For over thirty years I had a dream to sail the world and that dream also included the moment when the boat finally sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For a European sailor, this is the proof that you made it to the other side of the world. Here is the moment that Artemis sailed past the Opera House to pass under the Bridge. Magical!
We anchored in a hidden bay beyond the bridge and made new friends when Wendy and Dave invited us for dinner and we returned the favour on Christmas Eve.
Catherine (our host in the Blue Mountains) came on board on Boxing Day and as soon as she was onboard we lifted anchor and set off to witness the start of this years Sydney to Hobart race. There were thousands of boats spectating the chaos at the start of the race but we managed to work our way to the edge of the exclusion zone and enjoy watching crazy people doing crazy things.
The next day we anchored off Cockatoo Island – an ex prison and then shipyard – and took the dinghy to the interesting place. The visit confirmed what we already knew from other prisons – the convicts were sent to Australia as slaves. The new colonies needed free labour and the criminals supplied that manpower in awful conditions.
From Cockatoo Island we sailed through Sydney and out to the seaside town of Manly. The wind was against us so we needed to tack regularly, but with two farmers daughters as crew it was easy. The ferries very professionally avoid sailing vessels but the two cruise ships we met are just too big to avoid anything. We went round them.
In Manly we climbed to the top of a neighbouring hill to enjoy the view out to sea and back towards Sydney. On our way we passed a packed beach full of Australians enjoying summer and noticed a lot of people were regrettably transitioning from pure white to lobster red. Surely they can’t all have Scottish ancestry.
Back in Sydney we sailed in to the heart of the city and, after visiting the fish market, picked up Heidi – our second visitor. Having two Heidis onboard was a challenge. One was navigating and one was on the helm steering us among the ferries. My commands were on the lines of
“Nav-Heidi, where is the next turn point?”
“At the end of the Island.”
“Helm-Heidi, turn towards the water tower after the next ferry passes.”
We anchored in Farm Cove, right next to the Opera House, on the thirtieth to wait for the New Year fireworks. On the thirty-first the bay began to fill with boats and people started covering the surrounding coastline. I was wondering what could be so good that people were willing to sit for over eight hours to reserve a place. We had our home with us and could enjoy all the comforts but they were sat on a blanket just waiting with an ice box and Portaloos.
On the shore behind us there was a private party area where people had paid AUD 475 (€300) each to enjoy a three course meal and the best view of the fireworks. We ate a four course meal, drank champagne at midnight and sat on Artemis right in front of them so that our mast was in their way 🙂
The fireworks were phenomenal. They were breathtaking. They were loud. They were bright. They were indescribable. I now know why people sit on their blankets all that time. Wow!