Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Straya, Groans and the Grumble of Doom

Here's a little update, after a week or so of very varied experiences; we are still in Sydney Harbour and finding new places to anchor - some less successful than others as you'll hear..

Friday the 26th was Australia Day - or 'Straya Day' as they say around here. It commemorates the date of the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay in 1788, though the first ship, HMS Supply dropped anchor on the 18th January. Staya Day is a public holiday and another opportunity for families to hit the beaches or fire up the barbies but it's not a celebration for everyone. Indigenous groups call it 'Invasion Day' since it marks the beginning of the end for the land rights of Aboriginal people. This year there were huge protests in major cities where campaigners are calling for a change of date to make the nation's celebration an event that all can share.

However, for the moment, Straya Day is a big event for most Australians and in Sydney it's another excuse for a party and some fireworks in the Harbour. They do like a good firework in Sydney. So we returned to Farm Cove next to the Opera House for a day of Navy ships, air displays, boat parades and flags - it was another opportunity to consume delicious prawns in the cockpit, too.

The start of the 'Ferryathon' - a race of the new catamaran harbour ferres

HMAS Canberra with yacht escort

The day finished with a firework display in Central Quay, between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, which was, of course, nowhere near the scale of the New Years Eve show but still impressive when viewed from the anchorage of Athol Bay, near Taronga Zoo. 

Our proximity to the zoo meant that we heard strange yelps and groans from the animals throughout the night so we decided to visit it the following afternoon. The 70-acre site occupies some beautiful (and presumably hugely valuable) real estate and, like most zoos, it has gone through a process of transformation from a place of entertainment to a centre for education and species conservation, with still plenty of entertainment. Overall we thought that the balance was achieved pretty well and the two Sumatran Tigers (the wild population in Sumatra is now less than 400 due to deforestation and the development of palm oil plantations) were a highlight. 

Quite disconcerting when they make direct eye contact!

Of course the Koalas are always a crowd-pleaser:

Add your own caption here!
After this burst of mass tourism we were back to exploring new anchorages of this huge harbour. We picked up a visitors' mooring in Watson's Bay, just inside South Head and had a great walk around the reserve, some of which is still off-limits as a military camp.

A Google Earth image of Sydney Harbour. Watson's Bay is north of Rose Bay in the eastern side of the harbour.
Looking south at The Gap, on the ocean side of South Head

Watson's Bay. Maunie is next to the sailing boat at the top left of the photo

The lighthouse at South Head.
North Head (from where we watched the start of the Sydney Hobart Race) is in the background.
From here we returned to Manly for re-provisioning and a laundrette run and then decided that we'd sail back through the bridge to ride out a couple of days of strong southerly winds. We had a perfect spinnaker run and decided to have a go at something of a 'bucket list' event - to sail under the Harbour Bridge and, what's more, under spinnaker. It's not a straightforward proposition as the wind gets very flukey and the water can be very disturbed by the wakes of passing high-speed ferries and pleasure boats. Anyway we were delighted to complete it safely and here's a short video:

So we've ended this latest tiki-tour of the harbour at Hen and Chicken Bay (the blue dot at the left hand side of the earlier Google Earth image). It was recommended to us as being shallow (only 2.5m where we anchored) but offering 'good holding'; non-sailors might appreciate an explanation of this feature. Well, for those of us living on land, we can pretty much expect that, even in the wildest weather, we'll wake up in the morning to find the house in the same spot as when we went to bed. This, unfortunately, is not always the case when at anchor on a yacht as the combination of wind, waves and currents can sometimes cause the anchor to drag - this is usually No Fun At All. Thankfully, the combination of our over-sized Kobra anchor and plenty of heavy anchor chain has meant that we haven't had many problems but it's all about the make-up of the sea bed. 

Lots of weed can cause problems and a rocky bottom can make things difficult; this is when you hear the 'grumble of doom' and you hear and feel the anchor and chain moving. Usually a muddy sea bed is brilliant for a secure anchorage; you just let the anchor settle for a few minutes, apply some engine power in reverse so set it deep into the mud and that's it. Well, not quite, we always set a GPS anchor alarm that will wake us if the boat moves outside a circle of safety (usually a radius of about 40m). 

Unfortunately it seems that the mud here is so soft that, as the wind increased to around 25 knots in the night, the anchor just slowly and steadily dragged through it. The alarm went off, waking us both up and then Graham spent the night in the pilothouse on anchor watch, re-setting the alarm for a doze only to wake as the alarm sounded again. Thankfully we had anchored well clear of the shore and boat moorings and the anchor finally found some mud it was happy with but we'd dragged about a thousand feet through the night!

The wind is forecast to stay between 25 and 30 knots all day today so we have moved to a NSW visitor's mooring further down the bay. Hopefully a better night's sleep lies ahead of us.

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