Press Reset

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There have been day trips and twilight sails, working bees and winter sanding but finally we left the dock this Good Friday for our inaugural two nighter up beautiful South West Arm on the Port Hacking River.

Casting the lines off and putting out into the channel we cruised down to this convivial Easter anchorage, passing skiers and day trippers and soaking up the weekend holiday vibe.

Anchor down, we crack open the cheese and olives and sup a crisp verdelho for happy hour. The worries and stresses of our daily working lives can be seen washing away in the ebbing tide and out to sea, the change of scenery and a new experience replacing them for as long as we are here.

Toys be gone. A colouring book and some binoculars will suffice, the usual sibling bicker that erupts intermittently on a tiring school day has no place here.

Dinner from a flask. Slow cooked lamb casserole from last week, nuked to an inch of its life and poured into a heated flask is tipped into bowls and mopped up with sour dough and another glass of wine, a satisfying start to the weekend’s menu on a boat with no stove or powered refrigeration.

The night descends and with tired little ones tucked in we sit on deck and chat and sip to a symphony of splashes as mullet and tailer launch themselves out of the water.

Morning dawns and the rowdy squawk of cockatoos can be heard up in the park. The boats around us come to life. The guttural splutter of the diesel engine on a motor cruiser charging the batteries to chill the beer and keep the bait cool. Ski boats can be heard zipping up and down in the distance as the waterway assumes its weekend playground persona. Bacon and eggs sizzle on deck barbeques, awakening our taste buds so we hop into the tinny with our camp stove and chug up the river for billy tea and a buttered hot cross bun, counting sting rays on the way.

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Refreshed with a swim and the tea we make our way up river, spying swallows nests tucked into sandstone overhangs and marvelling at the angophoras clinging defiantly to the rocks. Grass trees sought after in urban gardens are two a penny. Water falls trickle from rocks, evidence of flowing damns and watercourses, so long absent from the Sydney basin in recent years.

As the river shallows and becomes a rocky creek we leave the tinny behind and after another swim we wander up the trickling creek and wash the salt off before heading back down river for lunch. As we leave, a gaggle of scouts arrive, ten in a tinny and ten more towed behind on a doughnut.

Boys in boats with oversized outboards whump past. Kyackers hug the river bends and the odd camper defies the park signs, the tinge of campfire smoke in the air giving them away.

Back on the boat. A sandwich, a book and a lazy hour or two on deck and soon the afternoon sun is well past the yard arm. Thoughts turn to happy hour and I jump in the tender with the kids and a cool bag. Whilst Reg takes a nap we row up a nearby inlet onto sand flats. The kids strip off and play in the shallows and the sand and the mud for a good hour, munching chips and cheese despite sandy fingers until the camp stove arrives and we cook up our lamp chops and crack a beer.

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The light is changing and we are now in the shadow of the hill but the trees on the other side glow amber and the little red boat bobs on its anchor line, bathed in the warm evening light. Cockatoos resume their squawking as they return to their roost and the sea eagle soars tantalising out of my zoom range.

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We pack up and the tinny tows us back in the tender, the girls cradling an enamel pudding basin with a paper towel blankets and an imaginary baby (you know what they say about necessity). We pass a raft of big motor boats. Retired types and seasoned cruisers give a friendly wave as we pass, scrubbed up and shaved, gin in hand ready for a jolly evening aboard.

Back on board salty bodies are rinsed on the deck in the twilight before being dropped into pyjamas and tucked up in the forepeak, lulled to sleep to the gentle rocking of the boat at anchor and soft Cornish shanty voices emanating from the stereo. We sip wine in the red hue of the dual switch cabin light before heading up on deck again. Tide and wind are opposed but wind wins and our flotilla of yacht, tinny and tender slowly spin and make closer neighbours with the MV Carribean. We chat and aquaint ourselves until the tide turns and we spin back to where we were.

At 2am I’m rudely awakened by a sand fly in my sleeping bag. I zap it with “Rid” and wriggle back in my bag. An owl hoots in the bush beyond. Thankyou sand fly. With morning comes the Easter Bunny but not before I steal a quiet morning row in the tender before the anchorage awakes. I return to the boat and the hunt is in full swing and chocolate fuels the day to come.

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We breakfast on the beach again and head out in the tinny to meet friends. On the way home I snap the eagle. Edging ever closer I get the shot but he refuses to fly away sticking to his perch, denying me the chance to capture his impressive wingspan.

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A surprise visit from friends on board is the perfect way to punctuate the weekend. Drinks come out, some olives and the rest of the cheese. Happy snaps and boat banter and finally goodbye.

As we put up the river and approach the quay I feel an impending sense of disappointment and the anticlimax of a holiday that felt too short. But we’ll be back.

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Sulphur Crested Cocky Two Year Olds and Other Less Common Foreshore Species

Howdy strangers. Where did winter go? Its been all work and not much play here for a while. The occasional tinny trip. The lounge room at the Heron’s Nest has been strewn with companion way steps, stripped out bits and bobs of the insides of the Endeavour 26. Much sanding and varnishing. More on that in another post.

Last weekend, A few weekends ago, having reluctantly given up on the idea of fitting a camping trip in we headed down to Jibbon Beach, campstove, chairs, breakfast and lunch in tow. It was a glamour day, perfect for testing out a new camera.

Heron in a Gum Tree

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The reason you go to the beach….

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The sulphur crested cocky two year old….

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sporting her new muddy buddy

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…and other less common foreshore species…

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laters….

Why you should never EVER take a banana on a boat

Happy RaysSailors and seafarers are superstitious folk. Its always been this way. Never leave port on a Friday, never harm an albatross, NO pasties on board, avoid redheaded people before a voyage (?!!!) and apparently women on board are bad luck (pah!)…and bananas. Don’t bring bananas onboard.

So last weekend, Sydney produced some absolutely sublime weather; sunny clear skies, 10-15 knots from the west. We’ve decided, despite having a long list of renovations for the boat, that we just need to use it whenever the weather is right for taking small children on board, to get them used to it so when it is finally set up for over-nighters we can feel confident to take them out of the heads and up or down the coast.

The picnic basket is the most important aspect of putting to sea with children. Unfortunately when I was throwing things in the eski, upmost in my mind was mess free appealing food that fills them up. So I chucked in some bananas and didn’t give it a second thought.

It was a cracker of a day. In fact probably one of the happiest and funnest and joyous days I’ve spent with my family….

So back to the bananas. Until we got back to the mooring it was all smooth sailing. I was down below playing I spy with the girls….and there was a gentle bump as the keel hit the mud…followed by about ten minutes (that felt like thirty) of Reg thrashing the outboard and swinging around on the rigging until we eventually slid off. It was the first time we’d put the boat back on the mooring at low tide and we were excruciatingly a couple of metres from the mooring buoy. So whilst its a great spot in terms of distance to row the tender to shore, we will have to approach the mooring from a specific angle at low tide. Or leave the bananas at home.

If you know any interesting or unusual seafaring superstitions, please share!

Endeavouring…

Reg has a got a new tiller. All shiny new and varnished. It was the first item up for renovation on the little red boat that we adopted late last year. It still bears the name Red Endeavour, a title we plan to change (suggestions welcome), although I’m beginning to think the current name is rather apt. It is proving very much to be an endeavour and progress has been a little slow. But that’s no surprise.

Reg tinkering

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The Christmas holidays were a mad rush to get her surveyed, registered, drop a mooring and get her seaworthy to sail round to Botany Bay where she has been bobbing up and down ever since. Sadly I couldn’t join Reg for the sail, which is why there are no photos of this momentous occasion. Her previous owners took a stroll along the Esplanade at Cronulla and waved the beloved little red boat goodbye from the cliff tops.

We’d love to keep her in Port Hacking but there’s a long wait list for moorings. Gwawley Bay is on Botany Bay and is a 15 minute drive from where we live. It’s also just a stone throw from Endeavour Marine who we’ll probably get to know a little better as we work through the list of jobs required to be done before she’s ready for a jaunt up or down the coast with a crew of under-fives.

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Despite this slow progress it’s been pleasing to see how getting kids on boats is not just about the actual act of sailing (although that’s the goal). There are so many opportunities for them to learn and explore before they’ve even left the wharf. Miss Four spent at least two afternoons accompanying Reg on a maintenance mission. Threading new halyards, learning about running a mouse line (a four year old girl actually really gets the concept; it’s like hickory dickory dock, except in a mast instead of a clock). The new tiller needed to be fitted and the more boring jobs like fitting a manual bilge pump were endured by sitting in the cockpit singing away, doing some colouring in whilst happily licking an ice cream.

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Before she left her old home we took her for a trip up South West arm and whilst we didn’t get any sails up that day, it was a good opportunity to assess the renovations list down below…

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..and test out the sea legs…

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Put people to work polishing the top sides…

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…thirsty work…

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Top of my list is a working galley, although this will have to wait until we have replaced the egg beaters with a diesel donk as I don’t like the idea of naked flame and petrol engines in the same vicinity. The galley will be closely followed by some new lockers so we can stow a few items permanently and keep things ship shape down below (a challenge with toddlers on board).

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So, we have a deadline to get her sorted by the summer. We have family coming to visit and after an anticipated hard year at work I am already dreaming about a couple of weeks on Pittwater or Jervis Bay, simply messing about on boats, come Christmas. Will keep you posted.

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PS – if there are any Endeavour 26 enthusiasts out there with ideas for optimum below decks design configurations give me a shout :)

Rock Pooling

Muddy, brown swirling flood waters. Semi submerged flotsam and jetsam from way upstream. Deceptive currents invisible on the surface but strong enough to sweep away the humble tinny. Best head to the coast then, beyond where the rivers expel their coffee coloured dregs and where the magnitude of the Pacific surf has the power to wash away and dilute the murky masses of water that empty into it. Floods punctuated the close of a Sydney summer that never really was. Thank goodness for Rock pools, their crystal clear waters renewed daily by a fresh tide that inundates it. Perfect for exploring whatever the weather.

Mesmerised….

Enchanted

Emerald city….

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Pretty shells all in a row…

pretty shells all in a row

King Neptune’s necklace…

King Neptune's Necklace

A rose petal bubble shell (very exciting find!)..

Rose Petal Bubble Shell

Pipeline..

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Sea urchin…

Sea Urchin

Sticking…

Sticking

Potholes…

Potholes

Mr Pincy…

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at the kiosk..

escaping the midday heat

Someone else’s sandcastle

Someone else's sandcstle

What did you do last summer? :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Verdict

This time last week the potential excuses were stacking up and by week’s end, in the wake of a five year overdue university reunion, my physical condition for ocean swimming was very much in doubt. After more than a year of pontificating on the blog about dipping my toe in I finally did. On Sunday I was woken at some ungodly hour by a mosquito which saw me snapping the sunrise at Clovelly an hour ahead of registration time for the limited entry Clovelly 600.

 

The event was organised by OceanFit as part of the “TamaCloey 2.5km” swim and was aimed at beginner ocean swimmers. It definitely delivered, helped no doubt by the near perfect conditions on the day. The worst bit by far was waiting around on the beach contemplating  the awful scenario of getting a stitch or being sucked out to sea in a rip and having to be rescued. Or nibbled by something cartilaginous.

I was lucky to have some pre-swim counsel and advice from @coffeemumswims, a seasoned ocean swimmer, one of a number I’ve connected with on social media. I also paired up with another lovely lady called Sue who empathised on also being a first time ocean swim competitor. As it turned out this definition was a bit literal and really just to make me feel better; just because you havent done an actual ocean swim event doesnt mean you havent done triathlons. Anyway, she was very friendly and I appreciated her company on the start line.

I have to admit that the course instructions could have been a bit clearer, but then, I’m used to yacht races where detailed race instructions are issued with port and starboard roundings indicated for every mark. I almost had a heart attack when I mistook a turning mark for the 2.5km race for the seaward mark on our much shorter course. Needless to say the appearance of a closer pink buoy with yellow hatted fellow swimmers rounding it was a huge relief.

The swim out seemed easier despite the incoming tide, and Clovelly’s shallow waters enabled a great view of the sea life although I didn’t encounter the famous Clovelly Blue Grouper. Just after I rounded the buoy, as I stopped to catch my breath and check I wasn’t swimming to New Zealand, a friendly chap on a surf life saving ski asked me if I’d like a Martini.

I’m not actually in this picture yet
 

But I should be in there somewhere

Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. I really did enjoy the swim. It certainly got the heart pumping and the lungs working at full capacity and 1km would have more than stretched me. I like the no nonsenseness of ocean swimming, as @coffemumswims puts it, the simple “swimming from A to B”.

The best bit was swimming back over the breakwater and being picked up by the surge which lifted me over the kelp beds and into the closed waters of Clovelly Bay. You don’t get that in the pool.

Finished

 

Hidden Treasure Up the George’s River: Part II

Way back in 2010 I wrote about our first proper adventure up the George’s River. We’re really getting to know and love this stretch of water as it now almost  literally laps on our doorstep. Whilst not as sandy or as clear as the water’s up South West arm, George’s River is a more complex system with many tributaries and creeks to explore. Of these, The Woronora is fast becoming a favourite, not least for the rich diversity of wildlife that calls it home.

Percival

I’ve always thought King Fishers were shy and solitary birds so had to look twice when I saw this fellow dart up onto the phone wires…

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…and then swoop down to join his mates for a chat on the tinny hoist. They are called Sacred Kingfishers and are one of five King Fishers species down here in Aus. I love King Fishers.

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We’ve made a few trips up the Woronora on both of the most recent public holidays; New Year’s Day and Australia Day…

Rhubarb...

Helping Hand

Head of the River

Beach BBQ

River Cottage

Ratty's House

and discovered the charming Woronora Boat Shed and Cafe where we stopped in for Miss One’s first Cornetto on New Year’s Day…

Just one Cornetto

and made a note to return for a proper job brekkie with friends, which we did this Thursday the 26th, to celebrate our collective Aussiness…

The Boat Shed

We had the most relaxing breakfast in the history of breakfasts’ in the company of four under four.  You wouldn’t think this possible so close to the water but the treasure trove of toys and books at the back of the cafe kept ours busy for ages..

Toy Story

..and its generally a pleasant place for boaty types to fossick about and admire..

Mermalaid

collections

..and we weren’t disappointed by the coffee and breakfast, after which we took our little friend for his first tinnie spin back to Oyster Bay. He was well impressed.

It was this big

And finally a few things to consider you’re thinking of heading that way…

  • We launch at Oyster Bay Boat ramp which you can find here at the end of Oyster Bay Road. This is great for small boats on trailers and for all kinds of tinnies. It’s quite shallow and there are very few facilities but this means there are no queues for the ramp and plenty of trailer parking.
  • There are plenty of other places to launch including the ramp at Tom Uglys
  • If you don’t have a tinny you could hire one from Como Marina. These boats go pretty slow (max 10 knots I think) so they can be driven by unlicensed operators. This really  isn’t an issue because much of the river is 4knot and 8 knot no wash zones.
  • If you’re not familiar with it I do recommend having a thorough look at the charts and be aware of the absolute need to stick within the channel as you could come unstuck, well actually get stuck and that’s not fun.
  • Another option is to drive to the Woronora Boat Shed and hire one of their many kyacks and canoes. The perfect way to explore this beautiful stretch of water.

We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea

Last year we sold our beloved skiff and I wrote a heartfelt valedictory post about it here, where I celebrated the love of a boat that sadly had to go. In the meantime we’d sold our small house in south Sydney and headed for the leafy burbs of the ‘Shire, content with the tinny and the occasional race or delivery with old friends and connections whilst we focused on raising two girls and giving them a taste of the briny.

When we advertised the skiff online we got side tracked perusing the marine classifieds and day dreamed of the possibilities, a bit like some people do on domain.com on a Friday night accompanied by a chardy or two (actually that’s me as well). We pondered a few items in the four figure category, commenting on how lovely it would be to have something with a cabin to do overnighters on with the girls and take them outside of the heads.  Having just bought a house and not having yet sold our current one, not to mention the renovations required on the new one, we categorised a lead keel boat in the “several decades away” basket. In fact having done a few thousand miles on other people’s yachts, being a “proper” boat owner has never been top of the list.

But what would you say if someone offered you one. For free?.

Allow me to introduce you to the Red Endeavour.

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Generously donated by a family friend whose budget and ambitions have changed, this boat has been a  family fixture for about a quarter of a century. Mostly sailed on Port Hacking, and definitely pre-loved, its age a barrier to her owner’s urgency to reclaim the mooring for her replacement.

Our initial reaction to the offer was “yes, yes, yes” but there is actually more to taking on an old yacht than meets the eye. If I’m honest we both knew from the outset that we couldn’t say no. We did a bit of research on insurance, rego, moorings etc. and then went down for a lookie. Having noted the need for some TLC we uttered a predictable “yes”.

The pressing need to get her off her current moorings presented some unexpected challenges, which I will elaborate on in a future post. In the meantime she’s had her bottom scrubbed (well in need)…

Dirty Bottom

a once over from a marine surveyor (with recommendations)….

On the Slip

…..and a good gurney to blow away the guano (that’s a technical term for Sea bird poo in case you were wondering,) she was starting to look like a bit of a gift horse. I daren’t look her in the mouth.

I’m going to blog (now and then) about her ressurection which may be of interest if you’ve ever cruised the classified sections of “Afloat” magazine and don’t think its silly to adopt a bottomless money pit as your pet project (what house renovations?…)

calling all carpenters

table turned

Dunno about the dunny...

Need some money for new rope

Anchors Away!

Who has an overlocking industrial sewing machine?

..and who could resist the intoxicating and romantic aroma of two stroke…

The intoxicating and romantic aroma of two stroke

…from the egg beaters…

The egg beaters...

But….most importantly, when she’s scrubbed up and sea worthy I hope to bring you tales from the ocean waves with two under 5…

pondering the high seas

are you sure about this?rail fodder

hiking training

old anchor rope

…as well as the usual escape tales from the tinny, which I assure you will retain its rightful spot (in my eyes anyway) as the ultimate getaway vehicle from the stresses of modern life…

The tinny life

 What lengths have you gone to to avoid house renovations?! :)

 PS – If you’re interested in the captions that go with the photos, just hover your mouse over the image.

 

 

 

Slow Out of the Starting Blocks

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Early this morning I swam in the sea pool down at South Cronulla. On my own. The water was as flat as a millpond, zero breeze. Just ten laps. The water was warm and afterwards I felt a million dollars like I knew I would. Followed by ten minutes basking on the steps of the surf club with a coffee I was a new woman.

Taking part in an ocean swim has been on my agenda for an embarrasingly long time without much action. I vowed to give it a go in this post last year, hoping that a public proclamation of my intentions would force me into the necessary training regime. My efforts suggest I’m not that interested but I really I am, I just can’t seem to fit this singular activity into the hectic life that is a part time working mother of two pre-school children (who dont always sleep at night). Children and water need close attention so when I am not working and can make it to the beach with the kids, the closest I get to a proper swim is a wallow in the rock pools at low tide or at best a waist deep wade in the surf with a monkey on the hip.

My swim in solitude this morning was thanks to Reg being on holidays and at last a miniature surplus of time as a result of a long summer holiday that has allowed us to catch up on what has been a crazy busy year. When school (work) is in again it will be back to the grind and weekends dedicated (happily) to family time, sorting out the domestics, boating pursuits etc etc. So ocean swimming, other than training in the pool while the kids are in lessons, seems destined for the dream box again.

The thing that really appeals to me (having skulked around the general vibe of ocean swimming types; the ones on social media anyway) is the cameraderie and the idea that by coming last I won’t be laughed at (is this true?!). I know that if I did come last,  the physical rewards would compensate. I’d love to hear from any other ocean swimming mums and dads. Am I trying to fit too much in? How do you fit in training? Perhaps I should forget the training and just enter a swim that has a short course for beginners or would I just end up as shark food? Anyone down the southern side of Sydney interested in a weekday ocean swimming mother’s group where we can take turns?

surfreport

Messing About on Boats

Do you ever wish you were four again? The other day my little girl told me she wanted to be just like me. This isn’t necessarily a good thing but it put a smile on my face. I’ll dine out on it until she’s a teenager and tells me she hates me and wishes she’d never been born. Last Tuesday we took her for her first proper sail on a 30 foot yacht.

At The Helm

 I reassured our skipper that she is well behaved and great at following instructions, almost certain that in a new and slightly unfamiliar situation she’d be looking for guidance and doing as she was told to stay safe. As it turned out she had more confidence than a cabin rat in a hold full of cheese…

…below decks on a yacht is 4 year old cubby house heaven…

Cabin Rat

Portholes

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet

If she does turn out to be just like me she will love sailing and the sea with a passion. If she doesn’t, then so it is, she will be passionate about something else and that is fine. I’m not fussed if she doesn’t want to race, but if she just likes to mess about on boats, I will be a happy woman, and we will forever have some common ground on which to be friends.

Soul mates

Dreaming

What age would you return to if you could and what passion would you like to pass on to your own children?

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