Newcastle and learning the lingo

Sat 19 Dec 2015 23:28
32:55.312S 151:45.682E

Surfin’ surfin’ surfin’ - the beach North of Newcastle goes on for miles.

A perfect day sail down the coast took us to Newcastle. It’s so strange having all these English place names in completely the wrong place! I have very fixed ideas of what ‘St Ives’ or ‘Gloucester’ or ‘Newcastle’, come to that, is like, ideas that need to get turned on their head. But that, on a larger scale, is what travelling is all about. Changing ideas of distances, of what good food is, of what one needs in life, of what’s ’normal’. A sail to Falmouth from Weymouth used to be along way. Now we make a passage of over 1000 nm at the drop of a hat and we’ve travelled over half way around the world. I’ve changed my mind. Falmouth isn’t far from Weymouth but this Newcastle is.

Once you round the headland below Port Stephens there’s an amazing beach all the way down to Newcastle, twenty miles or so, you can see the sun catching on the dunes as you go. Dolphins joined us again, Short Beaked Common dolphins this time, their yellow side patches gleaming. When we got close to the port approach the sky and water filled with birds - shearwaters by the hundreds. Now I knew where all those ones from Muttonbird Island had got to!

More Shearwaters than we could count.

We didn’t need to bring coal, there’s plenty here, just as there should be to my way of thinking. In fact, just as I wrote this we overheard an exchange between a ship arriving and the Newcastle Marine Rescue. The ship said they’d just arrived in the port “As you can probably see” and the Marine Rescue operator returned with “Actually, from this location, all I can see is coal!”. So, it’s a port, it’s up a river, it has coal - must be Newcastle. It’s an interesting port to sail into, with beaches either side of the breakwaters, ferries shooting across to Stockton and ships being tugged in and out all the time. We opted for a berth in the marina, you can anchor in the river but the bottom is quite fouled up with debris and it’s hard to find a place to get ashore in the dinghy. It was a good choice, someone came to take our lines making it easy to get into the berth and we found ourselves alongside a local cruising boat that we’d seen in Port Stephens, Alison Grace, but had not had a chance to get to know. We were also hailed by two other boats we’d come across before, Argonaut and Antares, it was good to get to know them better and catch up on news.

We were glad to meet Susie and Barry from Alison Grace, they’d looked to us like nice people and we were quite right, however I’ll remember them for another reason. We’d never met them before but they’d read our blog, well, not all of it, but lots, jumping in and out right from the start all those years ago. They had seen us in Port Stephens and Googled Lochmarin, as long distance cruising boats aren’t so common here. It was a strange thing to meet someone for the first time who knew so much about us, knew my thoughts and plans and frustrations even. I forget that, although I’m writing to you, other people read this too!

The Newcastle port entrance. It’s amazing how the red markers show up, there’s a green one, marking the starboard side of the channel, on the right of this picture, much harder to pick out.

Newcastle’s great to visit. There’s a walk and cycle way all along the river, right out to the harbour entrance one way, past the beaches, and deep into town the other. There’s street art all along, plenty to make you smile and look again, along with informative signs telling you of the history in each area. We've had some good walks and cycle rides and I've even got a couple of runs in. In Coffs, except right in the town centre, people still said hello when we were out and about, here we noticed most don’t, I guess there’s just too many people about, you’d be saying hello all the time, but we were used in Vanuatu to making eye contact and greeting every person we crossed paths with so we persevered and as a consequence we’re getting on better with the language. You know how you learn French ahead of time and arrive there off the ferry all keen and armed with your “Comment allez vous?” just to get totally floored by “Ca Va?” “Ca Va?” what’s this? They didn’t tell you that one on the “Ecoutez et repetez” tape! Well it’s like that here, I’m all set with my ‘G’day” and they don’t say it! Instead they say “How yer goin’?” but I don’t think they actually expect an answer. I’m not sure what the right response should be but our “Quite well, thank you, and how are you today?” seems to confuse them. We’ve been puzzled other times too. Perfectly sensible words are said but they don’t seem to hold any meaning, like “Where you away mate?”. Now, what does that mean? Did he mean “Were you away?”, in which case, were you away from where, when? He was actually asking where we come from, once you know it sort of makes sense, as in “Where have you come away from?”. We got there in the end.