New Year, Part 2.

Wed 6 Jan 2016 06:50
Next day, New Year’s Eve, was when the fun really started. The boats got closer and closer. Phil has never had to practice his “Fore Deck Stare” so much in one day. People were dropping anchors everywhere, often without any concern for which way the wind and tide would swing them.  I have never seen such bad anchoring in all the years we’ve been living on board. They’d simply drop the anchor and whatever chain or warp they had in a heap all at once and then look surprised when they had to grab fenders to keep off the boat they were banging into. The locals called them ‘tea baggers’. Some would have great anchoring technique: laying the anchor chain carefully out and motoring back to dig it in, but they did it at right angles to the wind, laying their chain right across everyone else’s. I take it all back: French boats in the Caribbean and charter boats in French Polynesia are experts in comparison. 

Phil didn’t dare take time off, if he had to pop to the heads I would have to come up on deck to stand guard in his place. Our particular worry was that a huge three story motor boat would come and drop right next to us, between us and the bridge, so Phil took to encouraging small craft to fill the empty space next to us “You’ll be good here!” he’d call out to them. A boat would come and anchor and we’d think “Phew, now that space is filled”, then, as soon as we looked the other way, another would anchor between us, where we didn’t think there was room to swing a cat in, let alone a sloop on anchor! 

No, No, No! Don’t drop it there….

The place was solid. And then the wind changed. All the boats swung around, not all at once but slowly, as wind overcame the tide in different parts of the bay, so at times everyone was facing in different directions. Some were on short chains, some on long, some on bits of string, some had anchors that were dug in, others clearly didn’t. And amidst all this chaos, they kept on coming.

Getting chummy?

In the end there wasn’t much we could do, except keep fenders ready and enjoy the view! And we were lucky, we could still see the bridge, as long as the wind didn’t change direction again we’d get a good view of the fireworks. 

In the mean time the entertainments had begun. There was the most amazing aerial display, first two planes flying in tandem then a lone pilot took our breath away as he looped the loop, swooping down to with 20 ft of the bay and deliberately stalling at the top of his climb, falling back, still pointing the plane straight up, before recovering. 

Tugs with fire monitors cruised up and down the clearway, demonstrating the impressive jets of water they could project

Fire fighter tug, behind the jumble of boats, some still trying to anchor.

and once the sun set the light ships made their ghostly way along the harbour.

Of course, what we’d all been waiting for were the fireworks. There were two sets, one at 9 for the children, and another, even more spectacular, at midnight. It was the best display either of us have ever seen. The bridge was the centre point, but there were a series of barges all down the harbour, each sending up fireworks at exactly the same time so the display was mirrored every direction that you looked.

A crown of fire from the bridge.

Barges mirroring each other’s display either side of the bridge.

The display lasted about 15 minutes, but managed to change pace and keep a sense of flow, as one sequence moved to the next. One particularly beautiful part was when everything slowed right down and white crystals seemed to form in the air whilst we watched, falling in slow motion towards the ground.

As you’d expect, the finale was spectacular, with cascades of fire filling the arch and rivers of golden sparks flowing out like a water fall from the bridge. Wow.

So, that was it, we’d seen the New Year in with a bang, we were pretty tired, after sharing a bottle of champagne and standing foredeck guard in the sunshine all day. But we couldn’t go to bed yet. The chaos wasn’t finished for a while yet: about two thirds of the boats went home. Imagine, pitch dark and hundreds of boats upping anchor and trying to leave, some with running lights, some without but with fairy lights to make up for it. They weren’t allowed in the main channel for 3/4 of an hour so they all tried to make their way along the edge, dodging in and out of the boats that had anchored there to get the best view, ready for the off when the restrictions were lifted, like the start of a huge race going in all directions. It must have looked rather like a slow motion exploding firework from above. 

Of course, we’d dressed Lochmarin in flashing lights to mark the occasion, and many other people had dressed their boats, but the ones who really took the prize for the best dressed boats - even including the ‘light ships’ on display earlier, were these kayakers threading their way through the anchorage, their head torches lighting the way home:

Now that’s celebrating in style!