Through Sydney Heads!

Thu 22 Oct 2009 22:21
20 October, 2009
Position 33:52.37S 151:13.97E The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Rushcutters Bay, Port Jackson (or in ordinary speak, right next to the Syndey Opera House).
Because of the constant southeast swell, leaving all the east coast harbours has proved daunting. Port Stevens was no exception, particularly as we were leaving on a falling tide, and we were soon crashing into steep seas as we motored out. Time to hoist the sails and slide off to the South I thought, but the main halyard had other plans, and had detatched itself from its cleat at the foot of the mast, and was now swinging drunkenly from the masthead with a heavy shackle on its end, just like a demolition ball on a crane. Finally it came to a sort of rest, winding itself round and round the backstays, with its end about 10 feet above the cockpit. Stupidly I didn't retreat to the calm of the harbour, but rescued the halyard by standing on Fleck's transom, and hooking the shackle, at arms length, with my fishing gaff (thing big meat hook on a telescopic pole). It took a long time to unwind the mess, because I needed two hands to hold myself onto the backstays, and another two hands to unwrap the rope turns. But we managed, and no one got gaffed in the process.
Soon all this was literally behind us as we ran off downwind towards Sydney. We were making excellent progress under reefed main alone, hitting eight knots at times. I became concerned that we would arrive in the middle of the night, but as usual it became quieter after dark, and we struggled to keep way on. Our speed hardly registered on the log (the speedometer), but over the ground the GPS showed that we were maintaining about three knots with the help of the current, and we ended up by sailing for ten of the twelve hours of darkness. Fabulous dawn once again with the Sydney Skyscrapers on the horizon, and flat seas from the overnight calm. Unfortunately out hopes of a dramatic arrival under full sail and spinnaker were dashed by the wind which chose this moment to die completely. So we motored in instead, cameras flashing, and legs and faces burning in the sun as we abandoned the shelter of the Bimini to enjoy the views. We did a lap of the Harbour sights before tying up at the Cruising Yacht Clubs Marina in Rushcutters Bay. Thanks to Chris Gregory for this suggestion, which puts us within walking distance of everything. We got in just before the expected Southerly change, and the CYCA ' Wednesday Twilight Race' was a boisterous affair, lots of stubbies, and lots of wind, and lots of noise in the bar afterwards. I fell asleep during supper on board, having been up all the previous night, and Charlie was unable to wake me: so I was left sitting in my bunk, snoring heavily, until I woke at 1am, to find everything tidied up around me, and the crew safely ensconsed in the forcabin.
Sydney Harbour is a bit of a turning point. Although more than halfway round the globe, it marks the start of our plan to return eventually to the UK, and it is also our most Southerly Destination: We are now more than one third of the way from the Equator to the South Pole, and the seawater temperature is down to 23 degrees, that would make for a bracing enough swim even without the warning notices that sharks have been seen in the Marina very recently. I haven't been to Sydney for twenty years. It will be an excellent place to enjoy for a few days, untill anxieties about returning up the coast against the current overwhelm my hedonistic streak, and force me back onto the high seas.