I’ve been away from the blog for a while, so if you’re reading this, thank you for staying with Galley Girl Tales. A lot has happened in between time, with a generous amount of overseas trips – some long haul – and with the usual diet of work related short hauls. Skipper is currently in Doha, in the Gulf state of Qatar, and I am home in the UK, catching up on news, family and friends. The highlight of the past months, beyond all our expectations, has been the amazing country of Australia. Skipper and I left Turkey at the end of September 2014, happy to be going home to England for a few weeks of stability and staying put. But after a chance meeting with some Aussie friends on our last night in Istanbul, we were also intrigued by a conversation we had over dinner. We were inspired that evening; we talked it over, looked at finances and diaries – and that is how we came to be sailing on a beautiful day in late December in Sydney Harbour.
Our friends are the owners and guardians of a small classic wooden boat in Sydney. We’ll call her TT. We rowed out to her mooring while TT’s owner tenderly drew back and unfolded the custom-made tarpaulins. The glossy sheen of perfectly varnished wood said it all. This boat is a beauty. TT has the sleekest lines and sails like a dream. But it’s fair to say – she is not a comfortable sail for four people aboard…Did we mind? Not one bit. TT’s built for two, but we were grateful that our extra weight was graciously accommodated.
We were lucky and had light and favourable winds. TT’s skipper gave us a tour and short history of the harbour. It was fascinating. The anecdotes about the early settlers’ abattoir arrangements with the blood of slaughtered animals pouring straight into the harbour seized our imagination. Ah hah, we deduced – that would account for the shark stories. TT’s not a heavy boat: it would be possible to capsize. We thought about the sharks, moved around less, and held on a little tighter. Our skipper reassured us that the abattoirs were long gone, and the shark population with them. But you never know.
We took a good, long, cheeky look at the millionaire rocky outcrops of villas and apartment buildings. We watched a small plane laze across the sky. We cut through the waves, flirted in front of the bigger yachts who catcalled when they had to give way, but who followed us enviously with their binoculars.
The yachts were preparing for the Sydney to Hobart race, a fast passage of nearly 630 nautical miles which would start on Boxing Day a few days later. The race across the Bass Strait to Tasmania is considered to be one of the most difficult in the world with high winds and challenging seas. It is one of Skipper’s dreams to one day take part as a crew member. And I’d be very happy to be waiting in Hobart to cheer him across the finishing line. There happens to be an amazing food and wine event in Hobart – the Taste of Tasmania – which takes place along the Hobart waterfront during the week that the yachts reach the island. We managed to get there on the last day and spent a very pleasurable day with friends eating seafood and drinking Tasmanian wine in the sun.
The Manly ferry which plies between Sydney Circular Quay and the North Shore was not as accommodating as the racing yachts – a different kettle of fish altogether. The ferry skippers clearly take no prisoners – and TT tacking in front of the Sydney Opera House, with a few hundred tonne of ferry, beam on, was greeted with stony faced disregard.
We tacked hard, ducked, survived. Sailing Sydney Harbour so close to the water was an amazing experience and really something of a privilege, especially aboard a beautiful vintage wooden boat. A fantastic start to our five week Aussie trip.