New Year’s Cruise to the Hawkesbury

"The Count" at anchor Mackerel Bay.
“The Count” at anchor Mackerel Bay.

For an extraordinarily special cruise over the 2013 New Year holiday, I joined Captain Anthony (aka “Ant”) and his lovely partner Greer from Make It Count Sailing aboard their superb Beneteau 57 named “The Count” for a quintessential Australian cruising experience, namely to explore the waters, sights, and history of Sydney Harbour and north to Broken Bay to encompass the famous boating areas, the Pittwater and Hawkesbury River.

Readers may be familiar with my style of expedition, which is usually not task-driven to acquire a specific destination, and my writings, which are less of an account of the slip slap of individual waves on the hull and what happened each day, but more of a readable log of the journey, experiences, knowledge, and understanding gained during the voyage. There are new things on a voyage, and these are woven into the story. I also am enthusiastic about bush walking and wildflowers, so there is a sprinkling of these for added interest, and colour. We have sprinkled images through the text, but please click here to go to the main image gallery.

In our planning, we had discussed going further north to Port Stephens for a longer sail aboard this ocean-going yacht, but as the Gods of Weather justly or otherwise determined for us, we had light Nor-East winds, and did not really feel like motoring the additional 70 miles from the Pittwater to Port Stephens, for we are sailors at heart. As always, in the cruising lifestyle, flexibility is the key virtue, so plans were adjusted. Next trip perhaps. As I was keen to take the Beneteau 57 to sea and put her thru her paces.

The Beneteau 57 was designed by Bruce Farr, is sloop rigged, and features a remarkably comfortable four cabin layout with many cruising amenities. Forward there are two cabins with “double” bunk, each with their own head and washbasin, with small shared shower. The main cabin is commodious, with on the port side, a step down to the galley, and on starboard, walk-thru passage way to the large aft cabin. Out board of the passage is the day head, and a captain’s cabin with two bunk style berths. I will comment further on about the deck layout which was also practical and comfortable. The ship’s dimensions are 17.5 m length overall, 4.98 m beam, and 2.6 m draft, with a cruising displacement of 22-25 tonnes. Power plant is a Yanmar 160 hp turbo charged diesel. This yacht packs a lot of comfortable attributes in a handsome package.

Following an introduction from the lads at Viccsail, one of Australia’s leading yacht brokers and the importers of Beneteau into Australia, we had planned this trip over several months. According to Senior Yachting Consultant, Ian Treleaven, Beneteau no longer build the ’57” and have brought out a new model, the ’58’.

Our guest at the helm, coastal sailing in a fair breeze.
Our guest at the helm, coastal sailing in a fair breeze.

While I usually undertake a “gentleman’s cruise”, on this occasion I was joined by a “gentlewoman”. Shipping aboard was our guest Ms. Anne-Marie (Annie) Lannigan from Newport, Rhode Island, in the United States. Annie I would consider being one of America’s foremost cruising yachtswoman, yacht broker, and recent co-owner and builder of the magnificent alloy yacht “Te Mana” which she had built with Kanter Yachts in 2005. Annie is well-known in sailing circles on the East Coast; currently she is Director of Sales and Marketing for the prestigious Lyman Morse company of Maine. Lyman Morse are famous for the custom build of exquisite yachts; sail and power, and are experts in one-off composite construction. They have recently completed another Bruce Farr design, “Kiwi Spirit” a high performance yacht designed for a single-handed challenge to Dodge Morgan’s round-the-world sailing record. A most knowledgeable yachtswoman, she was keen to “strut her stuff” and show the Aussies down under how it is really done (and I suspect she still believes that our win of the America’s Cup in 1983 was a fluke!). Admittedly I was anxious that this experience would be several notches down from what she is accustomed to, having let it slip that her favourite yacht is the “Hyperion” from the yard of Royal Huisman.

Rather than get straight off the plane after the 14 hour flight from LA, we had several days at Wooli, in Northern New South Wales; essentially training for the cruise with bush walking, and some conditioning to Australian flora and fauna, including visits with native creatures including Kangaroos, the huge Black Cockatoos (that remind you of the prehistoric Pterodactyls), and exposure to unique Australian bugs including mossies, sandflies, March flies, and her ‘favourite’;  jumper ants. I suppose this menagerie of carnivorous six-legged livestock relished the taste of new cuisine freshly imported from North America.

Stern to view of
Stern to view of “Kathleen Gillett”, double ender. She would go easily through the water.

Following an easy flight down from the Gold Coast to Sydney we cabbed over to the yacht at the Pyrmont Marina, and with some time in hand, enjoyed a walk around the area, viewing the historic vessels outside the Sydney Maritime Museum. Of interest, there was a New Zealand-built Logan yacht, built around 1900, restored, and given as a gift from the people of New Zealand to the people of Australia. Of particular note, is the restored hull of the “Kathleen Gillett“, a Norwegian designed double-ender. I felt sure I had prior knowledge of this vessel and delved into this mystery.

I will borrow some history at this point, and quote from the sign “This famous ketch was built for Sydney artist and sailor Jack Earl and his wife Kathleen Gillett in 1939. Its double-ended design is based on original drawings by Colin Archer of Norway who drew upon Scandinavian boat-building traditions dating back to the Vikings. During World War II, the ketch was home to Jack and Kathleen. It was also used in New South Wales coastal patrols. On 26 December, 1945 Jack Earl and a crew of four competed in “Kathleen Gillett” in the first Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, and in 1947, he set sail to circumnavigate the world. After Earl sold the boat in the 1950s, it was used in the island trade, and also for crocodile hunting around Torres Strait and the Solomon Islands. In 1967, “Kathleen Gillett” again participated in the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. Twenty years on, in 1987, the aged ketch was rediscovered in Guam, purchased and restored by the Norwegian Government as a Bicentennial gift to the people of Australia.”

I have an identical photograph to the one shown at the dockside. My photo is from Dad’s collection, is identical, but also with the signatures of not only Jack Earl, but also Don Angus, Mick Morris, Jack Day, and a person with the surname of Sinclair. Sail number CYC 29. Lyall Morris (our “Mick”) is credited with the photo. I would assume that their paths probably crossed in the Pacific somewhere, perhaps the Cook Islands, in 1948 though Dad does not mention it in is log. Please see my article:  “The Cruise of the Schooner Yatch ‘Wakaya “.

My signed copy of the Kathleen Gillett Photograph
My signed copy of the Kathleen Gillet Photograph

While getting the boat organized, my guest and the Chef headed off to shop (not unexpectedly) and reported back with some up to date information about restaurants in the area as our berth was in front of the Star Casino. At the Casino, visitors should check out The Century, a Chinese restaurant; for Asian fusion style, Momofuku Seiobo; and for Italian, Bala (Stefano Manfredi). The adjacent food court is worth exploring…try the Din Thi Fung for yummy Asian cuisine; Adriana Zumbo, a dessert restaurant with sushi train style dessert, and magnificent cakes; for gelato, Masina; and Flying Fish, a gourmet burger joint. Our girls then headed up to the Sydney fish market, a short walk away, and amongst the many temptations of acres of fresh seafood, loaded up on Barramundi, Sydney Rock Oysters, and Ocean Prawns. We had the beer and champagne chilling for their return.

We cast off lines later in the afternoon, and with headsail raised we sizzled down harbour in a fresh 15 kt southeast breeze. From the vantage point of our yacht, we enjoyed unsurpassed views of many of the famous landmarks of Sydney Harbour. The first was going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Construction started in 1924, and the bridge was opened in 1932. Its design was innovative in its day, and it was the longest single span steel arch bridge in the world. The foundations are 12 metres deep and set in sandstone, and there are anchoring tunnels some 36 metres long dug into bedrock at each end. Four pylons are placed mainly for aesthetic reasons on each corner of the bridge, and these are made of concrete that is covered with grey granite from Moruya on the south coast of New South Wales. Nowadays, departing from the adjacent area known as The Rocks, it is possible to take a walking tour to the top of the bridge, and is well worth doing–you are issued with helmet and safety line.

View to Opera House as we approached Sydney Harbour Bridge.
View to Opera House as we approached Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Then just on the starboard side is Circular Quay, and the Sydney Opera House on Bennelong Point. What is now Circular Quay, was the site of the anchorage of the First Fleet arriving with convicts from England to settle the new land in 1787. It is now a exceptionally busy ferry and cruise ship terminus. Anne-Marie was excited with her first view of the stunning Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect, Joern Utzon, it was built between 1959 and 1973 (with an 11 fold blow out from the original estimate, to a final cost of something like $110 million). The design was unique, and required radical construction techniques using poured concrete over plywood formwork to construct a total of 2414 roof shell segments, each of which is overlaid by tiles. There are six theatres, and a diverse performing arts program is on offer. Best to book ahead. From there the next immediate landmark was Fort Dennison a low lying island on our port side, known as “Pinch Gut” as a prison for convicts, then further over on the northern side of the harbour, Admiralty House at Kirribilli, and we shall explore these on our return.

We anchored at Store Beach, just on the eastern side of Manly. It was a beautiful afternoon, as we settled into hors d oeuvres, and cocktails, admiring the scenery, and watch some yachts coming in through the Heads on their return from the Sydney-Hobart race. This is the main event on Australia’s annual yachting calendar, with start on Boxing Day, December 26 each year. The sou’east wind dropped away, pleasant but we had counted on it for a spirited sail up the coast the next morning. However, once the Captain opened the bar, our concerns soon were relocated to the “manana file”. Miraculously, appearing from the galley was a sumptuous platter of Swiss cheese, and a French Fromage de Meaux, accompanied by gluten free Falwasser crackers, sliced fresh figs, and exquisite little dried figs. I elected a Wicked Elf Ale which was preservative and additive free from our intended destination of Port Stephens, while the others found their refreshment in a Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne. I would note the house of Mumm has taken a step forward under their winemaker, Mr. Didier Mariotti, whom I have met (you must have a Cuvee Renee Lalou if you ever get the chance). We then segued into the main course of seared Barramundi filet, boiled fresh potatoes, and the piece de resistance, “The Count’s” Waldorf salad, with rocket lettuce and cut fresh pear, all accompanied by a 2010 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island. This is a fine wine, and is certainly available in the USA (retails for about $40 in Sydney). It was a calm, quiet night, quite surprising as we were anchored right on the doorstep of Australia’s largest city.

All hands were up early the next morning eager to make a start, but first, and importantly, the coffee. I have purposely included a photo of one of the best items of gear aboard, our coffee machine. It is a Nespresso, is easy to work, and comes with a capsule selection of different coffees. It operates in a stealth mode, so when you are up early, the burps, and gurgles of this sacred ritual do not wake the others (can’t have fellow shipmates cutting across your bows when brewing up). Now, on any expedition I am serious about coffee, and even got an early brew going on the rafting trip on the Franklin River a few years back (despite, the flint starter for the primus being hidden by our overseers–at least initially!). My own stainless coffee pot, which did not see active duty on this trip, is well-travelled from New Zealand to Zambia to Cape Horn and Antarctica, to the Adriatic Sea, and back. The Nespresso offers a selection of different tastes and strength of coffee.

With forecast light winds we set sail and were off through the Sydney Heads, and north up the coast past what are called the Northern Beaches to Broken Bay As the morning unfolded, we ended up motor sailing, as the boat needs about 10 knots of wind to shift it along, so it was a steady 7 knots under the “bag of chains”. I am not sure how Jack Earl would have felt about our flagging dedication to sailing.

It is about 20 nautical miles from Sydney Heads to Barrenjoey, the dominant headland at the entrance to the Pittwater, or what is correctly termed Broken Bay. The weather was fine, so we were there in about three hours (actually in less time than Auckland to Kawau in my home cruising grounds) and thus understandably, it is a popular destination with Sydney sailors. Cap’n had planned a tour which took us up this expansive river system; the entrance is actually a confluence of several rivers, so there is a massive movement of water through the heads, which are renowned for their fishing. He used to sail these waters with his Dad in their 23 footer, so knows them like the back of his hand. On the port side going in is the Pittwater, and further along the vast Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park (some 16,200 acres). To starboard is the Brisbane Water National Park. We kept mainly to the port track following the Hawkesbury River, to reach Cowan Creek and explored upstream. It reminded Anne-Marie of the Pacific Northwest with rocky and well vegetated fjord-like waterways, although with recent drought the landscape was tinder-dry. We motored up past Cottage Point which is just past where the Coal and Cattle Creek join, as far as Apple Tree Bay and Bobbin Head (satellite map), then turned around and headed back to our planned anchorage in America Bay. It was fairly full of boats, so we headed back upstream to anchor near Refuge Bay, in a comfy cove called Hallets Beach. We liked it so much that we returned to spend the next three nights there. (Historical material about Refuge Bay). Even though the prevailing wind was from the nor east, it was generally light, and we had shelter just inside the point on the east end of the bay, so a comfortable anchorage with good holding on our heavy chain. With rain, there is a waterfall at the south end of the bay, and contoured rock formations. We set off ashore to explore up hill–our guest is an experienced rock climber and was keen to be “at one” with our Australian landscape–which if you are bushwhacking in the dry summer is extremely itchy and scratchy. She was in awe of the 5 ft long Monitor lizards, a relic of the dinosaur era. We often paused on our walks to photograph the diverse wildflowers of the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park–every walk we did was enjoyable with lots to see. Prior to re boarding our fine yacht, we lounged around in the shallow waters of the beach, cooling down and enjoying conversations with other cruising folks, all enjoying the environment and beautiful weather.

Roundabout the anchorages, everyone was busy during the days and the bays were surprisingly quiet at night time. This was Aussies at their best (naturally away from work!), enjoying their beautiful country, safe sensible boating, and heaps of family activities. All this,  despite the awful political and economic situations facing the country. There were boats of all shapes and sizes, filled with people of all shapes and sizes. These ranged from mum, dad, and three kids all packed into a 22 ft trailer sailer; enjoying what are the best years of their lives, to uber-cruisers with paid Captains, towing hulking twin outboard RIBs. I suppose that some such yachtspeople in their quest for the biggest yacht in the bay forget how simple pleasures of a small happy boat are the best. Nowadays it seems that boats with kids had some form of floatation for each, inflatables or kayaks, and the little ones were zooming around the bays. We in Australia are truly privileged to enjoy these magnificent experiences; and somewhat wistfully I felt that I had missed out on such activities when growing up in Chicago, as I reflected on how lucky these families were.

That night in our delightful anchorage, we enjoyed the Captain’s choice, BBQ’d New York strip steak with a “salade du Compte”, and fine wine. We made our plans for the next day, a trip under motor to explore the Jerusalem Bay arm of Cowan Creek, and a decent walk (scroll) to boot. With a full day behind us, all hands turned in for sweet sleep.

Books. No trip is complete with some new books. You know, real ones made of paper that you can write in, and spill coffee on. I enjoy reading books on my trips, which is not something I get much time for at home, and am always looking for additions to my expanding library. The first book to broach was “Cruising the New South Wales Coast” by Alan Lucas, the 6th edition. This has an interesting history of the area, going back to the early days of fishing and smuggling, as well as useful tips on bays and anchorages. For Sydney Harbour, look at “Sydney Harbour” by Ian Hoskins, from the University of New South Wales Press which will advance the readers knowledge and pleasure of Sydney Harbour. And, for a taste of the exotic, plan an overseas adventure with “Letters from the Caribbean, Sailing in the West Indies” by Andrea and Ian Treleaven which is highly readable, and well illustrated with colourful photographs. Some more books to savour include Jessica Watson’s “True Spirit, The Aussie Girl who Took on the World“, by Hachette Publications, Australia. Her achievements stand to be recognized, although they have been somewhat dramatized. “Voyages of Delusion, the Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason“, by Glyndwr Williams, Harper/Collins Publishers. An interesting read is “Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, How One Man’s Courage Changed the Course of History“, by Giles Milton, publisher Hodder and Stoughton. You might notice how the subtitles are become longer; not so when my eye strolled back to an old school favourite, just “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, with its rich English prose. I also recommend “The Fatal Impact” by Alan Moorehead, publisher Harper and Row, as well as “The Island of Lost Maps, a True Story of Cartographic Crime” written by Miles Harvey, publisher Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Though I often read well into the night, I did not have time to get back to an old favourite, “Longitude, The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time“, by Dava Sobel, publisher Fourth Estate. I must admit also some dalliance into fiction with the latest Clive Cussler (with Dirk Cussler) “Poseidon’s Arrow“, Penguin Books, as well as “Threat Vector” by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney, Penguin Books.

Anchored in Watson’s Bay

Our adventure, the next day, began after we up-anchored and motored across the Inlet to Jerusalem Bay. We had seen a sister ship “Medina” there yesterday. She is also in the deep blue hull colour which I think suits these yachts and gives them an impression of size. “Medina” is berthed at Rushcutters Bay and is meticulously cared for by her owner and professional skipper. Options in set-up of the Beneteau 57 include a steering station on the port side which gives an unobstructed cockpit and longer table but I am not sure I would want to sail from always the port side, or from that far forward. Once our excellent cockpit cover was folded back, the view from the central wheel was excellent, though I would cut the foot of the headsail about a foot higher so when hard on the wind it was easier to see the lee side. As it was, we posted a lee watch in busy waters. The other option for the boat is the cutter rig which I would personally favour over the sloop, as regular readers probably know my view on the lack of sail shape once some 30% or more of a headsail is rolled up. These boats do need a bit of coaxing to windward so it is important to have the best sail shape. Another of the Sydney Beneteau 57s, “Southern Princess”, has a track just forward of the mast which allows the staysail to self tack–looks cumbersome but apparently works well. In the Pittwater, we saw another of the local “57s” – “Gnak Gnak” – whose owner is regarded as the guru by other “57” owners as he is the expert in repairs…it is a long way back to La Rochelle. As we discovered, these boats do not come with a suitably developed owners manual.

We anchored the ship in Jerusalem Bay, and got organized for a walk with camera, back packs, hats, sun screen, and all important bug repellant which our guest came to regard as Aussie Perfume, an essential when she took to Terra Firma Australis. Once upon a time there were wrecks on the port side of the bay going in, but these have been removed by National Parks (a Government Department). Still, there is quite deep water, up to a sandy-muddy ledge which comes out from shore. There is a lovely little stream at the head of the bay, with quite delicious sweet fresh water, quite cooling on the way back from the walk, before a swim off the beach to cool down. We took the track towards Brooklyn (a name thought incongruous by our guest); hiked up as far as the summit, pausing to admire and photograph wildflowers along the way, notably the Tartan Tongue Orchid which our guest discovered, and other intriguing flowers including the Grey Spider Flower, a Crowea, and the Little Flannel Flower, all of which were new to us. The gallery  also shows some flowers that remain unknown to us and we would invite assistance from our readers.

By the time of our return, our obliging hosts had not only lunch ready, but also the boat prepared for an afternoon sail. The wind piped up about mid day, so we took full advantage for a sail back out to the ocean, and on one board laid right up into the north side of Broken Bay. In a fairly stiff 15-20 kts of nor’east wind she carried reefed main and full headsail, at a moderate angle of heel, doing 7- kts on the wind; then as we came around onto a close reach Anne-Marie at the helm topped the log at 10kts. The main was quite easily furled with power in boom furler, and the electric head sail furler was controlled by a switch at the helm station, so not much exercise there for the crew. The unwind on the headsail is powered, without capacity for free spooling manual unwind, and I am not sure of the backup system to furl in if power is lost. Being a KISS type, I still prefer manual roller furling which is I think workable in yachts up to the 60 ft range. I saw a good system on a Scandinavian yacht the “Farr-fly” (sounds a bit Irish to me?) where the two roller lines are actually run through pulleys just outboard of the stanchions thus the decks are kept clear. It is important there that the load bearing capacity of this gear is strong enough to cope with the force of reefing the sail under way.

There is quite a tide race at the entrance to Broken Bay, and wind against outgoing tide produces a short chop similar to Auckland Harbour. Off the wind we enjoyed a pleasant sail back down the passage, fetching our favourite bay for the night. We had company aboard, our good friend Cap’n Ken from our Whitsunday Cruise, and his owners from their stately vessel “Aurora”. This yacht is one of the Horizon series, and is a roomy purposeful looking vessel designed for remote exploration. Our cocktail hour was prolonged as not only was the company convivial, but we savoured two excellent wines from New Zealand, including a Martinborough Pinot Noir, one of my favourite Pinot regions in New Zealand. Our guest, and the Cap’n knew yachties and yachts so much engrossing conversation occurred. We closed well after dusk, with an invitation to join them for drinks at a later date.

Author at the helm enroute to Sydney Heads.
Author at the helm enroute to Sydney Heads.

Evenings, we would lounge in the comfortable main cabin to enjoy a selection of videos on DVD from the Captain’s collection, “The Bedford Incident”, “Master and Commander”, “Run Silent Run Deep” “Pirates of the Caribbean, original, plus At World’s End, and Dead Man’s Chest”, “Hunt for Red October”, “Moby Dick”, and an excellent if poignant true story, “Killers of Eden, the Legend of the Tongue” based at Eden on the South Coast of New South Wales” And, with our interest on traditional shipboard activities which would have been incomplete without a reading from “A Vision Splendid, The Complete Poetry of A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson” an Australian bard and writer of traditional songs. So I hope we have done our bit for non Internet purveyors of fine film and literature, and all hands got to polish up their elocution skills. As a fall back, I always have my Book of Knots, in case I have to absent myself from the poker game.

Our following day was devoted to exploring the Pittwater which truly starts as you come around West Head, with the first stop on the starboard side, Resolute Beach where we acquired the walking track to take us up to the top of West Head. There is a trail from the beach, and a delightful scenic walk along the bays, with more wildflowers, and some pleasant chats with other bushwalkers along the way. Looking down one is impressed with the water clarity, and stunning views south and east across the roads. The view from the top of West Head is nothing short of spectacular, and is a must-see for the Pittwater visitor. On the way down we visited an Indigenous Art Site, and photographed a hand painted artwork in red ochre. We would commend those who have looked after this valuable cultural heritage so it can be enjoyed by not only all Australians, but also our visitors from overseas. There are a number of photos of our ship at anchor as our hosts politely waited on our return. We were in touch with phone and text messages, with “priority traffic” reserved for our need for thirst-quenching cold beer on our return. Cap’n rowed over and ferried our guest back to the boat in the kayak, and the author swam back to the boat. We grew to thoroughly appreciate our kayak. It was remarkably stable, and ferried two quite easily, as well as light to lift and carry, and was conveniently lashed along the side rail when we were underway. I would get two; they are easily inflated with a foot pump. Once aboard we up-anchored, and set out to explore the Pittwater in gusty winds. There are further lovely bays and landmarks with unique names like Coaster’s Retreat, and Long Nose Point; on this side, exposed the to nor’east winds but apparently have good holding ground. I was astounded by the number of bays, stacked with boats of all descriptions. For added interest, you could, with practice, spot the houses and boats of notable Australians. In the super yacht arena the English designer Ed Dubois produces works of art and wins hands down. We circumnavigated Scotland Island, then kept to generally the port side as it shallows on the East side of the harbour. Once a decent slant was obtained we opened the headsail and set sail to coast back to our favourite anchorage.

Cruising does engender some fascinating conversations. Ant is a buff on the history of the Americas Cup. Winning the America’s cup in 1983 was a nation-building event for Australia and I recall seeing it on TV at the time. Yet, after this event it never quite caught on as popular with the public in Australia, unlike New Zealand. Both in Sydney, and in the Whitsundays a number of the Cup boats remain, graceful ladies serving out their last days as both private yachts and charter vessels. I have photographed a couple of these graceful campaigners on moorings in Mosman Bay. Just along from us at the marina, “Gretel II” was berthed, looking magnificent after her recent restoration. She is the last of the wooden 12-metre boats, and sports unquestionably top quality gear. See photograph gallery. The Kiwis had the Cup for a while, and I recall it lived in a trophy case at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Clubhouse at Westhaven. Its location was not far from “Cobweb Corner” where Mr. Con Thode, used to drink with his Squadron mates (my Dad was bit too young for this group). It is a point of lively discussion whether the true spirit of the America’s Cup has been lost, and in fact whether the class itself has been lost. Things, in my opinion, got off the rails when Mr. Michael Fay of Auckland and his supporters contested with a maxi-type yacht back in the 1980s. This was understandably quite controversial at the time. According to our shipboard “kangaroo court” under the New York Yacht Club Gift of Deed, a challenge made had to be accepted by the defender; this was made by the “tricky” Kiwis, but the challenge did not have to be accepted in the same yacht, hence Dennis Connor blew away “Fay’s J” in a catamaran, which several iterations later, lead to the current America’s Cup 72 catamarans. Currently, big boat racing has taken a further step up (or maybe backward in time) with the huge classic J boats that race at Antigua, in the St. Barts Buckett, Palma, and possibly in the future in Maine, USA (Anne Marie is working on this–but ssh it’s terrifically hush hush at this time). There are some ten “Js” now in total, and a number with classic names like “Huniman”, “Shamrock”, “Endeavour”, “Lionheart”, and “Rainbow”. See These awesome yachts, with their graceful lines especially as drawn by Andre Hoek of the Netherlands, may capture the public eye in the same way as did the traditional America’s Cup yachts.

What better way to enjoy the birdsong and a sunny morning anchored in a lovely cove, but to savour Ant’s Pancakes. Now these are a real treat; the recipe (which should be a state secret) is as follows: take one cup of self-raising flour, a cup of full cream milk and two eggs. Beat till smooth, no flour lumps please, and cook on the BBQ plate. Serve with icing sugar, lemon, and maple syrup. They will feed four. Delicious.

That night, before departing for Sydney, we enjoyed a magnificent rack of lamb, with baked veges and spuds (Aussie words), and I have included a photo of wines and hearty fare. Note a favourite, a top Kiwi Savvy, “The Ned” from Marlborough with lovely balanced tantalizing fruit, from our supplier Scott Faraway, of Wineaway, Brisbane. And, from our friend David Herbert in the Mt. Gambier region of South Australia, the sumptuous 2010 Pinot Noir with its velvety palate, and plenty of layered depth to the very malleable fruit flavours. We also enjoyed his Black Shiraz, a classic Aussie sparkling red, with again plenty of terroir dominated fruit. These are top wines and can be obtained cellar door or mail order

Winds were still light from the nor’east as we set sail, with full main and once around Barrenjoey we set the asymmetrical reaching spinnaker (ASO), and held this sail all the way to Sydney Heads. It was a great sail to carry in 10-15 kts of breeze, and we worked it in tandem with the main to get the best airflow in the slot and to keep both sails drawing in the gentle breeze.It gave us a handy boat speed of 6 kts. The tube that the sail is carried in must be dragged up on deck for launch and recovery; the skipper is working out how it can be launched from inside the focs’cle via an open deck hatch. Another 57 has a short retractable bowsprit which should aid the setting of the sail, but on our ship, the anchor sheaves rightly take precedence. I gave some thought to the fact that for extended cruising it would be possible to put such a sail on a roller furler right forward, so it is ready for easy deployment, having then a combination of light weather reacher forward, then genoa (both on rollers) and further back the staysail which can be hanked on, with the staysail secure in a sail bag at the base of the inner stay.

From sea, approaching Sydney in the distance were the spars and yards of a working square rigger, giving an eerie dream-like vision of how things would have looked some 200 years ago. We felt for the poor souls transported to Australia as convicts, about to land on an inhospitable shore facing a life of brutality, starvation, and depredation to serve their seven years of convict servitude at the “pleasure of His Majesty”.

Watson’s Bay is on the port side just inside the South Head. This is a busy thoroughfare, and as the Sydney ferries do not give any quarter to smaller vessels, all hands were attentive and we kept out of their way, thus we fetched our anchorage. It was a busy Sunday afternoon, with much activity on the beaches and around the harbour. There is an interesting book, “Across the Harbour, The Story of Sydney’s Ferries” by John Gunter. There are several classes of ferries: the Freshwater, First Fleet, Lady Class, and a number of Cats, one of which is named after Susie O’Neill an Olympic swimmer. The Freshwater Class is named after famous Aussie beaches; the First Fleet after the convict ships of the First Fleet; and, the Lady Class, well; after some famous Ladies.

We enjoyed the walk up South Head, then along the headland admiring the stunning views but standing back from the edge, where the steep cliffs drop precipitously to the indigo-blue ocean. The adjoining suburb has quaint tight streets with many period houses being restored to keep the historical flavour. A massive 19 ton canon sits atop the headland, and is left over from the time of the Crimean War. For some reason, it points down the harbour towards the city, rather than out to sea. The area is studded with evidence of old coastal defences guarding our shores against attacks which fortunately never came. Hot work this touring – we enjoyed a cold boutique Aussie beer at the pub by the beach, before a swim and kayak back to the boat. From here we set course back down the harbour to anchor in Chowder Bay for the evening. We enjoyed a leisurely start the following morning, before embarking on more sightseeing.

Mosman Bay is very pretty and to explore it by boat is one of the great Sydney sights. Mind you, the waterway is fairly narrow, so you will be sharing it with others. Stately homes come down to the water, and yachts of all description are moored there. Please see the photo gallery. We spied a classic sloop, the “Struan Marie”, owned by our Cap’n Ken. This 35 ft classic is built from traditional Aussie timbers of Huon and Celery Top Pine. She looked every inch the trim and proper yacht she is. With her fine elegant lines, it is no wonder she won the Sydney to Hobart in 1951. We once again revisited some of the history of Australia’s involvement in the America’s cup. “Steak and Kidney” KA 14 is moored there, no far from an Australian icon “Australia”, KA 5. Both of these historic yachts are owned by the Australian 12-metre Historic Trust. “Steak and Kidney” apparently was one of the fastest boats built to challenge for the America’ Cup, but never had the funding to truly present herself.

Cap'n's happy ship, a classic yacht, the
Cap’n’s happy ship, a classic yacht, the “Struan Marie”.

Once back at Pyrmont Marina, it was time to disembark for some sightseeing around central Sydney taking in the Rocks, a walk around the Opera House, the lovely Botanical Gardens, a visit to Viccsail, and a look around Rushcutter’s Bay marina. A visit to the Sydney Observatory, the Opera House, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, plus our guest shopped for some designer jewelry to take home as presents! Thankfully we had been training for this tour de force with several days of bush walking!

For a cruise with a difference I recommend a voyage on “The Count“. It is an enjoyable way to see the sights, and learn of the history of Sydney and coastal waters up to Broken Bay, all from your comfortable charter yacht, the Beneteau 57 “The Count”. There was so much to see and do, the days were not long enough. This is a wonderful cruise, and our overseas guest returns to America, not only rested and recharged, but glowing with her accounts of sailing Downunder. In wishing her bon voyage, we added a classic Aussie blessing, “Good onya, mate”.

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