Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rutea is a Dangerous Target

As I write this, we're sailing north from Port Stephens, New South Wales, towards the Gold Coast in Queensland. There's about 20 knots of wind blowing over our port quarter and despite a strong southerly current, Rutea is making a steady 7 knots. The seas are relatively flat and other than fairly heavy freighter traffic, we have the ocean to ourselves. After all, how many people do you know that begin a 300-mile passage on Easter Sunday?

After finally breaking Sydney's grip on our itinerary, we sailed north to Broken Bay and then worked our way up to Port Stephens. Two nights there and an expensive provisioning trip to the grocery store (plus a memorable meal at an Indian restaurant), we left there this morning while it was still dark. The forecast for southerly winds was too strong of a temptation to linger on Easter Sunday.

We have a fat ham in the oven and a massive dish of scalloped potatoes ready to be heated. My guess is that Easter has some originations in pagan cultures, long before Christianity was a religion, as a celebration of spring. The newness of the first buds and the return of green must have offered so much hope to those who had no knowledge of science. It must have seemed like such a miracle! It is a miracle! Of course, here in the southern hemisphere, its the onset of fall. In fact, we have the full cockpit enclosure all zipped up and we're wearing fleece and warm slippers.

All is great on board and all of Rutea's systems are working well. We are having a minor malfunction with our chartplotter, though. Periodically, the collision alarm goes off and all of us spring to attention. On the screen of the chartplotter a warning dialog box appears and reads: Dangerous Target Approaching. The name of the dangerous target? Rutea! Of course, we already knew that and its not really necessary to remind us every twenty minutes or so. Besides, its other boats that should be warned!

We wish all our family and friends in the northern hemisphere a very happy spring. To our friends in the southern hemisphere, watch out! A Dangerous Target is Approaching!
At 3/29/2013 9:01 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 32°42.90'S 152°10.28'E

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Manly to The Spit

I had been exchanging emails with our friend, Behan, on the Stevens 47 Totem (if you want to read about real cruisers or read a real blog, visit - the rest of us are just imposters) and she was asking if we had hiked the Manly Scenic Walkway.  I replied that we had walked that way many times but it was a dodgy answer to her question as we hadn't walked the entire way, just parts of it.  Not wanting to lie to a good friend, Ruthie and I set out this morning to complete the 20-kilometer round trip walk.

The walk starts in the charming town of Manly, a bedroom community of Sydney, which lies in the northeastern corner of Sydney Harbour and the trail winds around the edge of the Middle Harbour before heading inland and then back towards the bay.  The track is well marked and well groomed - there's no chance of getting lost but it does gain and lose a fair amount of elevation.  I didn't count how many steps we went up and down but it was probably in the hundreds if not thousands.  Being a Tuesday, we met a few other trekkers but I bet it's quite crowded on weekends.

The Spit Bridge

It took us about two-and-a-half hours to make it to The Spit Bridge, where we picnicked and rested for a few minutes.  The Spit Bridge opens several times a day to allow tall boat traffic passage but, alas, our timing didn't allow us to see that action.

Even though the hike back to Manly was just as long as the walk to The Spit, it seemed quicker.  The entire Manly Scenic Walkway is within the city limits of Sydney but much of it felt as though we were a long way from civilization.

What Kookaburras Sound Like

I hope we do the same walk again as it was beautiful.  Next time, though, I'm wearing real shoes instead of flip-flops!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Leaving Sydney

Its a slow day aboard Rutea - we celebrated Corie's 25th birthday well into this morning's early hours so no one is moving too fast around here.  However, we did leave the dock and we're now at anchor in Manly Bay.  On our way here, Corie and Emma positioned themselves on Sydney's North Shore and took pictures as we sailed under the Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House.  You can see more of our photos of Australia by clicking here.

We're hoping to start the long passage north but there are cyclones in the Coral Sea that we'd like to avoid.  Perhaps by the middle of next week we'll find a weather window.  We've got lots of time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What's Going on in Sydney?

My friend, DB, recently wrote me to complain that my blog posts were too far and too few between.  If I had a good excuse, I'd write it here.

Chinese New Year's Parade

From my casual observation, it appears that Sydneysiders will do almost anything for a party.  A good example was the Chinese New Year's Parade where over 100,000 people packed the parade route to celebrate the Year of the Snake (last year was the Year of the Dragon and next year is the Year of the Horse - Ruthie and I were born in the Year of the Horse).  There was a lot of partying going on but people seemed well-behaved.  It was a family-oriented event.

Mardi Gras Parade
What was definitely not a family-oriented event was Sydney's Mardi Gras Parade which is in it's 35th year and is Sydney's Gay Pride parade.  Over 700,000 people jammed the parade route for this event and I think that Ruthie and I were the oldest ones there.  Even though there was a huge police presence, they seemed to keep a low profile.  For example, I saw a police officer approach two women who were drinking beer on the street which is against the law.  The officer suggested that they keep their beers in a less conspicuous manner.  Since it was so hard to see the parade through the throngs of people, Ruthie and I left after less than an hour but it was great to see how well the GLBT community was supported.

We have done our share of partying but we've also enjoyed a lot of the sights around Sydney.  Yesterday, we went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which is almost in the center of Sydney's Central Business District.  Our primary interest was to see some of the Aboriginal art but they also had a fairly decent collection of European artists as well including Picasso, Monet, van Gogh and Rubens.

Rubens' Self Portrait
van Gogh's Portrait of a Peasant
We were prohibited from photographing the Aboriginal art but it was easy to fall in love with.  Very small dots of bright colors formed patterns on large canvases that could have been someone's vision of what the earth may have looked like from an aerial view.

From the Art Gallery we strolled out to Mrs. MacQuarie's Point, a prominent point of land in Sydney Harbour that offers spectacular views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

The park at the end of Mrs. MacQuarie's Point joins Sydney's enormous Botanical Gardens.  Its immaculately groomed and thick with exotic plants and flowers.  They even have a Garden Shop and it took a great amount of effort on my part to keep Ruthie from going inside.  Several weddings were taking place simultaneously but the space is so huge, I'm sure that the weddings didn't know that each other existed.

It had rained hard the previous week and we were eager to get off the boat for a walk.  Our guide book talked of a 5.5 kilometer walk from Cooggee to Bondi and the bright, late summer sun made the stroll glorious.

Alas, our days in Sydney are drawing to an end.  Cyclone season is just about over (although there are two rather nasty ones in the Coral Sea as of this writing) and we'll turn Rutea around for our trip back north.