Australia Day!

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 28 Jan 2013 12:45
It's Bank Holiday Monday today and it's just like home - wet! It's rained non-stop for 2 days. We're waiting for what was cyclone Oswald to arrive. It was forecast to arrive yesterday evening, but stalled along the way and has been moving slower than they expected. It's been making it's way down the east coast and causing havoc all the way with high winds and a deluge of rain causing destruction and flooding, particularly up in the Bundaberg area, where we came into Australia. The flooding there is the highest on record and people are being rescued from roof tops by helicopter. We heard that the small town marina there has been swept away. The rivers in that part of Queensland are not the place to be when floods are likely. Many towns along the east coast are recording record rainfall and Brisbane further down the coast has started to experience flooding with the worst expected tomorrow. So with the wettest Christmas Day in Sydney for 70 years, the hottest day on record in Sydney, some of the worst bush fires in years and now the greatest rainfall on record in many places, you begin to wonder who Australia has upset and what will come next! In preparation for Oswald we've taken the Bimini down on the boat, cleared the decks and tightly lashed everything that can't be stowed below. So now we wait!
It's a Bank Holiday as Australia Day, which is always a Bank Holiday, fell on Saturday this year. The day itself was full of celebrations and there were lots of things going on in Sydney, both on land and in the harbour. So as it was dry it was another day in Sydney for us, catching the early bus to Manly and the Manly ferry into Sydney. (Having done it several times now, it's still a great way to arrive in the city.) It's impossible to see everything, but we didn't do too bad with the Ferry race and Tall Ships race (both finishing under Sydney Harbour Bridge), and an afternoon in Darling Harbour listening to music, followed by a spectacular finale - a parade of beautifully restored boats, work boats (e.g. Coastguards/Pilots) and Tall Ships in Darling Harbour, with the climax of one of the very best firework displays/light shows we have ever seen, all set to specially composed music. Then it was a dash back to catch the Manly ferry and the last bus back to Pittwater. The weather was a bit dodgy to start with, but the rain kept away, the sun came out, and it was a lovely day.
Going back to what do we do all day, a good example is our saga with the scuba tanks. Not only do they have to be hydrostatically tested every year here (it's 5 years in the UK), they also have to have burst disc valves. They're not used in the UK, so it means new valves in the top of the tanks at $110 per tank, in addition to the $50 per tank for hydrostatic testing, which apparently is not a formality. It seems there's a lot of red tape to get tanks registered in the first place and then they can be tested. A lot of research has since taken place to find out all about the rules and regulations. So we know what's required and discussed all the options with the Dive shop. They're going to see what they can do and we'll find out next week. If we can't get passed the red tape hurdle, it looks like it will have to be a new tank for use in Australia.
Another not so good event last week - we've finally found a marina that's knocked MDL off the top spot for the most expensive marina we've encountered in 4 1/2 years of cruising halfway around the world. The Holmeport Marina in Pittwater charged $46 (£31) for 4 hours! We only went into have a new cooker connected up by an official gas fitter (a requirement here) and as we had done all the installation, replacing an armoured hose and connecting up the supply only took an hour! The marina's daily rate is $92 (£62) a night. Needless to say we won't be going back there in a hurry!
On the Manly ferry we passed the replica of Cook's Endeavour preparing for the Tall Ships Race. The
original Endeavour was a converted colliery ship. Cook started his sea career sailing one down the
east coast of the UK and when appointed to sail to Tahiti, decided that he needed a converted
collier as it would be able to carry all the provisions he would need.
The Sydney Ferry race approaching the finishing line with a flotilla of local boats following.
Each of the ferry boats is taken over by a sponsor for the day.
The victor!
Sydney Harbour from the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - went up there to wait for the
Tall Ships.
The Soren Larson - the winner of the race. Incidentally we followed the Soren Larson under full sail 
through the Havannah Pass into New Caledonia. We were under full sail too, caught her up and called
them on the VHF to request permission to pass, which we did. 
The other ships approaching the finish line. From left to right - the James Craig, Southern Swan and
the Endeavour.
The Endeavour has a very square bow compared with the other Tall Ships, and ships of today.
Street entertainers around Darling Harbour.
One of the stages around Darling Harbour had World music, including a band
from Ireland and this one from the Caribbean.
The crowds await around Darling Harbour for the parade of ships.
One of the restored steam ships, and .......
.......  one of the many work boats.
Soren Larson entering a floodlit Darling Harbour.
The 15 minute fireworks and light display accompanied by great music.