fish. Rod demonstrated the Aussie sport of stamping on the dried jellies' bodies, which pop just as if they were bubble wrap.
At various stretches along the way were avid fishermen working the surf as well as clusters of campers, their tents pitched above the water line.
Most camps looked like they'd been there a while. Rod explained how the campers could dig a pit in the sand a the base of the cliffs and collect fresh water! Indeed in many spots along the beach there was enouch fresh water seeping out that the waves became discolored. Every camp site would sport a distinctive flag to facilitate residents finding their own tents. Some groups got quite creative, bringing kiddie wading pools to sit in, solar panels, satellite dishes, etc. The best was an elaborate group "beach bar" complete with pool table.
The beach ended abrupt at rocky Double Island Point where several vehicles were parked for swimming in a little cove.
One can climb up to the lighthouse if one has the energy, or one can purchase Magnum ice cream bars from an enterprising vendor who has been driving the beach with his wares for 20+ years! Our timing was perfect, because the vendor sold us our snacks, and when we turned around, he was gone!
We caught up with him shortly at the track that leads across the Double Island peninsula to the protected bay on its backside. This would be the anchorage that southbound boats can choose to stop at after crossing the Wide Bay Bar. That day it was very placid, and a bar of sand had built up to make an enclosed swimming pool.
After our swim it was determined that the tide was advancing enough that we'd better not attempt to drive back home on the beach. We did have to backtrack enough on the much shortened beach to get on a track that led out through the park to the village of Rainbow Beach. Every time we entered or exited one of these tracks to and from the beach, my heart was in my throat, because, of course, we had to cross through the band of deep soft sand at the top of the beach. We saw several vehicles stalled up to their bottoms in the sand, the driver out shoveling. Then, as you slew your way onto the track, there's the next scary moment of sliding into your "lane" as defined by stumps of telephone pole dividers. Man you could do some damage if you miscalculate.
Speaking of miscalculation, we weren't far up the track to Rainbow Beach when we encountered a ute (Aussie for truck) flipped onto its back.
The incident had just happened, and two young guys were standing around looking dazed. That they were standing was the good news. It seems they had been traveling a bit fast for the curve, and, over-correcting, had run up the opposing bank and flipped. We walked up to see if help was needed. Aussies are very resourceful, and no one comes to this part of the country without tow equipment. All the men on hand ganged up to right the truck and tow it out of the way. Good thing, because traffic was stalled in both directions, and the tide would be blocking the only other way out! The driver's spirit was probably as crushed as his truck. Seems he was a carpenter's apprentice and his job depends on his ute.
It was a long way out through the forest, but it was beautiful: Big tall trees, very dense growth. At the other end was the village of Rainbow Beach where we stopped for a late lunch in a very handsome, recently renovated pub and for a pass through an underbody car wash. From there we stopped off to visit some friends of Rod and Sue's who own a neat little compound on an inlet overlooking Tin Can Bay, from which they supply bait, ice and rental boats for the campers in the camp ground opposite. Now there was a nice set-up!
Rod and Sue apologized for the trip home being inland, but in late afternoon the landscape on the way to and south on the Bruce Highway was just gorgeous. The hills are lumpy and the land good farmland, much of which, Rod told us, is due to be inundated by a reservoir. We have been reading about this in the news, and it is a plan that has all the residents up in arms, as evidenced by homemade billboards against the project all along the highway. The Bruce Highway, which would have to be moved to accommodate the reservoir, is the major north-south highway of Eastern Australia. Even so, in these parts it is but a two-lane road!
So, a big thank-you to Rod and Sue for a great day out. Every time we get out and see some of the countryside, it strengthens our resolve to get out and do more. And we will, just as soon as the boat is done and back on the market.
That year it was not so convenient to get back since the boat was in the Society Islands, and French Polynesia's visa requirements obligated us to stay out of the country a full six months. Little did we know it at the time, but that was the beginning of the end for us. Not only did we allow our hearts to get all entangled with the newest member of the family, but the extended circumstances seduced us into buying the motor home to be our land base. Now with one foot on the boat and one onshore, we have been dividing our time ever since.
No one needs an explanation for why we didn't make the trip this year. The distance is long, travel costs are high, money is tight, and the boat is for sale. In theory, when Tackless II has a new owner, we will no longer have to make the murderous commute, so, the family has granted us a dispensation this year.
Which is not to say we haven't missed being there! But thanks to video Skype we have not only talked with everyone in both families, but we were able, by getting up at midnight on the 26th, to actually watch Kai open his presents Christmas morning in Florida!
As for Christmas in Oz, it is a very different experience. Mooloolaba, being a resort community, has filled up to the gills, and its beach and restaurants are packed. Traffic crawls, and should you think to do errands by car, you will have to wait until nightfall to find another parking place! Even here on the dock, the slips around us have filled with boats that come here annually for the holiday week, including slip owners who only actually use the slip themselves this one month! Most of the boats have sported some sort of Christmas decoration, and the docks have been teeming with kids and grandkids. Fortunately, our marina did host a Christmas party early on which allowed us to finally meet a bunch of our neighbors, so we have not been totally left out of all the festivities.
After our busy and somewhat extravagant week in Sydney, we didn't actually have much planned here. On Christmas Eve the "Yacht Club" at the other marina hosted an orphan's dinner with a BYO-everything BBQ. Since we have several acquaintances there, including, of course, our buddies Tricky and Jane and the fast growing Dudley, it made for a nice evening even though the sky threatened rain.
The next morning dawned bright and clear, and we got up around five to meet Sandi and Peter of Otama Song on the beach for champagne. What Peter didn't really make clear was that they had whole big breakfast planned. By the time we arrived, they had not only staked out a table and a grill, but had cooked up a huge stack of meat, sausagesm bacon, grilled tomatoes and toast.
Sandra, the lady skipper of the 70' Plum, also joined us and brought the prawns that no Aussie Christmas is right without. Caught a bit short, we made a couple of trips back and forth to the boat to augment supplies as they got low.
With all this and more goodies that Sandi had stashed in her Esky (Aussie for cooler), we ended up eating, drinking and swimming until nearly noon! What we should have guessed is that this is not merely an Otama Song tradition, it is an Aussie tradition. Every grill, table and bench was in use, and latecomers brought their own grills, tables and chairs!
Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is also a big deal here in Oz, especially for sailors because it is the start of the Sydney Hobart Race. Randy and Sheri reportedly climbed the trail to north head from Manly to watch the start from there, but we had to make do with watching it on TV. Thinking we were smart, we and Peter and Sandi went over to the The Wharf Pub, a sort of sports and gambling bar at the other end of the docks, to watch the coverage on their giant screen TVs. That part worked out well, but unfortunately, management wouldn't turn off the Muzak and turn up the sound! Still, the kind of shots that airborne cameras can get can't be matched! It was truly wild to see the race boats trying to tack their way out of the harbor across the wakes of the hundreds if not thousands of spectator boats trying to keep up!
We decided to lay relatively low for New Year's Eve. Mooloolaba's Council was hosting a big do on the beach, with not one but two fireworks shows planned: one at 8pm for families with children and another one at midnight. It's always been a tenet of mine that if someone is going to fire off all that money into thin air, I owe it to them to be there. Thanks to portable fencing and a ban on parking, the whole Esplanade was turned into a controlled, alcohol and drug free zone for the night, with the exception, we presume, of the actual restaurants! This is not to say there weren't plenty of potted people about, but at least they had to exit the area to refuel.
Against all odds, we managed to find our way up there for both shows. We found a good spot in the sand with our backs against the seawall. We had imagined that the fireworks might originate from a boat off the beach or maybe even from one of the breakwaters across the bay at the harbor entrance, but in the end it was not quite that grand. The launch point turned out to be the beach just beyond the Surf Club, and although the pyrotechnics came at a fast and furious rate, they never gained a whole lot of altitude. Both shows were exactly the same, but we found the early crowd more appreciative.
Once again it turns out the place to be was Sydney. My sister back in North Carolina evidently watched the Sydney display on TV, and of course Randy and Sheri did it truly right by booking places on one of the Harbor's New Year's Eve dinner cruises. They said it was the most spectacular display they had ever seen!
So, here we are in 2009. We are hopeful things will get a little more back to normal next week. We have managed to pry out from our agent the news that customs has accepted our valuation for importing Tackless II. That will be a big step in the process of getting her sold. Don has made huge inroads on the interior varnish with very little help from me, and once quarantine has signed off on us we will finish a few woodwork repairs. All in all, I can't imagine how anyone could resist her!
By the way, Santa did not totally overlook the two captains. He brought us a tent with which to do some camping and a 1990 Toyota Camry to carry it around in. Just think of it as a poor man's RV! We are hopeful that, so equipped, we will be able to take off in a couple of weeks and see a little of this huge and beautiful country before we have to depart.
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It was another visit to Procyon that has us on our way to Sydney. She was moored at Cammeray Marina in North Sydney (33*.49'S;151*.13'E), (Marina is at bottom center of the photo which is looking south to the city)
and we had plans to celebrate Sheri's 50th birthday and take in a Christmas concert at the Sydney Opera House on the 19th. In between, we hoped to see as much of the great city as we could.
The coast of New South Wales around Sydney looks from the air (and the map) to be one long series of deep bays and estuaries pushing way back into the continent, of which Sydney Harbor is just one. Sydney Harbour itself is home to countless coves and backwaters, most all of which are packed with boats at anchor, on moorings or in slips. We flew right over the fjord-like Cammeray inlet on our approach, and what surprised me was how hilly the land was. I don't know why I was surprised; Randy and Sheri had warned us of the 107 steps to reach the street from the marina.
Sydney's Airport is right on Botany Bay, allowing tourists to land at the very spot James Cook did in the Endeavor back in 1770. At the airport we bought green passes that would allow us unlimited use of the city's trains, busses and ferries and promptly climbed on the train that would carry us into to Wynyard Station in the city center. There we exited the underground to catch the bus to Cammeray. It was an easy, organized connection even though we'd managed to arrive at rush hour. Having just missed the rush hour express bus, we took about twenty-five minutes on the local across the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge (from which you can look down onto the Harbor and the Opera House) and through the neighborhoods of Neutral Bay to reach our stop where Randy and Sheri were waiting for us. The marina was about five blocks away, its unassuming sign and stairway down squeezed between very upscale houses.
Cammeray marina is a relic. The docks and slipway (it is actually a boatyard) has been in existence over a hundred years, predating a lot of the fancy houses squeezed onto the hillside. Seemingly out of the way, it actually is a well-known center for the sailing community, and two of the boats on the dock were preparing themselves for the famous Sydney Hobart race coming up soon on Boxing Day. It is a beautiful spot, and thanks to a golf course above the northern shore in Northbridge the bay retains a natural look. There are lots of birds, including a flock of cockatoos who could sustain an amazingly annoying chatter.
We took it easy the first night, enjoying a lovely dinner assembled by Sheri and grilled by Randy. I believe I have described Procyon before, but, briefly, she is the owner's version of a Gozzard 44, meaning her whole interior has been conceived for one couple. That means that visitors like us sleep in the forepeak salon. However, the area converts ingeniously to a guest berth by sliding the seats of the couches together on top the coffee table, and privacy is created by raising a folding divider to cover the pass-through to the breakfast nook and galley.
The next day, Sheri's B-day started with champagne and omelets. Then we hit the tourist trail, retracing our steps to the bus to Wynyard. From Wynyard we were heading for the famous Manly Ferry when Sheri took a sudden detour into a chocolate café. Well, she was the birthday girl and we were honor-bound to indulge her, especially as it was just about the right time for second breakfast. I sure wish I could remember the name of the place, because it was a revelation. Sheri ordered chocolate dipped strawberries to share and a hot chocolate, I had a decaf mocha made with dark chocolate, Don got a sinful brownie and Randy had a chocolate shot! Who knew you could do such decadent stuff!
We reached Sydney's famous Circular Quay just in time to walk onto the Manly Ferry.
We rode standing on the side decks and bow drinking in all the iconic sights: the bridge, the Opera House, North and South Head, and all the scenic bays and coves in between.
Sydney is huge! It's metropolitan population of over 4.2 million sprawls over more than 600 suburbs and 2,500 square kilometers, most all of which are oriented to the water, either the coves of the harbor itself or its oceanfront beaches.
Manly Beach is one of these. Situated near the North Head of the entrance into Port Jackson (aka Sydney Harbor), the ferry docks on one side of a narrow isthmus while beach itself is on the other. In between is a shopping street of galleries and surf shops.
Packed with bathers, the beach is a long curve backed by a tree-studded esplanade and the 9 km long scenic walkway leading to the top of North head. We were headed along the walkway when I realized I had left my Admirals' Angle ball cap at the pub where we'd stopped for a beer. Fortunately it was rescued by another cruising couple from the boat Larissa!
For her birthday dinner that night, Sheri had picked a steak house in Neutral Bay. Imagine our disorientation when, after picking out four expensive steaks (distinguished on the menu by cut, state of origin and how it had been fed), our baked potatoes and salads, the meat arrived cold with tongs and we had to grill it ourselves! All in all it was pretty much like an urban version of Musket Cove. However, the results were outstanding. Can't argue with that!
For our second day of playing tourist, we chose Darling Harbor as a destination. Darling Harbor is a deeply inset bay west of the Harbour Bridge whose waterfront is lined by commercial wharves and upscale tour boats. At the innermost end is Cockle Bay which has been developed for tourism. Our first stop, on the east side of the bay, was the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
Built in honor of Australia's Bicentenary in 1998, the garden works a miracle in blotting out bustling downtown in favor of dozens of small water and rock garden-scapes all knitted together with pavilions and paths, streams and waterfalls, flowers and bamboo. Every corner is a charming space, every angle a soothing view. At the end of the path is a teahouse where (for today's second breakfast) Sheri and I had dim sum and tea while the boys had pastry and coffee.
On the west side of Cockle Bay is a huge convention center, a strip of boutique restaurants and the Maritime Museum. Walking around, we passed a stair-stepped circular reflecting pool and sveralvery unusual fountains.
Now, Donald! behave yourself!
At the Maritime Museum we were very lucky that Australia's careful replica of James Cook's HMB Endeavor was in port and open for touring.
For us salty mariners, this was a thrill, as no one sails the Pacific without developing a deep respect for Cook. The Endeavor is not just a museum piece. It has sailed around the world, and one can book berths aboard for these trips as working crew and supernumeraries. The onboard docents were very knowledgeable and brought each corner of the ship alive, from the seats of ease in the main chains, the huge cook stove in the mess deck,
the crew hammocks swinging from the crossbeams,
the incredible low pass-through where the old collier had been modified to accommodate Cook's crew and mission and where the young midshipmen lived, on aft to the quarters of Cook, his officers and the members of Joseph Banks' famous party.
We did not see the hold below, which in the replica is where all the "mod-cons" (like the engine, generators and refrigeration) are hidden. But we did enjoy the deck and imagining that we at the helm.
We also toured the HMAS Onslow, a diesel submarine, and the HMAS Vampire, a destroyer, both retired from the Australian Navy. Both vessels also had docents aboard to help bring alive the way life had been, but what was kind of cool is that several of them had actually served aboard the ships when they were on active duty.
On Friday we spent the morning with a long walk to explore the neighborhood on both sides of the Cammeray inlet. It is amazing how some of these houses have been built, literally carving themselves out perches from solid rock. Across the head of the inlet and beneath the Northbridge Bridge is a park with a boat ramp, explaining the source of the motorboat wakes that jostled Procyon during the night.
In the afternoon we dressed up in our party clothes and took the bus to the Rocks neighborhood of downtown Sydney. (Sorry, everyone, I forgot to take the camera. Trust me...we all looked "flash!")
The Rocks was the site of the city's first settlement. It is a far cry now from those early, reportedly squalid days. Now it is a crowded canyon of a neighborhood with narrow streets, refurbished old buildings, trendy boutiques and hopping night spots. We had dinner at the Argyle, a converted warehouse and courtyard that has a peculiarly eclectic menu and is clearly a hot spot with the young professional crowd. By the time we left the courtyard was packed with after-work, Friday-night-before-Christmas partiers.
We walked from the Rocks past Circular Quay to the Sydney Opera House where we all had tickets for a Christmas concert at the concert hall.
The opera house up close is made of bone colored tiles, a surprise to me. Its location, out on a spit of land projecting from the Botanical Gardens is not quite as remote as all the pictures make it look. It is a fabulous spot, however, with the Harbor Bridge soaring overhead (we could see people climbing the girders at sunset!) and the busy harbor on three sides. When Randy and Sheri first arrived, they actually anchored for two nights just off the Opera House…until all the ferry wakes drove them out!
Our concert was fun. It featured the Opera House Christmas Chorus, the Opera House Christmas Orchestra, four personable opera soloists – Yvonne Kenney, David Hobson, Natalie Jones and James Egglestone, and a pops-style emcee named Simon Burke. The house was full, as one might predict, with families with lots of youngsters. Randy and Sheri had ordered tickets online for this concert six months beforehand. We ordered ours the week before. Randy and Sheri were in the fourth row, all the way to the right. We were in the fifth row, dead center. Go figure!
The program was all Christmas carols; some were performed by the soloists, some by the chorus, some with both, and some with the audience participating. There were no surprises -- appropriate since one isn't really looking for surprises on Christmas – until the end when they sang a song called "Six White Boomers," clearly a favorite with the crowd. "Six White Boomers" is Australia's answer to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It is a Rolf Harris secular carol about a baby kangaroo looking for "his mummy" that Santa endeavors to help. But Santa gives his reindeer the day off and uses six white boomers (the boomers evidently being a species of large kangaroos) to pull the sleigh around Australia. If you want to add this song to your Christmas repertoire, it is easy to find and hear on the internet! Be careful; it's catchy! At the end of the concert, for an encore, the singers invited all the children up on stage for a reprise, which was executed with great spirit.
After the concert we hit another chocolate café for an après-concert snack, only to realize that we'd missed our last bus. Instead of a taxi, we caught a different bus which brought us to the very bridge to Northbridge we'd discovered that morning on our walk. Finding our way back through the maze of streets in the dark was a bit challenging, but as we were trying to make out a street sign (no street lights) we realized the "newel post" of the sign was actually a live owl! Adventures in suburbia!
For our last day in Sydney we had a get together with our friend Steve who with his wife Rachel now own the Beneteau 44 Apogee (formerly owned by our friends Joe & Julie of Palmlea in Fiji). Apogee is still languishing in a Vuda Point Marina cyclone pit because Steve got tied up with yet another project with a company from which he keeps trying to retire. As it has turned out, it is just as well they weren't out cruising, as family illnesses have totally distracted all their plans. We had originally thought our Sydney visit would be to Steve's company apartment, but Steve has been tied up across the continent in Perth much of the month.
However he returned in time to spend a day with us, carrying all four of us by car (what decadence!) through the city for an afternoon at Bondi, Sydney's other famous beach.
A major destination for surfers and backpackers, Bondi (pronounced Bond-eye) is the one you always read the shark stories about, and there is a big saltwater lap pool at the south end for those who don't want to risk it. The weather was chilly and blustery, so we all resisted temptation and made for a cosy little Greek sidewalk restaurant for lunch. Then we drove on down to the next beach in Coogee where we had refreshments at a waterfront pub.
By this time, our Duracell battery packs were running down, and we looked forward to a quiet evening aboard Procyon after having packed up for our morning departure. Instead we ended up having an impromptu happy-hour get together (that lasted until 10pm, as I remember) with Steve and Truus of the catamaran Key of D, fellow alumni of the Port to Port Rally, who had just anchored in Cammeray inlet. It is a small, small world.
The next morning, Randy and Sheri very graciously helped us schlep our stuff UP the marina's 107 steps. You would think after five days it might be a less breathless endeavor, but I must say, with all the high living, any improvement was marginal. We caught our bus, made the connection at Wynyard Station like old hands (on Sunday morning the station was so deserted we were afraid it was closed!), and eased onto our flight with nary a hitch.
Instead of flying back to Maroochydore, however, we flew to Brisbane in order to collect Avior's Land Rover, kindly left with a parking service for us to pick up (Jim and Paula having flown to Scotland for two months.) What a great service this Andrew's Airport Parking was! A private enterprise, you call, they pick you up at the terminal, then drop you at your vehicle, and off you go. Fortunately for Don— facing the challenge of driving the five-speed manual Land Rover on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car and shifting with the wrong hand – the exit from the lot was two simple left-hand turns straight on to the Bruce Highway. By the time we reached Mooloolaba about two hours later, he had it all down pat!