Published: February 27th 2009February 27th 2009
The Tasman Sea did not disappoint us as it cooked up a 50mph gale for our crossing. But it really wasn’t too bad except that we couldn’t use the pool or the tennis court. I was carrying a little memento of our visit to the New Zealand Sounds in the form of sand fly bites. We have visited the Milford Sound about five times and have never encountered these pesky creatures before. While out gazing at the beautiful sights we were swarmed and my legs looked like I had been in a wrestling match with some barbed wire. For two weeks afterward I was itching and scratching and scratching and itching. Fortunately none of the bites got infected, so it was just a passing inconvenience.
Because of the rough seas, we were twelve hours late arriving in Hobart, Tasmania. Even though it is summer here Down Under, it was still pretty chilly in these parts. Some of the sailboats that had raced in the Christmas Sydney to Hobart contest were still in the port. This race is notorious for its frequent encounters with terrible and sometimes deadly weather. Several years ago a number of sailors and sailboats were lost at
sea during one of the races.
We spent the day finding anti-itching cream and enjoying a really good Chinese meal and getting ready for Kevin’s birthday. All of the people that we play tennis with held a party in Signatures Restaurant to honor the birthday boy. The next night we had dinner with Captain Dag so that the two could celebrate their birthdays together.
Sydney harbor is one of the greatest in the world. Many people were disappointed when it was announced that we would be arriving at 5am during the morning darkness. But we got up just as the ship was approaching the entrance to the harbor and were fortunate that nearly a full moon bathed the Heads in a soft glow making for a beautiful cruise into port. The Harbor Authority has a new rule that ships cannot dock at Circular Quay between 7a-9a because it disrupts the ferry schedules too much. That was the reason for our early entry.
We took Dr Tinkle shopping and in the process got to see some of the nicer suburbs of Sydney. We went to Double Bay which is sometimes called Double Pay as it is quite a
ritzy enclave. We drove through Watsons Bay with its dramatic sea cliffs and quaint restaurants. Sydney is such a vibrant city that no matter where you go, it seems that something exciting is happening. We went to a Chinese restaurant below The Rocks right on the water’s edge. From there we could see the groups of people climbing the Harbor Bridge.
We took the ferry out to the exclusive suburb of Mosman for an evening with friends John and Dawn and their children. The week prior to our arrival John was named to the Order of Australia (somewhat akin to being knighted in England) for his contributions in assisting countries in formulating their global monetary policies and also for developing good relations between Australia and the United States. John is an economist who worked with the International Monetary Fund and led IMF missions throughout the world in that capacity. We feel honored to know someone so honored. Even though their children were raised in the U.S., three daughters and their American husbands have relocated to Sydney and are making a new life Down Under— and very successfully at that. One of the son-in-laws, Alex Weinress has a weekly television
comedy running on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) called Chandon Pictures. We spent the evening discussing politics, the new administration and the state of the world with this lovely and gifted family. In the small world category, Alex’s father Tony lives about two blocks from us in Sausalito and through mutual friends we have gotten to know Tony and Christine over the past few years—this even before we met Alex!
We made our annual trek to the Haymarket, a Sydney institution of hundreds of stalls with mostly Chinese products. Isn’t everything made in China nowadays? Then we met up with Mike and Sherry at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for lunch amidst the sailboats. This is the yacht club that sponsors the aforementioned Sydney to Hobart Race and is one of the oldest sailing clubs in Australia. After a stroll through The Rocks area, we made it back to the ship just as a huge downpour deluged Sydney.
The big talk in Sydney was the two shark attacks which took place while we were there. There haven’t been shark hits in many years inside the harbor. The theory is that recently the harbor has been cleaned up, thus
attracting fish to the clean water which in turn draws the sharks. It is probably difficult for a shark to differentiate between a yummy barracuda and a tender surfer.
After dinner on the ship with John and Dawn we sailed out of the harbor and it was a lovely sight as the opera house, bridge and the lights of Sydney faded from view. We went out on the aft deck and tried to signal with our flashlight to Dawn and John who were watching us sail away. They couldn’t really see our light but they said that the ship looked real pretty all lit up and gliding regally through the narrow Heads out to sea.
We celebrated Valentine’s Day on board with a black tie dance and had dinner in the new Prime 7 Steakhouse with good friends, Mike and Sherry and Nancy and Rick—couples who enjoy each other and enjoy life—just right for Valentine’s! Some of our favorite Australian entertainers are on board during this segment. Black Tie is a quartet comprised of two brothers and their wives and what a talented family it is. They play piano, cello, sing and joke their way through an entertaining
evening on stage. Donald Cant, called the Australian Phantom since he starred as the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's show for a long time. One night at dinner he came over to our table and serenaded us with the unofficial Australian national anthem, "In a Sunburnt Country." It was a very poignant moment, especially given what is occurring in this nation right now.
We arrived in Melbourne just as an orange sun was rising and it was an ominous sight. Australia has been plagued by natural disasters in the last few weeks. The rains in the north have been devastating with over 60% of the state of Queensland underwater. Over 100,000 head of cattle drowned in the flood. Further south the country is suffering a severe drought. There was a heat wave for several weeks which destroyed gardens, trees and vineyards. But the worst by far are the wildfires, which have incinerated whole towns and forests in the state of Victoria. We could smell the smoke and see the flames far out at sea. Firefighters have been flown in from all over the world including some from California to battle this enormous catastrophe. Many people chose to stay on
Sydney City Bridge
their property and confront the firestorm which resulted in a very high death toll. It seems that the whole country is uniting in efforts to aid the stricken victims with fund-raising concerts, golf tournaments, raffles etc. Our friends in Melbourne, Bob and Jan and John and Cheryl met us at the pier and told us about friends and acquaintances who have been devastated by the fires.
John and Cheryl took us on an all day drive on the Great Coastal Highway to Apollo Bay. This road is considered one of the most beautiful in Australia and is often compared to Big Sur in California. This is where some of the highest sea cliffs in the world can be found. The GCH was carved out of the mountainside by returning WWI veterans who were called “Diggers.” We visited John and Cheryl’s development which consists of about a dozen gorgeous glass and steel duplexes overlooking Apollo Bay. That evening we hosted the two couples on board for dining and dancing. Since we first met Jan and Bob twelve years ago on the Oriana sailing from England to Australia, we have managed to see each other about once a year and thus
maintain the friendship. John and Cheryl’s daughter and her husband have a great winery several hours out of Melbourne. Koonara Vineyards is a highly respected winery and they have received many awards for their shiraz and cabernets. They presented us with two bottles of their great wine as a memento of our visit. Someday we would love to tour the Coonawara region where their grapes are grown on property which has been in the family for over 100 years.
We will continue along the southern edge of this huge country, across the Great Australian Bight, enjoying another week of Aussie hospitality.
There are more photos below