Monday, 22 September 2014

Sailing .. Relationship challenges, good times and home waters again

Me, happy.  On the way back to our home waters!
We've just arrived back in our home port of Pittwater near Sydney after a great cruise to Jervis Bay.  The last few days have been a mix of river anchorages, frustrating ocean passages, large swell, uncomfortable night moorings and sunny windless passages. 

Sailing can be boring ...  it's slow and often tedious & monotonous.  On the other hand, when done with loved ones and friends, it is a welcome blend of socializing, scene changes and new places.  We've done all that and more since my birthday last Thursday.

Friday morning we woke up again at Collingwood Beach/Jervis Bay.  The day was splendidly calm and sunny. 

The first thing I reach for in the morning on the boat is my android tablet to check the weather forecast.  Boating comfort and safety go hand in hand with the weather and it's a habit to look at the forecasts at least 2 times a day.  Friday's forecast told us the wind was due to die down considerably in the next day or two and then change direction and blow quite hard by the end of next week.  We had heard good reports about the little township of Greenwell Point about 20 or so nautical miles north from Jervis Bay up the navigable Crookhaven River and with the changeable winds forecast George and I decided today was as good a day as any to have a look.  We contacted the others and after much discussion among the 4 skippers three boats decided to head out.  Unfortunately John and Ruth on 'Barrenjoey Light' had to stay around to collect their daughter who was joining them in the next couple of days. 

Leaving Jervis Bay on a stunner of a day!  That's Peter and Sue's boat like ours - 'Celay' - leading the way out.
Now, regrettably, not many sea journeys George and I start is without a disagreement or argument.  It just seem to have to happen for some reason.  George sets his mind on what HE wants and I set my mind on what I would like to have happen.  Mostly its pretty much the same thing but my Georgio doesn't see the need to discuss any of his decisions.  Me, I like discussion and joint decisions .. I am strictly egalitarian.  George, not so much.  This departure, like all the rest, had to feature a rather stern exchange of words (not so much an argument but not really a discussion either). 

Outside, in the ocean, there were warnings of a large swell against an uncertain light wind ... or to say it another way - sure fire seasick stuff!  George wanted to put up the MPS sail which is perfect for light winds.  However, if the wind is too light the boat rolls and pitches and stalls.  I wanted assurance that we weren't going to make the 3 hour journey one where I spend most of it sick as a dog .. he didn't care.  The MPS - a beautiful BIG red sail - was going up.  George doesn't subscribe to my egalitarian beliefs .. particularly in sailing.  Just another challenge in a LONG relationship. They never really mean anything, George always wins (usually) and they're gone as quickly as they start with no (mostly) resentment.

The MPS flying in all it's glory.  The day sail under the BIG red sail was great .. just enough wind to move us along and keep us from flopping around in the waves.  Apparently, I was proven wrong again.

After a pleasant sail, we arrived at the Crookhaven River entrance which was easy to sail into with just enough of a breakwater to keep the rolling swell away.  The trip down the river was short and our 3 boats arrived at the Greenwell Point township and dropped anchor in the fast flowing river near the fishing boat jetty. 

That night we had drinks on 'Celay'.  "Drinks" is my favourite sailing activity!!  I must say if it wasn't for the camaraderie and socializing around sailing I don't think I would do it.  The exchange of stories, fun and company is what makes it all worth while.  I like the drinking bit a lot too!
Peter and George enjoying the social scene aboard 'Celay'.

The next day we walked around the riverfront and had a BBQ together on shore ...

One of the local pelicans ... they are HUGE here and fearless.  They'll come right up to you wanting food.
You can just see our 3 masts in the background.  This was a lovely little township.

The gang at our picnic table.  Like true Australians there we were having a BBQ outside ... it was quite cold with a hearty breeze blowing!  That's why that tarp is hanging on the side of the awning .. we put it up to break the wind. 

After 2 nights at Greenwell Point and with the wind promising to be good - 15-20 knots south/southeast - for our sail back up north to Sydney we got up at 5am Sunday morning to make our way out of the river with the tide.  The day was sunny and the wind, to begin with, was light but OK.  Sadly it didn't stay that way.  George and I didn't argue about anything but we changed sails a lot trying to get the boat moving.  The 9-10 hour sail to Sydney turned out to be just plain frustrating.   There was a big swell with a wind chop on top of it - nauseating - and the wind moved around a lot from directly behind us to 20 degrees on either side which made propelling the boat a nightmare.  We finally (after 8 hours and my increasing complaints) pulled the sails down and motored to Port Hacking and Jibbon Beach.

Now, if you remember, on the way down we thought the world of Jibbon Beach - calm, lovely, nice place to spend the night.  Things change with a large swell.  Even though it was reasonably protected from the surging surf we still had a lot of rolling  .. and a mooring buoy that sounded at times like it was coming through the side of the boat.   Not a good night's sleep.

This morning daylight brought a chance to drop the pesky mooring and set out again into the ocean swell.  I decided not to take a seasick pill - mainly I just didn't want to keep taking them since I had taken quite a few the day before.  Usually it takes two days for me to get my sea legs and stop feeling like I was going to puke and today my body didn't fail me .. I was OK.  We set out for our home waters of Pittwater - another 6 hours journey from Jibbon Beach.  There was little to no wind forecast so we motored.

Along the way we saw 2 humpback whales escorting a little one down the coast.
I tried to take a photo of the 3 of them breaking the water but only got this with their "blow".
Excellent sight!!

Home.  The cruising grounds of Pittwater, my favourite place for boating!!!!

I'm so glad to be back - no more ocean voyages for awhile.  Please.  We're staying in Towlers Bay near the RPAYC club tonight and tomorrow we'll moor up at the club to wash the boat and unload.  Then it's home and I get to see my dog.  I've really really missed my Molly.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

I'm 64 ... today

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty four?"
When that song came out in 1967 as part of the mammoth Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album I don't think I ever thought it would apply to me or my friends.  The song describes being 64 as just passing the time .. a banal existence of "digging the garden, pulling the weeds" along with hoping/wishing someone would care enough to feed and take care of us when we reached such a ripe old age.  I was 17 at the time and certainly never imagined I would reach 64.
Now, here I am.  Today.  64 years young.  And it doesn't feel much different to be honest.  Sure my joints aren't as supple and there are a multitude of wrinkles on my face and hands but in my mind I'm still the girl I've always been.
I have a deep gratitude for the life I've been able to lead and the people I've had the opportunity to meet and share my time, love and friendship.  
Today we woke in a peaceful bay on the west side of Jervis Bay.  Friends here on the cruise with us came over for morning tea and brought a bottle of champagne.  Later we went over to the Husky Pub in Huskisson by dingy - which was quite a ride over choppy water - for lunch with other friends from this cruise.  My life is certainly not banal and - so far - I don't have to plead with George to take care of me. 
So far so good. 
I'm happy and grateful and pleased for the life I've had so far.  Thank you everyone and the universe ... and here's looking forward to 94!
Birthday lunch with George, John and Ruth.

3rd Time Lucky! Jervis Bay at Last.

Me, sitting on the back of the boat on our arrival at our mooring in Hole in the Wall, Jervis Bay. 
Tired after a 12 hour sail and so very happy to have a glass of wine in my hand!
Over the past 20 years or so - since we've owned a sailing boat - we've tried to sail down to Jervis Bay. 

To explain - Jervis Bay is 100 nautical miles south from Pittwater (where our boat is moored) so going there means having good weather to make the overnight trip of about 16 or more hours.  Because it's in a more southern part of the New South Wales coast Jervis Bay is open to bad weather with little shelter so if the forecast isn't good it doesn't seem like a good place to try to get to.

And today we made it.  My last blog said we were on our way ... but after I posted that the decision changed a few times - back and forth.  The weather was forecast to be wild and the group in a late phone call decided to not make the journey.  George was very disappointed.  Me, not so much.  The forecast told of gale force winds on the south coast which may or may not have developed into a howling east coast low.  Not my idea of a good couple of weeks on the boat.

But, after a night of discussion (read talking migrating into some shouting and the usual recriminations - "why do we have a boat!", "you never want to go anywhere" - blah, blah, blah) we woke on Sunday morning with Captain George saying, "We are Going!"  So with a huge degree of trepidation I went along for the ride.   And here we are!  I'm glad.  The weather wasn't bad at all.  The seas did become very unpleasant towards the end of the journey... but we're here and moored and enjoying the accomplishment.

The first night and day was spent in the little bay of 'Hole in the Wall' with winds on the nose blowing medium to strong gusts.  Our little group of 4 boats and 7 people went ashore for a long walk to the spectacular campsite of Greenpatch. 

By the time we returned to the boats just getting the dingys launched from the shore with the growing wind strength was challenging and wet.  Determined to find a better spot Peter and Sue on "Celay" took off across the bay.  George and I had lunch and a bit of a nap but it was clear the 'Hole in the Wall' mooring wasn't going to be a pleasant spot to spend the night.  Thankfully they did find a much more sheltered spot and one by one we set out to cross in wild winds blowing up to 35 knots to a great spot at Collingwood Beach.  We celebrated - and toasted Peter and Sue - with drinks on the boat 'Hypnotic'.  Good evening and he even had a birthday cake for me!

So much to talk about so I think I'll just give you a photo journey of the trip....  Monday we sailed to a place called Jibbon Beach in Port Hacking.  Lovely.  We had never managed to go south of the Harbour and this beach was a real find.  Deserted - although I'm sure it is chock a block over summer - with crystal clear water and a big semi-circle of beach to have a walk around.

Rounding South Head of Sydney Harbour with the city skyline in the distance.
I'm not sure if there is a view anywhere else on this beautiful earth that compares with the vistas of Sydney Harbour.  ( I'm sure there are in many places but Sydney is mighty spectacular!)

A view from the ocean of the "world famous" Bondi Beach.

This is the entrance to Botany Bay from the ocean.  Just think what James Cook and his crew
must have thought when exploring Australia for the first time and sailing into this inviting
harbour.  Now it's a working container port with massive ships, the airport and communities dotted around the foreshore...
But then, just imagine how brave those men must have been to journey to the end of the earth
and see something this beautiful.

Jibbon Beach at the southern end of Port Hacking.  This is Southern Belle at a "courtesy mooring"
with her yachting club mate 'Barenjoey Light' owned by the lovely couple John and Ruth.
We spent an afternoon walking on the beach and then up to the little township of Bundeena.

The two yachts from the end of the beach .. walking to the village.

Beach combing along the white sands of Jervis Bay.  This is fabulously white sand stretch at Greenpatch.

There are masses of parrots in Greenpatch and they are so tame they happily sit still for photos. 
They also like to land on you begging for food!

The Jervis Bay cruising crew - with Patrick missing (someone had to take the photo!).

Sunday, 14 September 2014

On the water again

The captain - in his favourite place ... lounging in the bunk with a magazine just before passing out for an
afternoon nap!
Before I begin this blog I just want to take a quick second to acknowledge that today marks the 1 year anniversary of our departure from Yorkey's Knob on the way to the Louisiades Rally.  What a magic trip and time and group of people that was!!!  In some ways it seems like it happened long ago and in other ways it seems like it was just last month.  To our lovely friend and crew Catherine and to all the friends we made along the way - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!  I know I'll remember September 14, 2013 for the rest of my life.  It was a life changing and beautiful month.  Thank you to Guy Chester for being the ultimate organiser and for introducing us to what must be some of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific as well as beautiful people.

Right now - as of yesterday at 10:30am we're finally on the water again.  It seems like it's been forever since we committed to sail down to Jervis Bay. 

The last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of "things" ... work, social events, work again, cleaning the boat and yard work.  Life takes over when you least expect it ... knowing our departure for the 2 week cruise to JB was getting closer and closer there were so many things both of us wanted to do or finish before leaving.   We just went into busy mode.  Unfortunately the hard thing is knowing how and when to the limit the 'to-do' list.   So as we approached the departure date it seemed like we were running around like headless chooks.

The yard at home was the worst I think it's ever been.  In fact when Stephanie (she and Bladen stayed in the house and took care of Molly when we went away last year) came over last week and saw the yard and her first words were, "Wow, this is worse than when we lived here!"  Yes, it was.  So George promptly mowed the grass and we manically trimmed and fed everything.  There is now (probably) more dynamic lifter (chicken poo) on our yard than in most commercial chicken yards!  Hopefully on our return things will have picked up.

I went into provision mode.  The boat freezer is now stocked with cryovac  chicken breasts, salmon pieces, casseroles and frozen prawns.  At least I know we won't starve on the trip.

Trusty cryovac machine.  It really keeps frozen things tasting fresh and close to normal.
Apologies to my vegan friends .. I've not eaten any mammals for a long long time but being a Southerner I find it hard to give up chicken. 
At least I only buy certified free range organic and that way the poor animals have a good life first .. I hope.

We took the life raft in for its two year service ... that's mandatory, every two years the raft must be serviced.  We were expecting it to cost around $600-$700 ... but George and I both got a shock when the bill was over $1,400!  Shit!  I guess you absolutely want it to be perfect if, God forbid, you have to use it but that was a shock!

George picking up the raft after bill shock.

We're now, finally, on our way to Jervis bay, on the boat, and back into cruising mode.  The weather has been a bit flukey ... from the south, then north, then east .. and all at 10 to 15 knots.  The trip from Broken Bay to Jervis Bay is 100 nautical miles so its best to get a weather window that allows for sailing most of the way. 

Yesterday we moved from the RPAYC club down to Sydney Harbour.  A distance of 34 nautical miles.  The trip down to the Harbour was great.  We motored at first because the wind was right smack bang on the nose.  About a third of the way there the wind moved around to about 60 degrees and we sailed the rest of the way down doing about 5-6 knots speed.  Magic.  We rounded North Head at Sydney about 3:00 and moved around to Quarantine Bay where we pulled up a mooring.  There was a wedding on the beach so we had our lunch and a beer and watched the ceremony and then went below for a beautiful nap.  We woke to an annoying rolling at that mooring so, at 6:10 with the sky darkening George decided to move way down the harbour, past the bridge and into Balls Head Bay.

Not a great shot ... but you can just get the idea how wonderful the sight is when you turn to run toward the harbour bridge in the night.  The city skyline and Opera house are more than fabulous!  Always magic being on the harbour.

Ships in the night.  Being overtaken by the Manly ferry coming up to Circular Quay next to the Opera House.
Dodging ferries is one thing I don't miss about being on the Harbour!

We had a peaceful night last night.  This morning we upped anchor and moved to Blackwattle Bay where the fish market is and where the other boats from the yacht club were meeting for lunch.  We had a good time catching up at Doyles Restaurant - the food isn't exactly top or even medium notch but the company more than made up for the food.

The Jervis Bay cruise crew at lunch - two boat's crew are missing, Hypnotic and Celay.  We'll be catching up with them today or later in the cruise.  A good time on our first day out ... many more to come I'm sure!!!

The plan is to stay here tonight at the Rozelle/Blackwattle Bay anchorage and leave early in the morning for Jibbon Beach in Port Hacking ... about 20 nautical miles from here.  There we'll wait for the big North-easterly blow that's supposed to happen on Tuesday which should get us down to Jervis Bay by 4pm that day.  The wind on Tuesday is forecast to blow pretty hard so I'm not particularly looking forward to that trip but George is and the boat is more than ready and capable so I'll just hang on for the ride.

We're anchored near the spectacular Anzac Bridge.
The harbour foreshore around here used to have classic home after home along the there's apartment block after apartment block ... everyone after that magic harbour view.  I guess I don't blame them one bit but it is hard to see so much history torn down to make way for the masses.  I guess that's life in the 21st century.

It is good to be out on the water again!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Bluewater Dinner - A Unique Group of Boaties

The view from our little room - looking out over Lake Macquarie.
The almost indistinguishable black dots in the water - to the left and right of centre -
are very large black swans. 
Our 'dream come true' sailing boat, Southern Belle, is unique with only a handful (less than 20) ever made.  She was built right here in New South Wales, only 2 hours from Sydney, by a small boat builder who's business I would describe as more artisan than manufacturer. 

Each yacht like ours is exclusive, a one of a kind commissioned by couples like us who dreamed and saved and scraped and generally stretched themselves financially - and every which way - to build and own one of these special boats.   And because this boat is so rare we've been able to meet and, in some cases, become good friends with other owners.  We only get to see many of them once in a while and generally it's only one or two boats & owners at a time.  Invariably each time there's a get together someone suggests we have a Bluewater dinner or raft up or something to bring more owners together.  Finally last night the builder David and his family did just that.  They invited the Bluewater crew up to a dinner at the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club.

Now all this sounds very high-flutin' (great word, must be said with a regional twang!).  But the reality is nothing like that.

Certainly with our (mine and George's) background and upbringing there was never an expectation, or to be honest, a drive to be a custom made yacht owner.  I mean, George is a carpenter and I was a little hippy secretary when I started out.  In fact my parents and most of my uncles and aunts expected me to end up barefoot and pregnant by the time I was 20 .. in my early life I was hell bent on having a good time and "doing it all".  But George and I have been well blessed.  We found each other along with jobs and careers that gave us a good living and we found a way to join this Bluewater bunch.  All of the other owners are like us as well ... hard working people who dreamed of something special and were able to see it through. 

So yesterday we drove the 2 hours up to the Lake for the first Bluewater dinner. 

We stayed at a little motel right on the Lake not far from the little LM Yacht Club.  Our room was tiny and a bit old fashion but it had a terrific view of the lake.  George had worked on a big job Friday and was still tired so he crashed out as soon as we checked in and got settled.

As we moved into our room some people in the rooms just down from us were already well into celebrating their Saturday night with loudish talking.  I guess we should have been a bit concerned when the owner asked us if we would be "alright" as she showed us to our room but the view was nice and we just wanted to relax a bit before going to the dinner.   So, unconcerned, we said, "we're fine!".

The dinner was fun.  We know three of the owner couples well and, as usual, it was great to be in their company.  There were couples there that we had met maybe once or twice before and it was great to share some good times with them over a glass or two of wine and hear their stories. One couple spent 6 years sailing around the world in their boat just like ours! 

Me with our good friends Peter and Sue and Kevin and Francis. 
Kevin and Frances had sailed to the Louisiades years ago and shared so much of their
knowledge with us before we made the trip last year.

David Bradburn, the owner of Bluewater Yachts, presented each boat owning couple with a certificate and little trophy in recognition of, in most cases, their less than noble adventures.  In our case it was for George's unplanned dive/fall off the side of the boat while coming alongside at our club.  I wrote about that in this blog awhile back (click here to read the SPLASH story).  Each award meant hearing all the adventures, or misadventures, all over again.  It was a good night.

Certificates and our little trophies.

My troublesome foot was a pain though.  While standing around talking, drinking and sitting it swelled right out of the "good" shoes I took and I almost couldn't get my crappy old sneakers on either at the end of the night it had grown so big.  To deal with the hassle of my hurting foot I'm drinking more these days when out along with taking a few pain relievers.  By the end of the night I felt a good ole buzz.  I remember talking quite a bit (which I never have trouble with anyway) and loudly and hugging a good deal.  God I hope I'm not becoming a bore at parties and a pain in the ass for others!  George hasn't given me the morning frown and cold shoulder yet so I must not be too bad. 

When we got back to our little room all was quiet.  Peter and Sue gave us a ride back, bless their hearts.  I was in pain so took a sleeping pill along with 2 more pain tablets and promptly passed out into snoring oblivion.  Unfortunately the people down the way from us returned to continue their Saturday night celebrations with growing intensity.  George was left to try to sleep through the racket.  They were certifiable pains in the ass according to him this morning.  The owner/manager of the motel had to move them in the early hours of the morning way down the block under threat of the police.  I never heard a thing.

I love our life right now in spite of the foot.  Thank you Universe.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Bootless & Walking (just), Anniversary and back on the Boat

Nothing like a snooze in the sun on a beautiful sunny day at the end of winter.
After 3 months of foot misery - operation, cast, walking boot - I finally became a "whole" woman again last Wednesday.  Hooray!!  I admit I went to the doctor appointment with a great deal of anticipation .. not sure if he was going to say I needed another boot - or more - or if I'd be finally set free.  But free it was.   The doctor had a look at the foot, ordered another round of x-rays and then told me it was fine.  "Just go back to doing what you normally do", he said.

"Shouldn't I go to a physio for awhile?",  I replied.   At this point I must say I was thrilled to be free of the boot but after not walking on my foot for 3 months I wasn't quite sure if I could trust it to work perfectly just yet.

"No, just get back to doing everything you normally do."

So I walked out of his office, drove the car home and started to walk again ... and it's been pretty trying.  My foot still hurts like hell and, frankly, it doesn't really feel like MY foot.  Where he straightened the bunion it feels like my big toe was cut off, thrown away and they stuck someone else's toe on in its place. 

It would be pointless to sit around and continue to do nothing (and I've gained 4 kilos in the 3 months I've been sitting on my ass) so this week I set myself the goal of walking 3 blocks and back.  I thought it would take most of the week to achieve but I did the 3 blocks on Monday.

The foot revealed.  See how straight my left foot is now ... you should have seen the bunion when it was there! 
It stuck out at a good right angle from the bottom of my big toe.
Amazing what doctors can do now. 
Sorry about the graphic nature of the pic (naked, bluish and scarred foot) but I had to show it some time!

Yesterday George wasn't working and he decided - for me - that I should walk the whole 3 & 1/2 kilometres to Lane Cove.  He does that.  He pushes me to do more than I think I could all the time.  I did it, walked the whole way and back with a coffee stop in LC for a break in the middle.  It didn't kill me, although I needed some pain killers afterward, so we did it again today.  I'm well and truly on the road back now.

And speaking of George, we had another wedding anniversary on Monday of this week.  35 Years together and married!!!!  Wow, talk about an achievement!  We've had such a great year, full of the usual ups and downs of any life or relationship but it's been on the whole sensationally happy.  Last year we were just about to depart on the Louisiades Rally and I wrote in the blog then about George's ability to push me out of my comfort zone again and again.  Have a look at last year's blog if you haven't read it (click here)

This year we celebrated with a long weekend with friends while the boat was tied up to the yacht club marina.  Friday night we attended a meeting with our good friends Ian & Sharon (who were there to see us off from Cairns last year)  and Peter and Sue.  The meeting was held to discuss plans for another club cruise down to Tasmania this time for the summer months. 

After the meeting we all went back to Southern Belle for drinks, talks and laughs.  Unfortunately the evening ended with Ian catching his hand on the boat's lifelines while falling down the last rung in the side ladder.  He badly dislocated his shoulder and spent 20 minutes lying on the cold dock while we waited for an ambulance.  And we weren't even drunk!  We phoned early the next morning to find they were back from the hospital and on their boat so we all had to do it again - drinking, talking and laughing - the next night on Ian & Sharon's boat. 

The weather here is trying to turn from winter into spring.  We've had a few sunny and warm days but then it forgets itself and goes back to winter again. 

In the few sunny days we had at the end of July George planted lettuce and we're
already harvesting tasty leaves for fresh salads!

Right now there's another 'east coast low' off the coast which is causing gale force winds and cold conditions again but hopefully things will settle down soon.  George's fireplace work has all but dried up now and he's aching to sail somewhere again.  Molly is happier with me being more mobile now and she's loving our walks again - all three of them so far.

Wet & exhausted dog returning from a run on the beach a few weeks ago. 
I was still in "the boot" so George and Molly had to find their fun without me.