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!