For those of you who have been following my travels in Sydney, you’ll know that I’ve been home for a few weeks now and am well and truly backtracking with these posts. Well, today’s post takes us back to the 15th January, 2022 and “yesterday” Geoff and I caught the ferry over to Manly which is located near Sydney Harbour’s Northern Headland (known simply as “North Head”) and “today” we’re off to Watson’s Bay, over near South Head on the opposite side of the harbour and while yesterday there was just Geoff and myself, Miss joined us for this adventure While our son, J.P. was back home.
In many ways, Sydney is a fragmented city divided by the harbour. To a certain extent where ever we live, we tend to live within the bounds of our geography. Back home, we live on a peninsula and what they say about “insular peninsula” is certainly true of us, although Geoff works in Sydney. Moreover, in addition to geographical constraints, there’s also time and possibly health considerations. Staying put can be very comfortable.
Obviously, what the Sydney Harbour divided, has been connected via the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel. However, while the Bridge might stand as a magnificent welcoming structure, it represents pure terror for an anxious driver or out-of-towner and you hear the phrase often enough: “I’m not going over the Bridge”.I remember the first time I drove white-knuckled with my dad’s encouragement: “Does your licence state you can’t drive over the Bridge?” Of course, it didn’t and with fear and trepidation I set out and was mighty jubilant when I arrived safely on the other side in Glebe. I thought it was ridiculous that one of my mother’s friends wouldn’t drive past Chatswood and yet now I understand completely. Once you get out of the swing of city driving and specially the high pressure traffic on the Bridge during the day and needing to be in the right lane because Good Samaritans who’ll let you in are few and far between and you could end up anywhere. You also have to watch out that you don’t stray into one of the feeder lanes onto the Bridge either. Then again, you could spend your entire life parked safely in your couch at home and bypass seizing the day entirely. Indeed, perhaps it’s worth getting lost a few times on the likes of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to gain your wings.
All of that is just a very long winded way of saying that Sydneysiders usually don’t hop around the harbour like we were doing especially by car and the idea of going to Manly for the day one day and spending the next day in Watson’s Bay is rather extraordinary. That is, unless of course you’re on the ferries in which case all of Sydney Harbour is your oyster. I loved ferries before but I love and appreciate them even more now!
Of course, someone else from Sydney might disagree with all of this, but that’s okay. I don’t claim to speak for all of Sydney.
Anyway, as you can see ferry ride to Watson’s Bay was spectacular and I was almost flying along in the breeze with my camera zooming away on overdrive. Indeed, now that I’m back home, I’m missing the ferries dearly and looking forward to going back in April. Indeed, I’m reminded of Louis Armstrong’s unforgettable line: Oh what a wonderful world!
Arriving in Watson’s Bay felt like arriving in another world. The weather was beautiful and the beach was lined with tanned sunbakers soaking up the rays like mobile phones plugged into the charger invigorating their souls without any consideration to the possible consequences. However what struck me most when we first arrived in Watson’s Bay was a massive Moreton Bay Fig tree on the shoreline and of course the famous Doyle’s fish and chip shops.
So please join me in my next post as we explore Watson’s Bay itself.
Have you been to Sydney or Watson’s Bay? Any stories? I’d love to hear from you!
After arriving at Cremorne Point the night before, I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to explore my new universe. With all of Sydney at my feet, where would I begin?
A good question and I decided to start out in familiar territory and head off to Balmoral Beach a few minutes drive away. Proximity wasn’t my only consideration. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was also very close by and I had no intention of driving across that on my first day Sydney or risk ending up there by mistake which is easily done in these parts.
I haven’t driven in Sydney for three years. So, there was a part of me who was rather intimidated and wanted to keep the car in the garage, but the other half was fortunately much more of an intrepid “never-say-never” adventurer. These two conflicting halves were arguing most of the way to Balmoral, especially when we didn’t quite get there by the intended route but both were happy in the end.
Of course, at this stage, I couldn’t even remember how I’d found my way to Cremorne Point, let alone how to find my way out and off to Balmoral. Any normal person who is directionally deficient like me would have satnav to guide their path. However, I’ve resisted all of that because I didn’t want to lose the meagre navigational skills I do have and become dependent on a device. After all, as we all know….use it or lose it!
However, I’m not opposed to using maps, and am very grateful for having Apple maps on my phone. Moreover, by the end of my stay in Cremorne Point, I’d changed my mind about getting navigational assistance and have now become a mad raving fan of Siri and rather than limiting my scope, she’s actually expanded my horizons and boosted my confidence. I can get there now.
Meanwhile, I still need to get to Balmoral and in my typical fashion, I ended up taking the road less travelled.
Now, to put you in the picture.
Here’s the recommended route to Balmoral from Cremorne Point:
Meanwhile, this is the route I took via The Spit, which took me halfway to Manly:
Mind you, this time I wasn’t lost. Rather, I was propelled ever onward down the hill by a series of pesky No Right Turn Signs eventually arriving at Middle Harbour Sailing Club on The Spit and needing to turn around.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Being a sailing family, it was interesting to check out and photograph the fleet.
To exit, I had to make another detour and turn left into Parriwi Road where my friend used to have a flat back in the day, but I can’t remember going there, or ever seeing the breathtaking views over Middle Harbour. Indeed, sometimes I wonder if I’ve been living in a broom cupboard all my life. Where have I been? Why haven’t I been here before? Sydney is my city and I barely know her at all! Gee, I’ve got to get out of my own bubble and see my own world, even if I can’t get further afield.
By the way, I was driving the little red car, an Alfa Romeo 147. She’s nice and compact for driving and parking in a relatively cramped urban environment i.e. around Cremorne Point. She was my partner in crime and facilitator of adventure (along with the ferries, of course) on this trip.
After stopping repeatedly along Parriwi Road to absorb and photograph the view, I finally made it to Balmoral.
Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and the light was flat and not casting it’s much desired magic. This wasn’t going to be the day for cracking good photographs, but it was still good to get out for a walk. Do some exercise, you know that thing I struggle to get around to unless photography’s involved.
Even on an overcast day. Balmoral is still beautiful. Technically, what I’m calling “Balmoral” also includes Edwards Beach which is separated from Balmoral by Rocky Point Island.
Balmoral is famous for it’s imposing Bathers’ Pavilion. Designed in a grand Spanish mission style and intended to put Balmoral on the map, it was opened in 1929. These days it’s home to a restaurant and is a popular wedding reception venue.
While I was peering through the front window, I had a bit of photography fun and I spotted a window on the back wall and managed to capture my reflection rather well. It was like peering into another world and finding myself there…intriguing!
Balmoral’s band rotunda is another stand out. I’ve seen Shakespeare by the Sea performed years ago AKA “back in the day”. I also love the profusion of Moreton Bay Fig trees which provide much needed shade during our roasting Sydney summers.
While these are the more beautiful aspects of Balmoral, there’s also a visible shark net. While shark nets are environmentally controversial, my father witnessed a teenager being taken by a shark off Balmoral beach as a ten year old boy and sharks are still lurking in Sydney Harbour even if they do only make their presence felt intermittently.
Lastly, being a dog lover and seeing so many dogs around the place, I had to mention Billy, a statue of a much loved local dog. In my usual fashion, I had to find out more about Billy because the plaque didn’t seem to do him justice and this account from the Mosman Collective is worth a read: Billy
I could write a lot more about Balmoral, but with so many adventures during my time in Sydney, I only have time for a quick sketch and someone else can explore every nook and cranny.
Have you been to Balmoral and do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you!
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
Since our son returned from his voyage onboard STS Young Endeavour, we’ve had so many chats, and I’ve literally been squeezing out every last detail. Strangely, I haven’t even needed to coerce. He’s been surprisingly chatty and responsive to my endless questions. I have an insatiable curiosity, and after being in lockdown or isolation for so long, he was a marked man.
Despite all these stories and conversations, this is how he summed the trip up in a nutshell: “no words can describe the rollercoaster it was”.
Meanwhile, what I would like to say at the outset, is how proud I am of him and all the other Youthies onboard. That’s not just proud Mumma speak. While they had a lot of fun, they had some tough life lessons onboard, particularly when three of their number tested positive to covid three days before they were due to disembark, and had to leave the ship early. It must’ve been devastating for those who left, but the camaraderie among the group meant that it deeply affected them all. They were “one for all, and all for one”, and I was really touched by their empathy and compassion.
So here’s a bit of an overview of some of the challenges our intrepid youthies faced during their voyage.
Probably, the most obvious challenge when you first see the Young Endeavour, is height. It’s a very long way to the top of the mast. While I doubt anyone with a serious fear of heights would do the trip in the first place, that’s not to say these daredevils didn’t face some trepidation. While they were up there, they were balanced on nothing more than a wire tightrope, while they furled and unfurled the sails and they were heavy. However, this crew was apparently pretty good, and they had all been up before leaving Port Phillip Bay. Well done!
“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Another big challenge was also clearly identified before he left. That was no mobile phone, WIFI, Internet…the works! All of these were banned onboard. Surviving without social media probably wasn’t going to be his battle. However, as a gamer, we thought going cold turkey on this front was going to be tough. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned that at all.
“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus
Physical fitness was also a serious concern. I’d watched the promotional video and it looked very physical furling and unfurling the sails. It would be too late once they were onboard and had raised the anchor to have second thoughts: “Let me off. I’ve changed my mind!!” They were committed. However, they were not alone. They were going through this very steep learning curve together and they had the “staffies” onboard. They were headed by inspirational Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley who might’ve had his official whites on for boarding and disembarking, but the rest of the time he was wearing the blue shirt like the rest of them and was inspiring alongside rather than from above. (By the way, he was the only one who managed to do a backflip off the boat while they were in Jervis Bay, and apparently he was as smooth as a “swan”.) He also stuck a motivational quote on the fridge every day.
“Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.”
— Mark Twain
Meanwhile, seasickness wasn’t something we’ve given any consideration until we watched the informational videos. Our son has sailed for many years, and has never shown any sign of seasickness before. However, this trip was much more challenging what with crossing Bass Strait and being out at sea. Given that their website had dedicated an entire video to the subject, it wasn’t something to ignore. https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/1018219102114384
Fortunately, he was only sick once after eating too much breakfast. However, things weren’t pretty for some of the others on Day Two while they were crossing notorious Bass Strait, and the sea was rolling like a Bucking Bronco. Naturally, this wasn’t pretty, and I’ll spare you most of the details. However, he did mention there was a “Red Sea” flowing through the ship, which reminded me of that famous scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life featuring Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U (watch at your own risk).
Yet, despite their ordeal, the Captain’s Log reported that the youthies still performed their duties, which sounds incredibly commendable. Yet, while it would be easy to feel sorry for them, all of this struggle was what they’d signed up for… throwing themselves against the elements to develop that much desired trait…resilience. Of course, resilience has never been served up on a silver platter, and only comes once you’ve stretched yourself well beyond breaking point. My dad used to call this “putting hair on your chest”. So, all these youthies must be woolly mammoths by now!
However, as bad as the seasickness was for some, there was a popular antidote…the humble Sao biscuit. Our son described them as “the wonder food of seasickness”. Indeed, written underneath the bunk above him were the words: “Saos are king”. In case you’ve never encountered a Sao biscuit, it’s very plain, and would be kind to a troubled tummy. The fact that something as plain and ordinary as a Sao biscuit could save the day, goes to show that a big problem doesn’t necessarily require a big solution.
Another consideration I had, was how roughly 20 young strangers aged 16 to 23 were going to coexist for nine days in a very confined space without erupting. Being stuck on the same boat for so long could be rather fractious, and I did address this with him before he left. However, it was actually quite the reverse. As I explained earlier, they all got on incredibly well and really looked out for each other. It’s also worth mentioning that they didn’t stay onboard the ship for the full nine days and they broke it up a bit with some activities on land.
Homesickness was another possibility. Our son has been away on Scout camps and Jamboree before, so I wasn’t expecting him to get terribly homesick. However, some of the others were younger and especially with covid around, haven’t been away from home all that much. You don’t have to be a sook to get a bit homesick, especially given the physical challenges of the journey.
In addition to the challenges, our son also shared details of the voyage.
They did a bit of singing onboard. Singing was also a bit of a thing onboard and the Captain’s Log mentioned them singing John Lennon’s Imagine, which must’ve been so moving out there at sea. J. also told me that when they were waking someone up to go on a watch, they sang a variation of The Wiggles’ song: “Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car”: “toot toot chugga chugga big blue boat”, and by the end of the voyage, they’d call out: “Wake up Charlie” (the name of the Captain and a reference to Wake up, Jeff also from the Wiggles).
He also made a reference to them being told to “use your Navy voice”, and that they had to raise their voices to be heard. That made me laugh. When he was younger, he was always being told to “use his inside voice”, and bring the volume down. How times have changed!
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Meanwhile, although I thought the storytelling driving home in the car was amazing, it was nothing compared to having him bring up my good old friend Google Earth and for a virtual experience. He took me from Geelong out through the Heads of Port Melbourne and across the notorious Rip all with a click of the mouse. From there, they’d sailed across Bass Strait where they saw quite a few islands, dolphins and fed a lot of fish. Then, they anchored in Refuge Bay, which was a welcome relief from the rough seas and seasickness. They sailed up along the continental shelf reaching Jervis Bay and then onto Sydney’s Watson’s Bay where I think they spent a few days. They spent their final night moored near Taronga Park Zoo being serenaded by the elephants. I recorded the whole experience, and wished I could’ve been there. Somehow, being a couch sailor isn’t the same.
“To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”
– Walt Whitman
These were apparently the Captain’s parting words:
“You leave with new skills, improved persistence, resilience and adaptability, as well as generally knowing you are more capable than what you probably thought. And of course, having made great new friends – most probably, friends for life”
-Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley
There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I’ve focused a bit too heavily on the hurdles they’ve overcome rather than the fun, especially since one of my motivations is to encourage other young people to sign up. Yet, despite or perhaps because of these hardships, our son has emerged a much more confident and optimistic version of himself with a pile of gripping stories, and a swag of new friends. Indeed, even a week down the track, he still remains exhilarated.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip not only possible, but also such a success. No doubt so much has gone on behind the scenes, and we are incredibly grateful.
Before I head off, here are a couple of videos you might enjoy and if you or someone you know has been onboard STS Young Endeavour, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau
Last Wednesday, Geoff and I drove down to Sydney Harbour to welcome back our No. 1 son, who’d been away for ten days sailing on the tall ship STS Young Endeavour from Geelong to Sydney. Indeed, we were waiting at the Coal Loader Wharf near HMAS Waterhen with our eyes peeling looking for the much anticipated ship, when a massive rainbow appeared. I couldn’t believe my luck. I have been in lockdown at home for the best part of six months and right on my release, a rainbow appears, I have my camera, and better still, the Young Endeavour appearing right on cue and I managed to capture it sailing across the rainbow. Better still, our son was perched right at the very top like an oversized crow as they came in. Oh! Be still my beating heart!
Just to recap on the journey, he’d been away on a nine day trip from Geelong to Sydney which, as he said, was pretty much the “Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in reverse minus Tasmanian.” They sailed out of Geelong on Monday the 20th March. On Day two, they sailed out of Port Phillip Bay, across the notorious Rip and soon they were taking on the even more notorious Bass Strait before heading up the East Coast. They stopped off at Refuge Bay, Jervis Bay and Watson’s Bay along the way before spending their final night anchored near Taronga Park Zoo listening to the elephants.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see him, the boat, and to finally be a physical part of his experience after being unable to see him off in Geelong. The ship was due in at 10.00am and knowing the Navy, it would be 10.00am sharp, and they certainly wouldn’t be running on Byron Bay time (which is little better than a hair past a freckle). However, my watch hit 10.00am and there was still no sign of the Young Endeavour. The anticipation was absolutely killing me. Thank goodness the rainbow was there to distract me, and we were just hoping the rain would hold off long enough for us to see them come in.
Then, apparently just a minute or two after ten, the ship’s canon sounded, and STS Young Endeavour finally came into view. There he was – one of those large black birds perched right at the very top of the mast with the daring of a movie stunt double. I couldn’t wait to see him. Give him a hug. Have him back.
However, there was a spanner in the works. An unfortunately all too familiar spanner, which I’d naively thought had been wrestled and dealt with before they’d climbed on board. Three of the “youthies” (as the young people were called) had tested positive to covid despite having had a PCR test and a RAT before leaving (covid seems to be more effective than the devil at sneaking into unwanted places and wreaking havoc). Apparently, the news went up to the Navy “higher-ups”, and after being isolated on the bridge for four hours they were given a “VIP” escort to the big navy base at Woolloomooloo. While it was tough for those whose voyages were cut short, it also hit the remaining youthies really hard. In only seven days, they’d all grown incredibly close. There was no “us and them”, or being focused on No. 1. They’d become a unit and they were welded together like an unbroken chain.
Of course, I wasn’t there, and it’s an interesting experience writing about someone else’s journey as though it was your own. However, even as a parent of a now 18 year old where the umbilical cord was cut years ago, we’re still Mum and Dad. We’re still interested in what he’s up to, especially when he’s been on such a privileged adventure, and as the Captain mentioned in his first Captain’s Log, we had all become “armchair sailors” back home.
Besides, we’d also gone through the last two years alongside them. I don’t need to explain what this has been like to any of you. We’ve all been living through it. We also had the worst bushfires in living memory just before covid along with it’s choking haze of smoke which travelled the globe several times over before finally breaking up. We haven’t been able to plan, hope, leave the house although many of us tried to make a positive out of a negative and had our “Covid Projects”. On a much more serious note, people have died. Now, places are recovering from devastating floods and there’s the invasion of Ukraine.
So, without going into all our son and these other young people have been through over the last two years, let’s just say that their arrival home, especially surrounded by that massive rainbow, just screamed positivity. Indeed, you can see, I’ve doctored the photo of the ship surrounded by the rainbow, and added the words: “There Is Always Hope”. I’ve come a very long way to reach that point. Indeed, with our son perched high up on the mast, me being there to greet him after more than six months in lockdown, and capturing the photo of a lifetime, it was an incredible triumph.
“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I was pleasantly surprised by how chatty he was, and his incredibly enthusiastic and visually graphic storytelling abilities. After all, teenagers aren’t renowned for sharing all the lurid details with Mum and Dad and perhaps there was still a lot he left out. Usually, we’ve ecstatic to get a grunt.
In my next post, I’ll share a few points from his trip, and you never know perhaps he or one of his fellow youthies might share their experiences directly on Beyond the Flow. I live in hope.
Here’s a flashback to a family sailing trip from 2014 at Palm Beach, Sydney when J was 10 and Miss was 8. Miss wasn’t real keen on sailing back then, although she quite enjoys Papa’s Boat now. So, let’s raise a glass to precious memories, growing up and great adventures.
If you have been following my blog lately, you’ll know that we are currently on holidays at Palm Beach, Sydney.At least, we were. School and us have gone back and I’m a bit behind with my posts.
Palm Beach has to be pretty close to paradise. If you have ever watched the TV drama series Home & Away, you’ll be familiar with its glorious surf beach with golden sand and the historic lighthouse standing sentry. However, there is another, equally stunning, side to paradise.The Pittwater side with its sparkling, diamond carpet of relatively still water…a calm, tranquil alter-ego just perfect for sailing and other water sports.
We are a sailing family. Well, at least we are trying to be.There is only one thing standing in our way… FEAR! Our daughter is terrified of sailing. Well, it’s not just sailing. It’s kayaking, swimming in the surf and even catching the…