One Man and His Dog…and his Board and his Boy

Secret Water has gone Aotearoa. The land of the long white cloud lived up to its name last saturday as we drove down into Matauri Bay, with mist shrouding the islands and hardly a soul on the beach, just the way I like it. We were greeted by a very bouncy friendly dog who we realised was waiting on the beach for his master who was giving his little boy a surfing lesson. A really heart warming sight, especially when the boy caught a great wave and stood up all the way into the shore.

One eye on the waves

Father to Son

Happy Dog

Are you sure that's safe?

Home in time for lunch

Art by the Ocean

Take a look chook

Last Friday, after several years of missing out, I made it to the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, an annual event staged on the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk. If you also made it there yourself this year then you’ll have experienced the real deal, but for those of you who didn’t get a chance to take a stroll, here are some snaps of the ones I got to see. They are mostly from the Tamarama end of the walk as I went on the last and only sunny weekday of the exhibition and struggled to get through the throng with the pram. I was thanking my lucky stars I didn’t bring the dog as she would have surely been arrested by a Waverley warden for boisterous behaviour given the number of four legged designer dusters out and about.  Next year I have vowed to go at the crack of dawn, finish with a breakfast picnic and then get the hell out!

Anyway, on with the show. Apologies in advance if my commentary on any of the pieces causes offence or exposes my amateur eye for art. Enjoy.

This was the first one I looked at. I love it. So simple and in memory of the indentical rusty one I just threw out,  I might stick this on the wall in the kitchen!

What a Grate Piece!

This one was like an item of clothing I’d normally walk straight past. On second glance though I had to admire the genius in this one. The sheer complexity and attention to detail is mind boggling. All made from discarded bottle tops and a stark reminder of the awful trail of rubbish we leave in our beautiful ocean.

Sea Slug


Cable Tie-tastic

Another favourite were these clusters of sea urchin, barnacle sort of things. I couldn’t help wondering if the artist had been inspired by the local coastal flora close by or was it just a coincidence? In fact all the way along I kept seeing art mimicking nature.



Pretty in Pink


If the panel van’s a rockin….. know the rest

The invention of Goretex obviously passed this guy by completely…..

Sweaty Betty

I absolutely love this one. Made of sand. Real talent. Looks just like the real thing but bigger.

Fab Crab

Can someone please explain this one to me? I just dont get it.

The lights are on but nobody's home

I reckon this one would get the people’s choice award. I love the tail feathers and the eggs inside. Reminds me of one of those ceramic chooks you keep your eggs in, in the kitchen. Always wanted one of those… 

Take a look chook

Take another look chook

Not sure if you can pick out this aboriginal rock carving in the photo, but clearly Waverley Council weren’t the first ones to think of staging an exhibition on the clifftops.

The original sculpture by the sea

And I have to say, isn’t mother nature the most talented sculptor of all?

Touched by the sea

Here’s the rest in a gallery….

Remarkable Bare Green Patch and Other Favourite Places

Maritime undertones with a hint of windy weather

An acquaintance last weekend with a pleasing bottle of pinot got me thinking about how evocative and meaningful place names can be, reminders of people and places we’d like to go back to. The vintage in question was a pinot noir called Storm Bay, made of course from Tasmanian grapes.  Reg and I, having both sailed past that exact spot on the South East corner of Tasmania numerous times, had to pass over less imaginatively named (and priced) wines on the list and have a taste. Funnily enough my memory of the place and the taste of the wine, whilst both wonderful, were a bit mismatched; the wine being refreshing and light, and the place more wild and windswept, perhaps more suited to a boisterous shiraz!

Making his way along uncharted waters along the coast of Australia, Captain Cook and his crew must have had a lot of fun coming up with suitable names for the bays, headlands, landmarks and hazards they encountered. Whilst many tell a story about the voyage itself, others just state the blinding obvious. I imagine for Aboriginal people these names seemed superfluous given most of these places had names with significant meaning already. For me they are reminders of my travels and the people I shared them with. Here are a few of my favourite location names on nautical charts:

 “Remarkable Bare Green Patch” which is indeed a remarkably bare patch of grass on the cliffs near Diamond Head on the northern coast of New South Wales.  It reminds me of a Sydney to Southport race when we were becalmed and had time on our hands to ponder the origins of names on a chart.

 “The Wrigglers” a group of rocks not far from the Lizard Point in Cornwall. This is a favourite just because it sounds silly and makes me think of home and the Cornish tendency for unusual place names (think Mevagissey and Ventongimps).

“Sow and Pigs” on Sydney Harbour, because, well it really is a pig if you hit this one!

“The Iron Pot”, a landmark hailing from Hobart’s whaling days which stands at the entrance to the Derwent River in Tasmania, signalling the end of a cold wet voyage and the vicinity of a well earned and welcome rum!

What’s your favourite place name (nautical or not) and what does it remind you of?

Capturing a Whiff of Salty Air

This little chap is a long way from his clifftop home in Cornwall

There seems to have been a bit of a theme running in my recent posts about getting outside despite the weather and embracing winter. As the arrival of baby Jones number two fast approaches, accompanied by some serious nesting behaviour I have now had to get my head around the prospect of spending more than a few weeks in the vicinity of home.

They say our homes are a reflection of our personalities and for me this is about bringing the outdoors in and unleashing the amateur interior stylist in me!

Here are a few quick snapshots of favourite treasures collected on my travels that transport me to the sea when there won’t be a whiff of salt in the air for a while.

Whilst I am closer to home I’ll endeavour to write some more practical posts; look out for “Choosing lifejackets for kids and dogs”, lots of great book reviews and some winter warmers on the recipe front. All being  well we’ll be back on, in or arond the water very soon!

Rain Fairies Work Their Mushroom Magic

Magic Mushrooms

There seemed no end to the rain this week. Today the sun did come out and even though a hectic birthday party circuit put pay to a tinny trip this weekend, I did spot this amazing explosion of fungi bursting from a tree trunk at Gray’s Point when taking Rhubarb down to the point for swim.

I think the tree may have been dead or dying and the fungi visual proof of the rotting wood inside the trunk, boosted by the recent heavy rainfall. Not having an Australian fungi field guide, I turned to the internet to try and identify them and came across a great site with lots of photos. I think they might be “Orange Fan Brackets” or Anthracophyllum archeri,  described by Bill Leithhead as: “Cap to 35 mm, pale orange to bright red, usually reddish-brown. Gills decurrent, shallow and widely spaced, paler colour than cap, duller; maybe adnate to very short lateral stem. Spore print white. Australian forests and woodlands.” Although they may not be orange enough? Are there any fungi folk out there in the blogosphere? 

The aroma of the fungi was almost as impressive as the vision; if I could have identified them as edible they’d have been whipped into my favourite Antonio Carluccio mushroom risotto to warm the cockles!

Bad Weather Always Looks Worse Through a Window

Sunshine on a rainy day

I couldn’t agree more with whoever penned this anonymous anecdote. Despite the fact that I have lately been complaining on the domestic front about the incessant rain we have had in Sydney, we did manage to get out in the tinny between the showers, the Sunday before last. I have been so busy catching up on washing and drying since that I haven’t had time to write about it.

Its also true that kids don’t notice the cold and only care about getting wet when adults make a fuss. I’m also a great believer in going outside and getting cold, just so you can come back in, put the kettle on and get warm again, not to mention the lack of crowds at the boat ramp.

So with all this in mind we rugged up and headed down to Southwest Arm to get out of the house and cure the encroaching cabin fever, armed with a thermos full of Bill Granger’s tomato soup and “healthier” chocolate brownies.

Lucky Dip

Even if you don’t have a tinny I highly recommend embracing the rain and getting out into some native bush to blow away the cobwebs. There will be lots of waterfalls running and the moisture really brings out that unmistakable blend of eucalypt, moss and sandy Sydney soil. If you’re still not convinced here’s a couple of rainy day quotes to coax you into it.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.  ~Author Unknown

For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.  ~George Gissing, “Winter,” The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1903

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains.  One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.  ~Adeline Knapp

Hidden Treasure up The Georges River

Treasure Hunting

It often happens that when out and about in the tinny there is more to look at and see than can be covered in one blog post, and I return home with a memory card full of photos and a brain buzzing with inspiration. Thus was the case after we’d spent a couple of hours snapping vintage boats at the Variety Club Putt Putt Regatta back in March.  The smell of two stroke and diesel fumes we’d inhaled after loitering around the regatta course was eventually too much for us so we cranked up the Mercury and went exploring up The Georges River. Georges River is quite different to Port Hacking, deeper, less sandy and I’m told offers a higher likelihood of an encounter with a noah (that’s shark for anyone not familiar with the Aussie slang).

This little jaunt was the perfect example of why sometimes its best to just follow the river and see where it takes you.  We cruised up the river at a refreshing 15 knots, admiring the waterside shacks, boatsheds and jetties, belonging to an array of residences ranging from opulent to “shabby chic”. We didn’t get all the way up the river (an adventure for another day) but grumbling tummies led us to stop in Como where we expected to find perhaps a café or kiosk offering the usual marina style fare of fish and chips, ice cream etc.

Hmmm...GPS not updating fast enough!?

To our surprise we came across an unusual combination of chandlery, granny craft and Asian cuisine. We pulled up at the Como marina where you can hire tinnies for the day and browsed around the charming chandlery, an outlet providing for all the practical requirements of the small boat owner and fisherman as well as some nauticalia for your home or boatshed such as mobiles and model boats.

Crab nets... a bargain at twice the price!


Just outside the store was the “Café de Dogge” where your salty sea dog can help himself to a drink and be tied up if necessary. Sadly Rhubarb wasn’t with us to do her own review of the facilities.

Cafe de Dogue

Wandering on we passed a quirky little shop “The Marina Craft Nook”, stocked with beautiful creations from an array of local artists and crafters, seemingly manned by one of their elderly husbands sitting on a deck chair. Beautiful little girls dresses selling for a song that would fetch four times the price in a mosman boutique and knitted tea cosies that tugged at my heart strings saying “pick me”.

Take me home in time for tea!

Marina Craft Nook

We finished the trip with a casual Thai feast enjoyed in the shade of a beautiful garden that belongs to the Thai Rim Nan, a restaurant that resides tastefully in a gorgeous weatherboard heritage cottage at the entrance to the Marina.

The Thai Rim Nam

 Heading home via the boat ramp at Tom Ugly’s bridge where we launched, I had to reconcile myself with the decision not to purchase the pink hobby horse OR the $8 crab net. Much to Chris’ dread I’ll have to go back.

Sorely tempted


Google Map

Tom Ugly’s Boat Ramp

This map shows the marina at Tom Uglys Bridge on the western side of the bridge. We launched the tinny on the eastern side of the bridge which is accessible via a slip road from either side of Princes Highway. The ramp can be a little slippery and easier to launch with two people.

Como Marina Boat Hire

Escape to The Carribean

Sail Tuning on Practice Day

This week has been a busy one and fortunately guest blogger Bucko has been continuing his adventures on the high seas and beaming them back to Secret Water, for those of us stuck on land and dreaming of the white stuff. Whilst I can understand it entirely,  I’m not sure that I have total sympathy with his predicament of an overdose of power sail trimming and the need to get back to basics…as they say a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office! Anyway, in this latest guest blog, Bucko brings us an enviable snapshot of the Antigua Classics Race Week 2010. Over to you Bucko…

Well there are some perks to this job! being in the right place at the right time has not only left just me exhausted and sore but has rekindled my love of all things simple in the world of sailing. After joining the crew on a classic Caribbean Carriacou for Antigua Classic Race Week I have had to relearn the art of hauling in a sail and hoisting a spar.

Our Captain and owner Alexis built Genesis with a local boat builder the traditional way on the beach with a minimum of modern tools and no epoxy or electronic gizmos. Alexis works as a professional photographer here in Antigua and is the driving force when it comes to keeping these traditional fishing craft alive. With 10 entrants in our class ranging from 34ft to about 50ft we left the dock on a clear afternoon for our first practice sail and within 20 minuets we were punching into a fine Caribbean breeze and a healthy seaway to wet our decks and bodies. It’s amazing how little you need to get the best out of a boat! A couple of bits of spare string, some borrowed blocks and the top section of a destroyed spinnaker (that we made into our secret weapon).

crew member “Shredda” free climbs the rig to repair spinnaker halyard

Alexia our captain inspects the rig

 The fleet was divided into two distinct groups; firstly locals who use their craft all year round for commercial fishing and then the owners who bought, or have had boats built by locals, and race and cruise them for enjoyment. So you are left with newish boats with new sails and old fishing boats with sails fuller than a fat girl’s sock. The strange thing is that when you sail one every day for work and have no engine or electronics you get pretty damn good at knowing your vessel!

Race one started in about 17 knots of wind and by half way around the 20ish mile course we had the later starting big division thundering at us with plumes of spray coming off the bows of Ranger, Velsheda and the other huge division one classics. This timed in with a 28 knot rain squall hitting the fleet, Genesis had every piece of washing hoisted, spinnaker, staysail (half the genoa left up),the home made “water catcher”(a sail hoisted under the boom of about windsurfer size) and our huge gaff rigged mainsail, with its boom hanging some 5ft over our stern! We were off like a shot dog!

the water sail in action; knicknamed “the underwhomper”

8kts…9kts…10kts…. You have this strong feeling in your stomach that this boat should not be going this fast and why did I volunteer to trim the winchless mainsail? After surviving the first race we then had a carbon copy for day two! This included rain squall and a worse seaway. Race day three was a reach out, reach back and same again, so it was a day for the waterline boats and we saw the larger heavy schooners get through us. It has all come down to day four with even points for us and our rival Summer Cloud for first place overall .Lucky for us there was some good heavy upwind work and managed to keep the enemy at bay… but we still finished with equal points and all held our breath until the prize giving to hear if we’d won on count-back or whether the race committee were going to do it on elapsed time averages…and the results were;

  • First in division
  • First in class
  • Second in concourse de-elegance


The simple things in life....crew member Kristiansen enjoys the rain squall


Racing Results

Alexis Andrews Photography

Vanessa Hall Photography

Photo Action: Marine Photography by Tim Wright

Gordons Bay; A Little Gem in The Eastern Suburbs

Tinny Magic

You know that strange thing that happens when you’ve never heard of something and then after you learn about it for the first time, for days afterwards it keeps popping up everywhere?  This happened to me this week in a very nice way with the discovery of Gordon Bay near Clovelly in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. When leaving the SLSC car park after a trip to Clovelly beach last week I spied what the Cornish would describe as a cove, with a line of small boats, rafted up along the top of the beach.  When Tess and I returned today to check it out we realised the walk was a little further than we anticipated from the car park, but absolutely worth it when we got there, not to mention the views on the way. Furthermore it fitted in nicely with our participation in the Great Outdoor Challenge. The walk itself goes all the way along to Coogee and if you were in a rush you might just overlook Gordons Bay on your way past. This didn’t happen to me as I was sucked in by the sight of over a dozen tinnies, all racked up together, glinting in the sun.

Two of my favourite things

We had the beach more or less to ourselves for a couple of hours,  save for a few surfers heading across the rocks to reach the bombora,  and a black dog out for a swim with a large stick.

This Black Dog's Not Depressed

If you’re looking for a quiet weekday spot to take the kids for a paddle and a fossick around the rockpools, or somewhere quiet to read a book, away from the buzz of Bondi , then this is just the spot. Don’t forget to take a picnic. We wished we’d brought our thermos along to wash down a scrumptious slice of Clovelly Bakery Bread and Butter Pudding (we burned it off of course walking up and down the steps to get there).  If you’re after something a bit more active, Gordon’s Bay is the home of a scuba diving club who have established an underwater nature trail in the bay, which on a clear day can be enjoyed with a snorkel.  Anyway, in this instance, pictures say it better than words so here’s a snapshot of the delight’s of Gordon’s Bay. Get yourself down there.

Getting There

Clovelly is about a twenty minute drive from Sydney CBD

Google Map

Classic Boats and Putt Putts Grace the Georges River

Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion

At some point in every sailor or “boating enthusiasts'”  life an appreciation for classic, hand built vessels will eventually creep into your psyche. The young guns are always going to be wowed by the speed and technological brilliance that modern boat building can produce. The modern day Sydney to Hobart super maxis and the gin palaces of the rich and famous all have their place in the rich and vibrant tapestry of the yachting world. I’m the first to admit the usefulness of modern navigation tools and the maintenance time savings that can be achieved from carbon fibre versus timber. However you just have to agree that a wooden classic boat is a far more beautiful thing to behold and sail upon. In the words of the poet Robert N. Rose:  “Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made, for somewhere deep in their oaken hearts the soul of a song is laid.

So being a sailor who has come to appreciate the beauty of a classic we launched (the very unclassic but utilitarian) tinny at Tom Ugly’s bridge and set off across Georges River to the Variety Club’s  6th Annual  Classic Boat and Putt Putt Fundraising Regatta. Whilst the quantity of entrants was slightly disappointing with approximately 15 or so entries the quality of the vessels more than made up for it. On shore at the St George Motor Yacht Club the Hubertus Model Boat Club put on a display of lovingly crafted model boats and the Vintage Speed Car Association brought along a collection of cute little racing cars and motorbikes. In attendance were the usual candy floss, sausage sizzle , face painting, marine market place and big band crowd pleasers for young and old.

The main event saw the classic boats and putt putts do a couple of parades past the clubhouse before heading off on several laps of a course around Kangaroo Point and back. We got back on the water in the tinny and captured some of the action. Trying to snap moving vessels from my own bobbing boat certainly gave me a new appreciation for the skills of the professional marine photographer! We hope you enjoy the gallery and put it in your diary for next year!

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