Slip Away

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Logbook:       Australia Part I - Bundaberg to Sydney (October to December 2014)

By the end of September, we'd been watching the weather for a while, and it appeared that we had a good window to sail from Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Bundaberg, Australia, a passage of just over 1000 nautical miles.  We had decided against using a weather router on this passage because we had access to excellent weather forecasts from David on Gulf Harbour Radio in New Zealand.  Although David was not in the business of weather routing, he did tell us that he saw nothing in the longer-range forecast that concerned him.  That was the assurance that we needed.  We were ready to go. 

Passage from Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Bundaberg, Australia (Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, 1017 nm, 7 days + 5 hours).  Except for one hiccup at the very start of this trip, we had an excellent passage to Bundaberg.  We released our Yachting World mooring early afternoon, topped off our diesel tank at their fuel dock, motored across Mele Bay and rounded Devil's Point at slack tide and in calm conditions.  After passing Devil's Point, we motored a couple more hours before the wind finally came up.  Shortly after 5 pm, we set our sails as the wind built to 15 knots from the east-northeast (on our starboard quarter)  with slight seas.  Nice!  Over the next few hours, the wind veered to the east, moving further aft, and our sails started slatting - they'd fill, then collapse and slam - which made it impossible for the off-watch person to sleep, and it's also hard on the sails and rigging, so we decided to set the pole and sail wind-and-wing.  It was after dark, but the seas were not rough, and we've done this drill many, many times.  We turned on our deck lights, and Rich clipped his harness to the jacklines (safety lines which run along the side deck) and went out on the foredeck to set the pole, while Jan worked the lines from the cockpit.  Rich attached the topping lift to the outboard end of the pole and started hoisting it up, and the next thing we knew, the inboard end of the pole (normally attached to a socket on a track on the mast) detached from its fitting.  The pole fell to the deck and then starting going overboard.  Rich was on his haunches on the deck when this happened, and it knocked him on his bum and almost dislocated his bad shoulder.  Scared the beejeesus out of both of us!  But Rich reacted quickly, got the pole on deck, took a deep breath and saw the problem.  A few days prior to leaving Port Vila, he had gone up the mast to do a rigging check, and apparently he had tripped the lever that releases the pole from the socket.  The un-tripped lever was not obvious, and when he tried to use the pole, it came apart.  Fortunately, he had the topping lift attached to the pole, or we would have lost it.  Once he got the pole back on deck, Rich put things back together, set the pole, and we continued on wing-and-wing.  After our heart rates returned to normal, the crew and the sails were much happier, and it was smooth sailing after that. 


Our route from Port Vila, Vanuatu, to Bundaberg, Australia
 
One of the beautiful sunsets underway

The wind continued to veer to the southeast so that by the next day, we took the pole down and sailed on a broad reach, with the wind on our port quarter.  For most of the rest of this passage, we had 15-20 knots of wind on our port quarter - idyllic sailing!  Our route to Bundaberg took us over the top of New Caledonia, and through its Huon and Chesterfield Reefs via the "Grand Passage".  There were a number of other reefs to avoid as we sailed across the Coral Sea toward Bundaberg, but all were accurately charted, and we plotted our course well off of them and had no issues.  While on passage, we kept in touch with Gulf Harbour Radio and a couple of friends via the SSB radio, but until we got closer to the coast of Australia, the only boat traffic we saw was one cruise ship, which passed us in the middle of our second night at sea (just as we were getting to the Grand Passage).  Jan was on watch, and our AIS alerted her to the cruise ship approaching from astern.  She called the ship on the VHF radio, and spoke to the guy on watch who assured her that he saw us on his radar and would pass well clear.  As the cruise ship passed, the guy on watch called her back and gave her a weather update.  Very nice!  The wind was our friend on this trip, and when our heading turned further south, the wind backed to the east and stayed on our quarter.  How often does that happen?!  The currents were a mixed bag on this trip - sometimes we had a knot helping us, but sometimes we had a knot or more against us.  When the current was strong, we had some choppy seas, but for the most part, the seas weren't bad.  Why can't every passage be like this?!  We sailed to within 50 miles of our destination, when the winds died and we finally turned on the engine.  At 10 miles out, we called "VMR Bundaberg" on the radio to let them know we were coming in, and they confirmed our understanding that since we were arriving after business hours, we should anchor for the night, and that Customs would clear us in the morning.  As the sun was setting, we motored up the well-marked channel into the Burnett River.  We found a spot to anchor just outside the Bundaberg Port Marina, enjoyed a hot shower, celebrated with dinner and our last two beers on board, and settled in for a good night's sleep. 

Bright and early the next morning, the marina called us on the radio to let us know they were ready to receive us at the Quarantine dock.  We weighed anchor, headed in, and Geoff, the marina manager, was waiting on the dock to help us with our lines and offered a warm welcome.  Shortly thereafter, Joel from the Department of Agriculture showed up to start his inspection of Slip Away.  We were prohibited from bringing any fresh meats, produce and other items such as dried beans, so it was his job to inspect for these items and remove any contraband.  We were well aware of their requirements, so had consumed or given away anything we couldn't bring into the country.  The only thing we had to give up was a small amount of popcorn.  Joel was a nice guy and even let us keep our last egg because it was hard boiled. That part of Joel's job was easy, but the next part took some time as he searched our vessel for termites.  Although Australia has "heaps" of termites, there are some types that they don't have, and they are working diligently to keep these "exotic" termites out.  We'd heard some horror stories about folks who had a "potential" termite issue and were stuck in Quarantine for days while things were sorted out.  We were especially nervous because a year ago in Fiji we were swarmed by termites.  Although we saw no signs of infestation, and we are decent housekeepers, it's possible that a dead carcass could still be laying around.  Joel had a tool that looked like a large dentist mirror as he searched our boat, asking us to open all storage areas - drawers, cabinets, bilges.  We held our breath a couple of times - first, when he found a dead bug in the cabinet under the stove, and second when he found a bit of sawdust near our battery boxes.  But, Joel determined that the dead bug was a wasp, and when we told him that we had recently installed new battery boxes, he was assured that the sawdust was just left over from the work.  Joel was a very nice guy, but he was very thorough, and we breathed a big sigh of relief when he declared all was well.  If all hadn't gone well, thousands of dollars in extermination fees can start adding up very quickly!  As Joel was wrapping up his inspection, a couple Customs officials came by and took care of their paperwork.  The officials were all very friendly, and they complimented us on the condition of Slip Away, which made us very proud!  We commented that they must see a real mix of boats, and they laughed and told us a few "feral" boat stories.  We've seen a few of those boats!

Australia.  Australia conjures up images of kangaroos, the outback, Crocodile Dundee and perhaps more recently Steve Irwin.  It's interesting that, as Americans, we often think of Australia and New Zealand together, probably because they are in the same general vicinity geographically.  But, we are finding that these two countries are quite different. 

Australia has an interesting history.  About 600 million years ago, it was part of the supercontinent of Godwana, which extended from the South Pole to the equator.  Godwana broke apart about 180 million years ago, and in addition to Australia, other land masses that split off from Godwana include South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, the Arabian Peninsula and India.  Millions of years of isolation from the rest of the world resulted in many plants and animals which are unique to Australia.  Close to 70% of the marsupial species (animals who nurture their young in a pouch) are in Australia - kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, wombats and a few others.  And then there are their monotremes - echidnas and platypus - mammals which lay eggs.  Australia is also home to some of the deadliest creatures on earth - Great White Sharks, salt water crocs, the box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, and several varieties of poisonous spiders and snakes.

   

The Aboriginal people of Australia are thought to have arrived during the Ice Age.  The Dutch and Spanish landed in Western Australia in the early 1600's, and the Dutch explored further along the north and northeast coast later in the 1600's, but they were not all that interested in this newly discovered land because of the harsh climate.  British Captain James Cook first sighted the East Coast of Australia in 1770, landed at Botany Bay, and from there sailed north along the length of the East Coast.  He ran his ship Endeavour aground on the Great Barrier Reef, beached the ship near the location of Cooktown where they made repairs and continued on.  

After losing the American War of Independence, Great Britain was looking for a place to offload convicted criminals.  Sir Joseph Banks, who was the botanist on the Endeavour, advocated setting up a penal colony in Australia's Botany Bay.  In 1788, the First Fleet of eleven ships arrived on the shores of Australia with over 1000 people on board, over 700 of which were convicts.  The First Fleet's Captain Arthur Phillips decided Botany Bay was not a suitable location and founded the settlement at Sydney Cove (which had not been explored by Captain Cook).  Additional convict fleets arrived over the next few years, and the first free settlers arrived in Australia in 1793.  In the 1800's, additional penal colonies were established at Norfolk Island, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), and other locations along the East Coast.  Gold was discovered in Australia in 1851 and brought more free settlers.  Convict transportation to Australia ended in 1853.  Very few of the convicts transported to Australia were hardened criminals; many were sent for minor offences, such as stealing a loaf of bread, and some were kids who were abandoned and living on the streets. 

The Aboriginal people of Australia were nomads who lived a Stone-Age lifestyle of hunting, gathering and fishing.  When the Europeans started encroaching on their territory, conflict and violence erupted.  The Aborigines were not a unified society, and the British took advantage of that.  Aboriginal populations were decimated, and those that remained were relocated to reserves, which were frequently a long way from their traditional lands.  The European/Aboriginal reconciliation has come a long way but still appears to be a work in progress.    

Australia's society today is multi-cultural.  Although a significant portion of their population is of British descent, there are a number of other European and Asian descendants as well.  Australia's landmass is similar in size to the continental United States, but Australia has a total population of about 24 million, as compared to 320 million in the U.S.  Australia's largest city is Sydney, with a population of approximately 4.7 million; Melbourne is the second largest, with a population of about 4.3 million.  There has always been a bit of competition between Sydney and Melbourne, and the story goes that when it came time to select a capital for the nation, Canberra was chosen because it's half-way between the two.  Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. 

   


It's kind of amazing how few "Major Roads" are on this continent

When we arrived in Australia, we thought we had a leg up on their language given the time we spent in New Zealand.  But we were wrong - we had some new words to learn.  A cooler is called a "chilly bin" in NZ but an "esky" here.  Flip flops are called "jandals" in NZ but "thongs" here.  A few others words that we'd never heard before were "arvo" (afternoon), "bogan" (someone lacking class, similar to our "redneck"), and "woop woop" (out in the middle of nowhere).  Also, Australians like to shorten words and add "ie" or "y" to them - Australians are "Aussies", breakfast is "brekky", sunglasses are "sunnies", Tasmania is "Tassie", Woolworths (grocery store) is "Woolies."  Probably our favorite is their name for the St. Vincent De Paul thrift stores - "Vinnies." 

Bundaberg Port Marina (October 8 - 16).  Once our official business was wrapped up, we moved Slip Away into a marina berth.  We had booked into the marina for a week so that we could give the boat a good cleaning, re-stock our supply of provisions and maybe even relax a little. A small IGA grocery store was located within walking distance from the marina, and that same afternoon, we headed off to the store.  There was a liquor store next to the IGA, and since Customs severely limited how much alcohol we could bring into the country, we wanted to buy some beer.  (We're still brewing beer on board, but we needed to mix up a new batch, and it wouldn't be ready to drink for a couple more weeks.)  The cheapest six-pack of beer was AUD $16 (about USD $14) - ouch!  Fortunately, wine was more reasonably priced - we could get a decent bottle for about AUD $5 (USD $4).  After picking up a few provisions, we headed back to the marina, and as we started walking, we saw a mob of kangaroos in a field.  Wow - we're not in Kansas anymore! 

Our week in Bundaberg went by quickly.  Our friends Jon & Heather (s.v. Evergreen) arrived a day before us from New Caledonia, and it was great catching up with them again.  The four of us took the marina shuttle bus into the town of Bundaberg and explored the town and visited their small zoo.  We also went to the Bundaberg Sunday market to buy fresh produce.  The local fish market (next to the marina) sold a fantastic and reasonably priced cold seafood platter - prawns (shrimp), Moreton Bay Bugs (lobster), spanner crab and smoked salmon.  Heather & Jon and the two of us each bought one and celebrated Jon's birthday.  There was so much food on it that we couldn't eat it all in one meal - great leftovers! 

We also met a very nice local couple - Al & Glenda - who took us under their wing.  Our friends Dennis & MaryLee (s.v. Lardo) were in Bundaberg a couple of years ago and became good friends with Al & Glenda and let them know of our arrival.  Al & Glenda stopped by Slip Away to introduce themselves and welcome us.  They also spent a day showing us around the Bundy area, and in addition to sightseeing, they took us to Dan Murphy's (a cheaper liquor store - but beer was still very expensive) and "Woolies" so we could stock up on a few provisions.  Our introduction to Aussie hospitality was off to a good start. 


The mob of kangaroos hanging out by IGA
 
A White Ibis and a Kookaburra in the Bundaberg Zoo
 
Sugar Cane is big business here - and so is Bundaberg Rum

 


Out and about with Al & Glenda
 
Our delicious seafood meal from the local fish market

Platypus Bay - Fraser Island (October 16 - 18).  Over the past few weeks, we'd been keeping in close touch with our friends Neil & Kathy (s.v. Attitude), whom we last saw in New Zealand over two years ago.  They had been in Australia for the past couple of years and were now making plans to sail back to New Zealand, but we managed to rendezvous with them before they left.  We departed Bundaberg Port Marina early in the morning and had a very pleasant sail across Hervey Bay to Platypus Bay anchorage on Fraser Island (49 nm, 9 hours), where they had arrived earlier in the day.  Shortly after anchoring, we dinghied over to Attitude and celebrated our reunion with champagne and a fantastic meal prepared by Neil with fresh tuna they caught.  The next day, the four of us spent several hours walking on the beach.  Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world, and the beach was stunning! 


Celebrating with a bit of bubbly
 
Beautiful beach on Fraser Island

From Platypus Bay, our plan was to head south.  The wind was blowing from the southeast, but by traveling via the Great Sandy Straits, which run between Fraser Island and the mainland, we could go south without too much difficulty.  We would need to use the engine, time the tides and watch our charts closely because there are lots of sandbars, but there were plenty of stops along the way.  Attitude was traveling in the same direction, so we had more time to hang out together.

Kingfisher Bay Lodge - Fraser Island (October 18 - 22).  When we left the next morning, we had a couple hours of sailing in Hervey Bay before hitting the Great Sandy Straits enroute to Kingfisher Bay Resort (30 miles, 5 hours).  Humpback Whales hang out in Hervey Bay during the Australian winter, and although it was the end of the season, there were still a few sightings of them over the past couple of weeks - even one on the previous day by Heather & Jon on Evergreen.  We kept a keen lookout for them but saw none.  :-(

There is an excellent anchorage at Kingfisher Bay and several hiking trails ashore, so we spent a few days here.  We did some hikes on our own and also joined a couple of ranger-led walks to learn a bit more about the island.  We continued to spend time with Neil & Kathy - we had lots to catch up on, and when we're together, we always spend a lot of time laughing - great times! 


Kingfisher Bay Anchorage
 
Wannabe Commandos at the ruins of a World War II
Commando School on Fraser Island -
Neil appears to have chosen the better weapon
 
The sand was so white that it looked like snow

 


Soldier Crabs marching on the beach at low tide -
there were literally thousands of them
 
White-cheeked honeyeater seen on our
ranger-led morning birdwalk
 
Lace Monitor Lizard
 

South White Cliffs & Pelican Bay (October 22 - 24).  From Kingfisher Bay Lodge, we continued to South White Cliffs (10 miles, 2 hours), where we spent one night before continuing the next day to Pelican Bay (22 miles, 3 hours) at the bottom of the Great Sandy Straits.  The weather forecast was calling for light winds and then northerlies over the next couple of days - perfect conditions for us to cross the Wide Bay Bar and sail south.  From here, we and Attitude would be going our separate ways.   They were heading to Coff's Harbour (about 300 miles away), where they would leave for New Zealand.  Our next stop was Mooloolaba (just 60 miles).  When we got to Pelican Bay, we shared an afternoon happy hour with Attitude on the beach and said our good-byes (although we know our paths will cross again).  We needed to get an early start in the morning so made it an early evening. 

Wide Bay Bar (October 24).  One of the challenges facing boaters along the east coast of Australia is that sand bars block the entrances to several of their harbors.  Most of the sandbars can be crossed at high tide, but crossing the bar also usually requires ideal conditions.  Strong winds and/or big seas, and waves generated by wind against current can be quite dangerous.  Conditions for crossing the Wide Bay Bar had not been good for a couple of weeks, and when we weighed anchor to get underway at 6:30 a.m., we were not alone.  It took us over an hour to get from our anchorage to where we were beyond the Wide Bay Bar, and there were so many boats traveling that route, it was almost like being on a crowded highway.

Mooloolaba Harbour (October 24-26).  Once we were over the Wide Bay Bar, we turned south and headed for Mooloolaba (63 miles, 10 hours).  (Mooloolaba is pronounced MOO-LOO-la-ba and becomes more difficult to say after a couple of adult beverages!)  We didn't have a lot of wind and needed to cover a long distance, so we motor-sailed to keep our speed up.  Mooloolaba has a well-protected harbor with no sandbar at the entrance, making it fairly easy to enter and exit, and we arrived and dropped our anchor in the late afternoon.  Quite a few boats stopped at Mooloolaba for the night - fortunately, it's a big anchorage.  Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen) were among the crowd, and the next morning, the four of us took a walk out to the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor.  After our morning walk, we all met our friend Korey for lunch.  The two of us first met Korey in Panama in 2010.  He and his former partner, Clara (both Canadians), sailed their boat Comfort Zone from Panama to Australia, and we spent time with them in the Galapagos and French Polynesia.  They continued on across the Pacific when we stopped to spend an additional season in French Polynesia.  When they arrived in Australia, Korey started Medical School at the University of Queensland, Clara returned to Canada and they sold Comfort Zone.  So, here we were - four years later.  Korey is doing very well - almost finished with Med School and enjoying life in Australia. 

After lunch, Korey asked if we wanted to drive up to Noosa Heads for a hike.  We were quite enthusiastic about this offer because we had read that there are opportunities to see koalas in the wild at Noosa National Park.  Korey said he had never seen koalas there, but he was familiar with a couple of nice hikes.  So, we headed up to Noosa, and when we got to the park entrance, we saw someone looking up into the trees and pointing.  There was a koala up in the trees!  It was hard to see, but with a strong zoom, we managed to get a good photo.  We had a beautiful hike out to Hell's Gate and back and then headed home.  It had been a great day catching up with Korey.


Pelicans in Mooloolaba -
the Australian ones are prettier than their American cousins
 
Koala asleep in the eucalyptus tree
 
Fun reunion with our friend Korey
 

Passage to Moreton Bay (October 26, 45 miles, 7 hours).  The next morning, we continued on our journey south.  The state of Queensland in Australia does not go on Daylight Savings Time in the summer, so the sun rose quite early in the morning.  This worked to our advantage on this passage because we needed to get an early start to time our arrival in Moreton Bay on a rising tide. We weighed anchor at 5 a.m., shortly after dawn.  We motored out of the harbor, turned south and set our sails wing-and-wing.  With 15-20 knots of wind from the northwest and a favorable current, we had a nice sail down the coast. 

The entrance to Moreton Bay is quite easy, with a large-ship channel which runs to the port of Brisbane.  Once in the bay, there are a number of shallows and sandbars, and we had to plot our course carefully.  But with good charts and a careful eye, we had no problems.

Newport Marina, Scarborough (October 26 - November 16).  We pulled into Newport Marina and had plans to stay for a week, but this was a nice spot, and one week turned into three.  Newport Marina is located on the Redcliffe Peninsula, which just over 20 miles (36 km) from downtown Brisbane.  Our friends Peter & Laura Taylor live in Redcliffe, a few kilometers from Newport Marina, and they treated us to fantastic Aussie hospitality.  We enjoyed several delicious meals (including our first taste of kangaroo steaks) at Peter & Laura's apartment, which overlooks Moreton Bay.  The Redcliffe Peninsula is very bike friendly (as is all of Brisbane), with bike paths or bike lanes running along most roads, and the terrain is fairly flat.  We don't have bikes on board, but Peter & Laura have two extra ones and loaned them to us while we were here.  Very nice!  Evergreen also came into Newport Marina, and Peter & Laura were very welcoming to them too.

We did a little boat maintenance while we were here, but we also had the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing.  Laura took the crews of Evergreen and Slip Away to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a small zoo with Australia animals only.  We fed kangaroos and lorikeets, attended presentations by the zookeepers, and Jan even took the opportunity to cuddle a koala.  We loved it!  Peter & Laura also joined the two of us for a day-trip into Brisbane - we took a ferry ride on the river, walked in the botanical gardens and took in some of the other city sights. 


Laura feeding the lorikeets
 
Mama kangaroo with a joey in her pouch
 
Jan cuddles a koala

 


Brisbane skyline with a marina on the riverfront
 
 
Rich, Peter & Laura in Brisbane
 
The Bee Gees hometown is Redcliffe, and there is a
relatively new and very nice monument to them there

But the highlight of our time here was a visit to Lamington National Park.  Peter loaned the two of us his car for a couple of days, and we did a road trip to Lamington (about three hours away) and spent a couple of nights at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat.  The birdlife at O'Reilly's was incredible, we saw lots of pademelons at dusk (they look like little kangaroos), and we hiked some beautiful trails.  Our two nights at the retreat were a bit of a splurge, but worth every penny!


Beautifully colored male Regent Bowerbird and his mate
 
This crimson rosella took a liking to Rich
 
Interesting trees along the hiking trails in the rainforest

In early November, Australians celebrate Melbourne Cup Day, which is similar to the U.S. Kentucky Derby Day, except that it's on a weekday, and most businesses in Australia shut down at noon on Melbourne Cup Day.  Laura & Peter hosted a Melbourne Cup Party at their apartment, and the two of us attended (Evergreen was off on a road trip).  The ladies wore fancy hats, and we placed bets by putting a few dollars in the kitty and pulling horses' names from a jar.  The two of us were excited that we picked the favorite - Admiral Rakti - then disappointed when he finished last, but then very saddened to hear that he had a heart attack and died shortly after finishing the race.  Betting on horses is apparently not for us!

By mid-November, we were feeling like we should get a move on.  We had plans to meet friends in Sydney in a few weeks, and Sydney was over 400 miles south of our present location.  When we saw a weather forecast with north winds, we decided to go for it.  We bid good-bye to Peter & Laura but warned them "We'll be back!" as we were planning to return to Newport Marina in March. 

Passage from Newport Marina to Broken Bay (November 16 - 20).  The trip from Newport Marina to Broken Bay (25 miles north of Sydney) needed to be done in a series of steps.  We intended to travel the inland waterway from Moreton Bay to the Gold Coast Seaway, where we would go offshore for the remainder of the trip to Sydney.  Evergreen was on the same path and timetable, so we would have company on our passage. 

The trip started out with a nice sail on Moreton Bay.  With 15-20 knots of northeast winds we unfurled our headsail and turned south.  When we got to the bottom of Moreton Bay, navigation became trickier with narrow channels among islands and sandbars, and we furled our sail and started the engine.  We initially intended to stop and anchor for the night at an island at the bottom of Moreton Bay, but we still had hours of sunlight, and the tide was running in our favor, so we decided to continue on.  Evergreen ended up traveling all the way to the Bum's Bay anchorage just inside the Gold Coast Seaway, but we stopped about 10 miles short and spent the night at the  Aldershots Anchorage.  Total mileage covered for our first day was 53 nautical miles (9 hours).   The next morning, we weighed anchor early, stopped and fueled up at Mariners Cove Marina and then dropped our anchor at Bum's Bay where we would spend the night.  It was an easy day of only 11 miles, but unfortunately, we managed to put a small scratch in our hull at the fuel dock.  :-(

The next morning, we were up at sunrise, and at 5 a.m. with light winds, we motored out the Gold Coast Seaway.  Our hope was to get to Broken Bay (400 miles away) without stopping, but the weather forecast kept changing on us.  Sometimes the forecast showed a few hours of southerly winds (not good), but then the next forecast would change again.  We weren't really sure what we would get, so we picked out a few places we could stop along the way if those southerly winds materialized.  We ended up making it all the way - 395 miles (2 days + 9 hours).  We and Evergreen were always only a few miles apart, so we could chat on the VHF radio whenever we felt like it, and we were able to pick up an internet signal for most of the trip, so we could do email too!  Winds were fairly light for most of the trip, so we weren't able to do much sailing - only about 8 hours on the first day - but the Eastern Australian Current (the one Nemo rode in the movie) gave us a good ride south.  At times, our speed over ground was up to 10 knots!  Shortly after dawn on the second day of our passage, we encountered a big squall which brought us 20-25 knots of southerly winds for a few hours.  We started to turn around and head to a nearby anchorage to wait for the winds to die down, but then Jon on Evergreen called a freighter about 15 miles ahead of us who told us their winds had already diminished.  So we stuck with it and just drifted south in the current for a few hours.  At half past noon on the following day, we entered Broken Bay.  Broken Bay has three extensions - Pittwater to the south, the Hawkesbury River to the west and Brisbane Water to the north.  Evergreen went off toward the Hawkesbury, and our plan was to find a place to anchor in Pittwater for a few days. 

Pittwater Bay (November 20 - 25).  When we first arrived in Pittwater, we were a bit overwhelmed by the number of boats in the bay.  We motored around looking for a place to anchor, but most of the prime spots were occupied by boats on moorings.  We finally found a place to drop the hook on the southeast corner of Scotland Island, near Church Point.  That evening, just after finishing her shower, Jan was in the stateroom and asked "What's that noise?"  This is rarely a good question.  The "noise" was coming from the engine room, and when we opened the door, we saw water in the bilge, and the noise was the sound of the bilge pump pumping it out.  Yikes!  We tasted the water, and it was saltwater, but where was it coming from??  After a few frantic moments of searching, Rich found the culprit.  The oil cooler on our main engine had sprung a leak.  He closed the thru-hull feeding the main engine and stopped the ingress of water.  Phew!  Disaster averted!  Rich was able to patch the hole with JB Weld and Rescue Tape (an amalgamating tape), which allowed us to use the engine until we could get a new oil cooler. 

Early the next morning, we walked into the town of Mona Vale.  Rich was having some strange sensations in one of his eyes, so we had scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist.  We were thinking we would take the bus from Church Point into Mona Vale, but when Jan checked on the bus, she found that in order to take the bus at the time we wanted, we needed to have a pre-paid bus pass.  We could buy a bus pass at the Church Point Post Office, but by the time she found this out, the post office was closed for the day.  The post office would re-open at 8:30 the next day, but we needed to catch the bus at 8.  The doctor's office was only 5 km (3 miles) away, so we walked, and actually, it was quite a pleasant walk.  The doctor examined Rich's eye and saw nothing of serious concern - we really hate it when doctors tell us that "these things sometimes happen when you get older!"  After Rich's appointment, we strolled around Mona Vale a bit, and we loved this small town with its quiet streets lined with cafes and shops. 
 

When we arrived in Pittwater, we sent an email to our friends Rosemary & John Kyd who live in Sydney and let them know we were getting close.  Rosemary & John actually live in a northern suburb of Sydney, and they told us they come up to Pittwater most Sundays to walk their dog.  Sunday was only a couple of days away, so we hung out and met them on Sunday morning to walk Jill (a female Jack Russell) and went out for brunch.  After brunch, they gave us a lift into Mona Vale so we could pick up a few groceries at Woolies and a few bottles of wine at Dan Murphys.  Fortunately, we didn't need to buy any more beer as we now had a couple of batches of home brew bottled.  We also stopped in at a News Agency and purchased Opal cards (like debit cards) for the Sydney Bus system.  Our Opal cards would get a good workout over the next couple of months.
 

   


Sunset on Pittwater Bay

A day in Sydney.  We put our Opal cards to use the very next morning.  Our friends Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) were in Cammeray Marina in Sydney (about an hour away).  We were also planning to take Slip Away into Cammeray in a couple of weeks, but by that time, Richard & Ali would be gone because they were sailing down to Tasmania.  We wanted to catch up with them before they left, and this was also an opportunity to check out the marina before we went in there.  We checked bus schedules, printed out a couple of maps and set off early the next morning.  We caught the bus at Church Point, and Richard had told us we needed to get off the bus at Neutral Bay Junction.  There are two bus stops in Neutral Bay, and the second one appeared to be the better option, so we didn't get off at the first one.  What we didn't realize was that since this was an Express Bus, it didn't stop at the second one.  Oops!  Once we missed our stop, we had to stay on the bus until the end of the line at Wynyard Station in downtown Sydney.  As we got off the bus, Jan asked the bus driver where we could catch a bus back to Neutral Bay.  English was not his first language, and he kept telling her "Stan A," but we had no clue what "Stan A" was.  We got off the bus, and it was rush hour in Sydney, and we were at the busiest bus and train station in the city.  It was all a bit overwhelming, but we finally found our way.  There was a large depot on the other side of the train station, and we needed to catch a bus at "Stand A".  As we waited for the bus on a bench under a tree, a spider fell out of the tree, on to Jan's shoulder and started crawling up her neck.  Although this was likely not one of Australia's poisonous spiders, Jan's reaction was not a calm one, and the spider met an untimely death before it had a chance to bite her. 

We finally found our way back to Cammeray Marina and met Richard & Ali there.  After tea and scones and a bit of catching up on board Vulcan Spirit, the four of us took a bus to Manly.  We found a delightful cafe for lunch and then went for a walk on some of the trails on North Head.  While on our walk, we saw a boat sailing toward the Sydney Harbour entrance.  Jan texted Evergreen asking "Is that you?"  And it was!  Funny coincidence!  We had a great day with Richard & Ali, and they made sure we found the correct bus stop for our trip home before setting off to find theirs.  We got to our bus stop about 10 minutes ahead of time, and we waited.  The buses from Manly to Church Point only run once per hour, and when our bus was about 20 minutes late, Jan called the bus company, who checked on our bus and told Jan that for some unknown reason, it had not run today.  But they assured her that the next one was on its way and would be on time, so we sat at the bus stop for over an hour, and the bus eventually showed up and brought us home.  Fortunately, we were now in New South Wales, which does go on Daylight Savings Time, so although we were pretty late, we still got home before dark.  Our first day with the Sydney bus system wasn't stellar, but things did get better.


Richard & Ali (s.v. Vulcan Spirit) and Rich in Manly
 
Evergreen sailing off the coast of Manly toward Sydney Harbour

America Bay (November 25 - 26).  After our field trip to Sydney, we were ready to go explore more of the Pittwater and Hawkesbury River area.  Cowan Creek runs off the Hawkesbury River, through the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and offers several nice anchorages, so we headed in that direction.  Our first stop was America Bay (9 miles, 2 hours).  America Bay was full of privately owned moorings, but there are also a few NSW Maritime Courtesy moorings, which can be used free of charge.  The courtesy moorings are pink, so they are fairly easy to spot in the sea of yellow private moorings.  We arrived in America Bay on a Tuesday, so there were very few boats around, and we found and tied up to a courtesy mooring.  Less than an hour later, a houseboat with a bunch of guys came in the bay.  It was obviously a boys' fishing trip, and even though the bay was virtually empty, they tied up to the mooring right next to ours.  We should have moved, but we didn't.  As one might imagine, the houseboat crew was entertaining at times but annoying when they partied into the wee hours.  The next morning, we were up early and went for a hike.  After our hike, we dropped our mooring and moved on, eager to leave the boys on the houseboat to their fun. 


America Bay
 
Aboriginal Engravings seen on our hike

Bobbin Head (November 26 - 30).  From America Bay, we headed further down Cowan Creek - actually to the end of its navigable waters - to Bobbin Head (10 miles, 2 hours).  There is a picnic area, restaurant and National Parks office at Bobbin Head, where we could pick up trail maps for hikes in the area.  Here, we also found friends - Matt & Jean (s.v. Superted) and Andy & Sue (s.v. Spruce), both British boats.  We spent the next few days in Bobbin Head, hiking several beautiful trails in the area and enjoying the company of friends.  One evening, when we were gathered on Slip Away for a potluck dinner, the Brits started telling jokes, and we laughed until we had tears running down our cheeks.  This anchorage was well protected, very pretty and peaceful.  There was also a marina nearby, and they let us use their laundry facilities, which was quite handy.  We really liked Bobbin Head.


Jacaranda trees were in bloom and added a burst of color
in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
 
Sandstone cliffs encountered on our hikes
 
Pied Cormorants hung out in the trees behind our boat

 

Careel Bay, Pittwater (November 30 to December 3).  After a few days at Bobbin Head, we decided to head back to Pittwater to see a bit more of that bay.  We moved from Bobbin Head to Careel Bay on a sunny Sunday, and the waterways were packed with boats - we're not used to so much traffic!  From here, we made another trip into Mona Vale - it was a much longer bus ride from Careel Bay than Church Point, but we saw a few more towns along the Barrenjoey Peninsula.  We enjoyed lunch at a cafe and did some shopping - bought new pillows at a Manchester Outlet (they call home goods "Manchester" in this part of the world), and stopped at the marine store to buy a new deck washdown pump because ours had quit working.  On our last day in the area, we did the Barrenjoey Headland walk to the lighthouse.  This whole Broken Bay area was really a nice place to hang out for a while.
 

Sydney Harbour, Blackwattle Bay (December 3 - 7).  We left Broken Bay and headed for Sydney Harbour with a forecast of 15-25 knots of northeast wind, so we were expecting a great sail.  But the wind ended up light and variable, and it was a motor trip (27 miles, 5 hours).  We motored past Manly beach, around North Head, into Sydney Harbour, past Fort Denison and the iconic Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It was Jan's birthday, and this was truly a memorable one!  We dropped our anchor in Blackwattle Bay, which is near downtown and close to the Sydney Fish Market.  We arrived shortly after 1 p.m., so after anchoring, we walked over to the fish market for lunch.  The fish market was packed with bus loads of tourists, and we arrived near the end of the day for the market restaurants, so lunch pickings were slim, and it ended up being a mediocre meal.  But, our spirits were not dampened, and we continued Jan's birthday celebration on Slip Away with a bottle of bubbly as we watched the sun go down and the city lights come on. 
 

   


The Barrenjoey Peninsula
 


Approaching the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Fort Denison
 and the Opera House in front of the city skyline
 
Slip Away anchored near the Anzac Bridge in Blackwattle Bay
 

We had three solid days of sightseeing in Sydney, and we walked our legs off.  We started off with a walking tour outlined in our Fodor's book - Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Hyde Park and Martin Place.  It was a long day of walking, but we had only just begun.  The next day, we visited the Queen Victoria Building, Circular Quay and walked across the Harbour Bridge.  After the return walk over the Harbour Bridge, our legs were feeling a bit weary, and we found the "Glebe Point" bus, which took us back toward Blackwattle Bay.  On our third day, we did a walking tour of the Rocks, one of the oldest areas of Sydney with a colorful history.  On our way home that day, we stopped in at the fish market and picked up some fresh prawns for a delicious dinner on Slip Away.  We enjoyed our time in Sydney and still had more to see, but it was time to move the boat.  Although we were in Blackwattle Bay for only a short time, a photograph of Slip Away appeared on the City of Sydney website when they did an article on Marine Habitats around the Sydney Harbour Foreshore.   


Hyde Park in downtown Sydney
 
Christmas Tree on Martin Place
 
View from the Harbour Bridge - Sydney Harbour is a very busy waterway

 


An historical monument in the Rocks

 
 
Queen Victoria Building decorated for Christmas
 
The weather in Sydney during these few days was hot and balmy, with late
 afternoon thunderstorms.  These clouds looked particularly worrisome,
and we had quite a bit of lightning when this system passed over us,
but luckily, we were not hit and the winds were not too strong.

Cammeray Marina (December 7 to February 9).  We were expecting visitors in December and wanted to have a secure place for Slip Away, so we booked a mooring at Cammeray Marina.  Jan started researching marinas six months prior to our arrival since we expected Sydney would be busy during the holiday season.  Fees for marina berths in Sydney were very expensive - over AUD $2,000 per month - definitely not in our budget.  We finally found an affordable mooring at Cammeray, which is located in Long Bay in the Middle Harbour.  It's a well-protected bay, and the shoreline is a mix of parkland and houses built into the sides of the hills.  Although we weren't in downtown Sydney, it was easily reachable by bus.  It was a great location, but the only negative was that we had to climb 109 steps and then walk about a half-kilometer uphill to get to the bus stop.  Oh well - we needed the exercise!

From Blackwattle Bay, we motored to Middle Harbour in time to catch the late-morning opening of the Spit Bridge.  After clearing the Bridge, "Buzzie" from the marina met us in their tender, and we followed him, weaving through a myriad of moored boats, to our spot in Willoughby Bay.  Our mooring was one of the furthest away from the marina facilities (offices, showers and laundry) in a small bay around the corner from the main bay.  Initially, we felt like we were out in "woop woop" and were hoping to secure a closer spot if another mooring became available.  However, it didn't take us long to change our minds.  We decided that we liked our spot - there was little boat traffic, the bay was well protected and we weren't getting a lot of bird poop on our decks.  There were a lot of trees ashore and lots of birds in Cammeray - some of them quite beautiful, like the sulfur-crested cockatoo.  The bird songs were a mix of pretty melodies, parrots squawking and kookaburras laughing. 

Blue Mountains (December 9).  Shortly after we got settled in Cammeray, our friends Peter & Laura from Redcliffe were in Sydney.  They used to live in Sydney and were visiting friends for a holiday celebration.  They had a free day and asked if we wanted to go to the Blue Mountains.  Of course!  We left early in the morning and stopped at the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens on the way.  From there, we continued on to the home of their friends Ross & Sharon who live in the area.  Jan had actually met Ross & Sharon when she met Peter & Laura many years ago on a ski trip - small world!  We had tea at Ross & Sharon's and then they joined us for some sightseeing - Govetts Leap and its beautiful waterfall and then Echo Point and the Three Sisters.  The Blue Mountains is a very nice area - we wished we had a few days to spend there. 


Enjoying the view of the Blue Mountains
 
Bridal Veil Falls at Govetts Leap
 
The Three Sisters

Sydney Sightseeing with Ralph & Cheryl (December 11 - 14).  Our friends Ralph & Cheryl Kallberg were on an extended tour of the South Pacific (French Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand), and we were looking forward to catching up with them when they came through Sydney for a few days.  We first met Ralph & Cheryl in 2004 while cruising in Mexico, and they sail on s.v. Fortuitous, which is a sister-ship of Slip Away.  They flew into Sydney from Auckland NZ, and we met them at their hotel the morning they arrived.  Up to that point, we'd had warm and sunny weather, but the weather that day was cold, windy and rainy.  We needed to find an indoor activity, so decided to do a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  Our guide was quite entertaining, and the tour was very informative - a good choice.  Over the next few days, we did more sightseeing with Ralph & Cheryl - a "free" guided walking tour of the city, a tour of the Sydney Botanical Gardens, and a visit to Manly.  Ralph & Cheryl took the ferry to Manly from Circular Quay, and the two of us did the 10km Manly Scenic Walk from the Spit Bridge.  During our walk, we saw our first echidna!  We met Ralph & Cheryl for lunch and then did a bit more walking around the town and headlands.  The weather had been quite blustery over the past few days, and the beach was closed due to high surf - not that we were planning to swim! 


The Queen Victoria Building in downtown Sydney
 
We definitely enjoyed our tour guide and tour
of the Sydney Opera House
 
Sydney Botanical Gardens

 


Approaching Manly on the Manly Scenic Walk
 
 
The two of us with our friends Ralph & Cheryl at Manly
 
Watching the Extreme Racing Series on Sydney Harbour
after our tour of the Botanical Gardens

Sydney Siege (December 15).  On Monday, December 15, a lone gunman identifying with radical Muslim groups entered the Lindt Cafe on Martin Place and took 18 people hostage.  By this time, we had been in Sydney for almost two weeks and had spent quite a bit of time in the city.  Fortunately, we were spending that day at home on Slip Away in Cammeray.  Just the day before we were in the city with Ralph & Cheryl, and we had walked down Martin Place past the Lindt Cafe.  And, on our first day of sightseeing in Sydney, we had stopped in the Lindt Cafe, because Jan wanted to buy a piece of chocolate.  She remembered clearly the young manager who waited on her - he was very friendly and nice to her even though she was only buying a $2 piece of chocolate.  That young manager - Tori Johnson - was one of two innocent people who were killed in this incident (the gunman was also killed).  We had come to love Sydney, never felt unsafe in the city, and like all Australians, we grieved for these people who lost their lives. 

Christmas & New Year's with the Kyd Family.  We had more visitors on their way and were looking forward to the holidays.  Our friends Camille & John from L.A. were coming to Sydney for a family reunion and holiday celebration.  John's parents, Rosemary & John, and his brother Gordon and family live in Sydney.  John's sister Sasha and family flew in from New Zealand, and Camille's Dad Gene from Ohio joined us too.  We also enjoyed the company of Marnie (grandmother), cousins, aunts and an uncle.  Everyone welcomed us warmly and made us feel like part of the family.  Delicious food was in abundance and "champers" (champagne) flowed freely. 

For the two weeks that Camille & John were in Sydney, we had something to do with them almost every day. It was lots of family time, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We took only a couple of days off, one of them being Christmas Eve, when our marina hosted a holiday party with free drinks and seafood, which was a very nice event.   

On Christmas Day, we enjoyed a lovely luncheon at Rosemary & John's house, and they invited our friends Heather & Jon (s.v. Evergreen) too.  On Boxing Day (December 26), we headed up to the Hunter Valley to meet the "Queensland" cousins.  We spent a couple of nights at Woodlane Cottages in the Hunter Valley, which is one of Australia's best known wine regions, and we managed to fit in a wine tasting at the Gartelmann Winery when we ate lunch at their cafe. 


The kids were in heaven with all these presents!
 
 
Raising a toast at Christmas Dinner
 
While the little kids were opening presents,
the big kids were drinking "champers" in the next room

 


The Queensland Cousins -
Gordon, Christy-Lyne, Gina, Leon, Tamara, John & Sasha
 
John on "barbie" duty - he's a natural at it!
 
Rich telling tall tales to Kiara, Tali & Rosemary in the Hunter Valley
 

Watching the New Year's Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour was on our bucket list, and Camille & John were up for it, but we didn't have any other family members interested in joining us.  For most of them, they'd "been there, done that" and didn't want to deal with the crowds.  Several of our cruising friends were taking their boats out on the harbor to watch the fireworks, but we felt we would enjoy the show more from a shore-side location (free from the worry of other boats crashing into us).  Jan did the research and concluded that the Balls Head Reserve, which is just west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, would be a good vantage point.  Our friends Ralph & Cheryl had been traveling in other areas of Australia and came back to Sydney to see the fireworks, so they came with us too.  We took lawn chairs and coolers of food and drinks and setup our picnic mid-afternoon.  We got there just in time to snag prime seats for the show.  We followed the rules which said this was an "alcohol-free zone," but many of the other folks who were there did not.  Nevertheless, it was a well-behaved crowd, and for us, a lack of alcohol in our bloodstream made it easier to stay awake past midnight.   

Prior to the main fireworks show, there were several other events on the harbor to keep us occupied, including an air show, a fireboat show, a boat parade and a kids' fireworks show at 9 p.m.  We also found the "anchoring dance" of some of the boats on the harbor quite entertaining and made us glad we were watching the show from shore.  The fireworks show at midnight was spectacular.  We had an excellent view of the fireworks set off from the Harbour Bridge, as well as from the several barges lining the harbor.  Best New Year's Eve ever!


We arrived early and snagged these front-row seats
at Balls Head Reserve
 
Fire Boat Display
 
Boat Parade
 

 


Ringing in 2015
 
The finale - beautiful!

Among the holiday get-togethers, we also managed to fit in a small bit of sightseeing - another trip to the Botanical Gardens and another visit to Manly.  Those are both delightful places, so we didn't mind at all going again. 


Botanical Gardens Train Tour
 
 
Taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly
 
Manly Beach was packed on the New Year weekend

 


Rosemary was able to get a loan of a van from her work,
and John did a stellar job of chauffeuring our group around
 
Although we had no alcohol on New Year's Eve,
Aunt Patty (Rosemary's sister) poured us some champers on New Year's Day

Shortly after the New Year, it was time to say good-bye to Camille & John.  The past couple of weeks with them had been busy, but we enjoyed it tremendously, and John's family had been wonderful to us.  Although we had celebrated Christmas and the New Year together with Camille & John several times when we lived in Southern California, this Sydney celebration was extra special. 

As Camille & John packed their bags to head back to Los Angeles, we were packing ours to fly down to Tasmania.  There were more Australia adventures on the horizon for us.