Friday, 24 October 2014

Swinging in Bantry Bay

Well, swinging on a mooring..

View from the steep track on the Eastern side of the bay
There are about 7 courtesy (public) moorings here and it's lovely!

It's in Middle Harbour, basically north west of Sydney heads and through the "Spit Bridge".  It's a really nice spot reminiscent of Broken Bay with deep channels between steep hills in a national park.

We're here for a couple of days then back to Drummoyne for a while before heading back to Adelaide.

Another view from the Bay Track the following day

And a view from a rock ledge at the head of the bay

Loving it :-)

Location: Bantry Bay, NSW
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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Belated blogs and giant bollocks.

Yet another belated blog post. I may never catch up but at least I'm consistent.

Dave had a month's work coming up for the whole of September so, as much as we would have liked to head further north, we simply couldn't and so it was back to Olde Sydney Town to once again pick up a mooring at Drummoyne and arrange passage back to Adelaide.

Rainbow over the entrance to Port Stephens.
Another view of the awesome rainbow. 


We left Port Stephens in the late afternoon amongst rainbows and promises of return and then, sailing into twilight, did the long, long journey back down the coast. I slept a lot due to the fact that night sails and I don't get along terribly well, and Kwells become my new best friend and take me off to dreamland, leaving poor Dave to man the helm almost all night. I truly wish I could find a motion sickness tablet that didn't make me drowsy but so far I haven't had much success.

After making it back to Drummoyne safely and resting up for a couple of days, we then set out to try and find the best way back to Adelaide. After looking into air, bus and train fares, and after chatting to our good friends and fellow sailors Dave and Selina on board 'Quintessa'(who were soon heading off to Darwin to put in a swimming pool for a client), we discussed the possibility of buying a car and then selling it on in Adelaide. What a fabulous idea!!

Because of the epic drive they had to make through the guts of the country, Dave and Selina had chosen a sensible and sturdy 4 wheel drive as their mode of transport. We figured a nice hatch back would do the job for us, so the search was on in earnest as we perused online car ads. However, as the search went on, we couldn't decide which would suit us best until, after browsing though hundreds of cars, Dave jokingly showed me an advert that led to us buying what was possibly the absolutely least sensible car we could have found...a full-on, mid-life-crisis cliché on wheels. Yes ladies and gentlemen, we were now the proud owners of a red convertible! It was awesome!

The 'mid-life-crisis', totally clichéd demi beast of a car!!
At the end of August we began our journey, complete with chock full back seat and boot loaded with things we had decided we didn't really need on the boat.

It's quite amazing how conspicuous you suddenly feel when you're in a car with such a reputation. I mean here was Dave, dashing middle aged, worldly wise yacht captain driving across the country with his gorgeous young blonde in the passenger seat (this was my fantasy so shut up :P ). As I said, completely clichéd Daaahhhhling! (besides, it totally looked like that if you weren't actually looking hard as we shot past at 100kph.) We saw all manner of interesting things and took many photos but it's incredible how blurred some pictures can be at 100kph. However, here are some we salvaged.

A solitary headstone and burial plot on the side of the road.
A gigantic sprinkler system in the middle of a very dry nowhere. What a colossal waste of water.
Alrighty then!
I believe I mentioned large testicular objects.
On the way we took a break at the Big Marino in Goulburn (just one of the many BIG things this weird and wonderful country has to offer), which had the biggest bollocks I had ever seen. There was also this wonderfully restored steam tractor passing though.

Beautifully restored steam tractor.

Our own Eiffel Tower? I totally think not.

We stopped for lunch at the Dog on the Tuckerbox in Gundagai where there's also an interesting assortment of things. It's really nice to see these places at least once. I think we miss so much by shooting through some of these potential stops.


Hand carved table and chairs at Gundagai.

Interesting things at the 'Dog on the Tuckerbox' , Gundagai.
It looks almost real.....more interesting things at the 'Dog on the Tuckerbox' , Gundagai.
Yet more interesting things at the 'Dog on the Tuckerbox' , Gundagai.
Yes.... it's a canon... more interesting things at the 'Dog on the Tuckerbox' , Gundagai.
I really like this! More interesting things at the 'Dog on the Tuckerbox' , Gundagai.

We finally arrived at the half way town of Hay for the night and took off early the following morning for another 7 hour drive. Only one thing marred the journey and this was a ridiculously stupid error in judgement. Near the border of South Australia is a fruit fly stop. Any and all fruit and/or vegetables on board must be declared and handed over. However, when we pulled in to the inspection point, no one was around and we didn't have any fruit or veg anyway, so we almost pulled up to a stop but then inexplicably drove away again. I can only think that fatigue or brain damage got into our heads and made us drive away. Half an hour later we were tootling along when a police car suddenly appeared behind us, lights flashing, siren whooping. Were we speeding??? No. It seemed that the inspection station had reported us for not stopping. As we stood on the side of the road chatting to the lovely policeman, cars zoomed past and I could alsmot see the sniggers of the passengers in those cars when they saw the cop standing next to the 'cliché'. Oh the embarrassment.   As a result of our own stupidity, we copped a big fine and vowed NEVER to do anything so stupid again. D'oh!!!

And did we drive with the top of the sexy stereotype down? Why yes we did, for the final 4 hours of the journey. :)
Okay, this photo comes with instructions... If you wear glasses take them off and squint hard. If you don't wear glasses, smear Vaseline over your screen and then squint. Voila!! Young sexy blonde!!! :D

Location: Gundagai NSW, Australia
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Thursday, 28 August 2014

A short trip South and a long trip West

I was offered some work while in Port Stephens and in support of the kitty, decided to head back to Adelaide to take it up. It's basically back filling where I used to work for someone while they take a trip overseas for a month. 

So we did a rushed overnight from Port Stephens to Broken Bay where we bought a car (don't ask).

A cliche on wheels

The weather wasn't too bad but it did mean beating into the wind for 20 hours or so which is something "Gentlemen don't do" as I was reminded repeatedly by Terry who was holding a bucket at the time..

Terry drove the car back to Sydney while I single handed Venture back the long way (6 hours).   The wind was a bit more in my favour this time after the first hour or so but it still meant motor sailing and tacking down the coast.  All went well until I was within a mile of so of the North Head and then a big squall came through with torrential rain and 25 knots of wind.  I only had one reef in the main and the Yankee and staysail up so we (me and the boat) heeled over to about 30 degrees until I got the yankee in and spilled some wind from the main.

Heading in through the heads with visibility down to a few hundred meters was a rush (adrenaline) with boats coming out and two others heading in and once I was inside, the ferries came thick and fast but I managed to thread the needle and made it to Drumoyne without misshap.  By that stage, the sun was out again and the wind down to stuff-all knots so I had no trouble picking up the mooring by myself.

Terry was waiting to greet me having driven all of 35 minutes to get back.   Cruising under sail really is slow travel.

Anyhow, we left Venture to look after herself while we took off in the car for our two day road trip <high_five /> and got back to Adelaide on Tuesday.

So, we're here for a month and heading back to Venture very early October.

I'll let Terry tell the full tail of the road trip <high five /> when she manages to get caught up.

Location: South Australia, Australia
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

A little luxury in the Port of Stephens.

Still trying to catch up.... please be patient with me. :)

The slow trip north continued as we made the short hop from Newcastle to Port Stephens. With virtually no wind we had to motor sail the entire way once again. This was getting to be a habit.

Do you suppose there's fish on that boat? Could be!
We arrived at Shoal Bay, just inside the heads, and picked up a mooring for the night then sat back with a cuppa to watch a battle royal going on between a sea eagle and a hawk. It was claw to claw for almost twenty minutes before the sea eagle went pfffft and flew off to hassle someone else. I'm pretty sure the hawk felt totally chuffed that he'd seen off the big bully as it victory swooped for a couple of minutes.

The battle's on shrimpy!!
The following morning we dropped the mooring and moved further into the bay towards Soldier's Point. Our plan was to book in to the quite expensive Soldier's Point Marina for just one night before moving on and exploring the area but alas, it was not to be. Nasty weather arrived the next morning and the waters sent swells that pitched the boat like a rocking horse. Every vessel around us was in a similar predicament to the point where walking on the dock became a hazard just in case a bucking boat came down on your head unexpectedly. We were stuck until the weather cleared... 4 days later!

 Here's the link to the rock-n-roll fun.....

It wasn't all bad though. In fact it was extremely nice. With beautiful sculptures adorning the dock and the grounds, a fountain, restaurants, a bar on the marina and a floating coffee shop especially for the boaties, not to mention the most luxurious bathrooms (complete with flannels and towels), laundry facilities and even a sauna and a masseuse if you so desired, it was completely awesome.

Chess anybody??
I absolutely want this sculpture!!

A little bit of luxury.... mmmmmmmm.

Massage? Next time :)

On top of all of this, the marina provided free vehicle use if it was needed. Not just any vehicle but a choice of 3 (depending on what was available when it was required) and we didn't even need to top up the petrol! The first one we used was a new Lexus, (I immediately loved and wanted a Lexus when we become landlubbers again. What a car!!) of which we availed ourselves to go shopping and drive into Port Stephens to check out their public dock (which unfortunately was filled with boats that looked as though they'd been there for months despite the fact that it was meant to be an overnight jetty). The next car we used was a new Holden Ute, which was used to do a little sight seeing. The third, a 4 wheel drive, we didn't use.

Unfortunately, due to the weird weather, we didn't sightsee anywhere near as much as we'd hoped but did take advantage of a one day break and go up to the Gan Gan Lookout which affords magnificent views over the land and towards the ocean. It was an easy car ride and even easier stroll to the top of the hill and the view was breathtaking. Add to this the wonderful red Gymea lilies that tower up to 6 metres high, and the abundant bird life that enjoys feeding from these giant beauties, plus one very friendly little kookaburra and you have one very enjoyable afternoon. It was well worth seeing.

Enjoy the following photos.... awesome!!

After 4 days at the marina, the weather finally calmed and we were able to leave. My brother Michael was in NSW for work and just happened to be coming to Port Stephens when we were there so I arranged a long overdue family reunion. We had hoped to meet up at the aforementioned Port Stephen public dock but there was absolutely no chance of getting in while it was filled with selfish idiots who overstayed their time so, pulling up a mooring instead, Dave lowered the 'family car' and collected Michael from the foreshore. It was a lovely afternoon filled with chat, cups of tea and lemon myrtle and macadamia muffins.
My big brother Michael, who I don't see anywhere near enough.
Unfortunately we couldn't hang around much longer in Port Stephens as Dave had a month's work coming up back in good old Adelaide and so at 4pm, after my brother had been dropped ashore, we headed out into the ocean for the non-stop trip back to Sydney. As with Newcastle, we'll be back for sure the second time up the coast.

Location: Port Stephens, New South Wales 2324, Australia
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Newcastle to Port Stephens. Another short hop to the north.

Not a lot to report about this leg.  It was calm when we left and still calm when we arrived in Port Stephens.  We motor sailed all the way under full main and yankee except for a couple of hours where we bobbed along hoping to catch sight of some whales.

We did see some but again they were a long way off and they decided to promptly disappear before we could get the cameras out.

We picked up a mooring in Shoal Bay, just inside Port Stephens at about 3:00 pm.  It's a lovely spot again.  We'll probably hang around here for a week or so as the weather is turning nasty.

Moored in Shoal Bay, Port Stephens

Location: North Coast, NSW, Australia
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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Part 2....into Newcastle proper. (FINALLY!)

Busy, busy in the harbour
Coming back down the Hunter River towards the business end of Newcastle, I still wasn't expecting much from the actual city itself. Being the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, and with its waterways filled with cargo ships, I was expecting dirt, grime, noise and a little unpleasantness, though my imagination did draw the line at coal-dust covered, cap wearing sepia hued Dickensian striplings coming at me and, in their finest British coal town tongue asking, "Spare us a copper, Lady?" However, sailing past the gorgeous foreshore, my notions had a sideways shift as I took in the coffee shops, restaurants, neat parks and renovated historical buildings. It was quite a revelation.
I still don't know the name but I love this.

Just some of the lovely shops and businesses along the harbour front
A little flappage and flair.
Cycling along the breakwater.

 The Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Marina was the first big surprise. Not overly expensive and with wonderful facilities including a laundry (we have found that so many marinas don't have a washing machine), restaurant, secure fingers and really friendly people. The club, far from being cloistered and exclusive, fronted a wide, paved, well lit, leafy and amply seated public esplanade where people jogged, cycled and walked their dogs and where everyone seemed to wear a smile and give a nod hello. It was also within walking distance of shops and the free bus service into the city. I was delighted.
Catching up on his reading whilst waiting for the bus. Free buses are great but some seats in a shelter  would have been nice.
Our sojourn on the aforementioned free bus (yay for free stuff!) into the city the following day brought more happy surprises as Newcastle City defied my ideas of what a coal town was like. With spacious walkways, lush and manicured parks and gardens and man made lakes having replaced an old, defunct power station, it's obvious that the city takes great pride in just how beautiful it is despite its reputation. All of this beauty was back-dropped by the harbour, which added an even more special kind of wonder to the place. Because I can't walk very fast and because it was just so lovely and relaxed, it was a pleasure to stroll through and just look around.

The beautiful parklands
Manicured, spotless, spacious, gorgeous.

The one place we really wanted to visit was Fort Scratchley, which we had seen high on the hill as we had entered the harbour days earlier. Rather than try and tell you about the Fort, I'll just add my photos and post this link as there was just too much information. We were lucky to have our own private guided tour by a very enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable man who showed us almost every inch of the fort tunnels and regaled us with dozens of tales and facts and even some spooky snippets. It was a most fascinating place and well worth a visit. We were there for hours and I'm fairly sure we still didn't get to see everything before the flag was lowered for the night.
Inside the bowels of Fort Scratchley.

On the outside of Fort Scratchley.

Lowering of the flag at the end of the day.

The top of the fort 1.

Top of the fort 2.
View 1 from Fort Scratchley with the sweeping Stockton Bridge in the background.

View 2 from the fort looking across Horseshoe towards The Basin

View 3 from the fort, looking over the city of Newcastle.

View 4 looking over Nobby's Beach towards lighthouse, with freighter leaving port.

Unfortunately we didn't get to see as much of Newcastle as I'd have liked as we had to go with the weather and it was getting close to time up. However, never fear Newcastle.... we'll be back soon.

Out of the bus window back to the marina. I don't know what they're called or who made them but I really liked them

Location: Newcastle NSW, Australia
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