Sailing Sydney Harbour

IMG_4648We love Australia.

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.

IMG_4645 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. IMG_4719

IMG_4667The 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.

IMG_4735We  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.


Viareggio Revisited

No wind, no tide. A chance to air damp sails in the marina.

The Indian Summer has come to an end in the UK so last week’s promise of a high pressure system over Italy bringing blue skies and warm days was too much to resist. The other enticement being that Skipper has been out in Viareggio, near Pisa, for a couple of weeks already, while I tie up loose ends at home before we head off for another adventure. After getting used to living in each other’s pockets for a long time, the days back in the UK on my own and under grey skies were beginning to drag a little. Continue reading “Viareggio Revisited”

Goodbye Turkey, Until Next Year

IMG_4163Our flights are confirmed, our bags packed. The boat will be hauled out for a while now for repairs, and Skipper and I will be ready to head to the airport tomorrow morning.

Istanbul is being kind and providing us with torrential rain and dark skies to get us used to our visit to the UK. (Although I’m told it’s hotter than Cyprus in London today.)

It’s been a long and busy season for us, and we are looking forward to a couple of weeks off before starting our new adventures.

There are new challenges back in the Mediterranean over the winter, and one or two intriguing offers further away to consider. Last night we got talking to an Australian couple who shared stories about their beautiful classic wooden boat, and persuaded us that we really need to put Australia on our list of top places to sail.

Now, we could really do with a holiday…

Big seas to the Istanbul Boat Show

IMG_4142We’ve just finished a high speed 390 nautical mile trip and have arrived in Istanbul for the boat show. The first day of the trip was a bit wild with Force 7 winds, gusting 8. That’s a big sea for a powerboat. All settled down on the second day and we arrived last night, a day early.

photo-23The sun is shining and all is bustle here on the pontoons with show stands still under construction, flower arrangements being delivered to yachts and showrooms, cleaners wiping and mopping and deckhands scrubbing and polishing.



The season is nearly over. Turkey has been amazing and being a galley girl on a powerboat has been a revelation.

Let me share with you again this video of an early evening trip home to our berth back in July. (I originally posted this in ‘The 5,000 HP Thrill Myth’, July Archives.) There have been ups and downs this summer, but despite my being a sailor at heart, there have been some special moments and I am almost won over to power boating.


A Day in the Life of Galley Girl: Part Three: Evening

IMG_4036It’s taken rather a long time to get round to the third part of this saga. We’ve been away cruising between Greece and Turkey. We’ve had a great time but the days have been long, with lots of playing on the jet ski and other garage toys.

I hope you can still remember the afternoon of Galley Girl’s day from my last post – thank you for waiting so patiently for the evening.

Anyway, finally, here is the third and final part of the saga of A Day in the Life of Galley Girl: Skipper has everything under control after a long day of fixing mechanical glitches. He’s been in the water a lot, mostly unexpectedly, fully clothed…

All is calm as the owners and guests relax on deck with fruit, sweetmeats and tea.

What could possibly go wrong….?

Continue reading “A Day in the Life of Galley Girl: Part Three: Evening”

A Day in the Life of Galley Girl. Part Two: Afternoon

The morning has been a busy one. In the second part of A Day in the Life of  Galley Girl, it’s already looking like it’s going to be a long day. And we have a problem with the anchor that we’re keeping quiet about.



The owner’s daughter wakes up. She is completely lovely and I happily make her breakfast and put it in the bin virtually untouched afterwards, just as I do every day for her brother. One of the guests asks for Turkish coffee and the daughter says she will make it. It’s a Turkish cultural thing, and like tea, it has its own mystique and ceremony. A prospective bride will make coffee for her future husband’s parents as a test of her suitability as a wife. Of course we have a machine to make coffee for us, but still there is something quite charming about this gorgeous girl meticulously arranging cups on a pretty tray and serving coffee to a very elderly and tubby old man. Once she’s finished the coffee and chosen the designer bikinis she will wear today I make her bed and clean her bathroom.

After an early start we have served three rounds of breakfasts, umpteen rounds of coffee, started on the housework, moved the boat to a new anchorage and got the toys out of the garage for the owners and guests to play with. We still have to fix the anchor winch which failed as we dropped anchor on arrival. Without it we can’t raise the anchor when we leave. Hauling 50 metres of chain up manually with a big anchor at the end is not an option…

Continue reading “A Day in the Life of Galley Girl. Part Two: Afternoon”

A Day in the Life of Galley Girl. Part One: Morning

There is never a typical day, ever, on board a boat. The weather, sea state, maintenance routines and repair issues all have a bearing on how the day will go. And if you are working aboard, then of course the demands and whims of your clients or owners and their guests will dictate where you end up and when. Some days are more memorable than others however…

0630 At anchor

photo-13The alarm goes off. I’ve been lightly awake since sunrise. The oblong square of the hatch, which is also our door, is open as always. We drape a mosquito net over the space and the sunlight streaming in is softened by the mesh. The air conditioning booms into action with the thud that always makes me jump. My bunk is not much longer than me but surprisingly comfortable, in a dark den kind of way. Skipper sleeps above in the longer bunk, which is set at right angles to mine, above the washing machine. The cabin is cosy, to say the least. And not in the least bit conducive to romance.

Continue reading “A Day in the Life of Galley Girl. Part One: Morning”

Bad Boat Names

IMG_0138Every time you call up a marina or another boat on the radio, the protocol is to announce your boat name at least twice, if not three times, for clarity. For example, a friend of mine, who named his boat ‘Blue’, would need to say: “Brixham Marina, Brixham Marina, this is Blue Blue Blue.”

He regularly caused consternation with his ‘Blue Blue Blue’ over the radio.  It sounded like he was sinking.

I’ve been looking around the marina and I’ve found some real beauties in bad boat names. Not with hidden consequences, like ‘Blue’, or incongruous, like ‘Flower’, but some truly dubious names for boats. Here are a few from my collection:



Ohhh. This is a fishing boat. I see what the owner’s done there. Yes, very clever.


This boat is an American flagged vessel, with English speaking owners one assumes, so there are no ‘lost in translation’ excuses. She is also shimmery brown and slightly sparkly.

Probably the Number One offender in my collection.


Continue reading “Bad Boat Names”

Shock Absorbers for a Quiet Night In

IMG_3927We had a particularly roly night in our berth a few weeks back with strong winds and a swell and Skipper had had enough of the creaks and groans of the warps. (A warp, or mooring line, is a rope that ties the boat to the quay or pontoon.) Every time the warp slackens and then tensions again it creaks. At 4 am, in the dark, in our cabin in the bottom of the stern of the boat, it sounds like we’re living on a big old wooden galleon rather than on a modern fibreglass powerboat.

So Skipper weIMG_3930nt out and bought rubberised shock absorbers that compress and minimise the snatch when there is a swell. They are attached to a cleat on the pontoon with chain and then the warp is attached to the other end of the shock absorber. They work a treat: lovely silent nights.

It is really noticeable when you walk along the pontoon on a swelly day how much creaking goes on. Several of our neighbours have come to see what the English Captain has done to achieve blissful silence. Now all we have to do is persuade them to do the same thing.

The Big (Turkish) Breakfast, Spilled Blood, and a Bit of Bother with the Tea

Breakfast is very big in Turkey. So important in fact, that it is the only meal we ever serve on a boat that is so lacking in culinary aspiration that we don’t even have an oven in the galley – just a small ceramic electric hob with three tiny hotplates.

IMG_3971I took this photograph this morning, not on the boat, but at the little hotel where we occasionally go when the owners don’t need us on board overnight. (One day I shall show you our cabin and you will see why the hotel is such a welcome treat.)

As in an English Breakfast, there are important cultural as well as culinary traditions that govern the serving of a perfect Turkish Breakfast.  As much as porridge, bacon and eggs, kedgeree, toast and marmalade and tea, are to an English Breakfast, so cheese, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, simit, (a circular ring of seeded bread) honey and jam are to a Turkish Breakfast.

Continue reading “The Big (Turkish) Breakfast, Spilled Blood, and a Bit of Bother with the Tea”

Taking the Heat

0929 and 31ºc. That's with the air conditioning on.
0929 and 31ºc. And that’s with the air conditioning on.

It’s set to be the hottest day of the year in Turkey today. Istanbul is reporting 90% humidity. As our owner’s wife pointed out, it’s a good thing it’s a Saturday as people won’t have to go to work in this terrible heat.

Hmm. Yes, but actually I am at work today…

However the owner and his wife have gone ashore for a long leisurely coffee, so while we swing lazily at anchor I have picked up my laptop.

You will know that Turkey is a hot country. But unless you’ve been here in July and August, you cannot imagine the kind of searing heat and humidity that make your throat swell with every breath you take. From 8 am it is hot, hot, hot and the wet air is heavy to digest, sapping your strength and definitely your motivation to do very much at all.

Continue reading “Taking the Heat”