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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Oz: Sydney's Crazy, Happy New Year

boats anchored in Farm Cove near Sydney Opera House and Sydney Bridge for fireworks
Sydney's spectacular New Year's Eve display (pilfered from Sydney Morning Herald -
my images do not even remotely due credit to the show).  Somewhere in the silhouettes is us and our boat!
"Yeah - Sydney's an awesome place to spend New Year's Eve - along with 10,000 other boats, most of whom normally never get behind the wheel.  Got a friend there with a boat?" Darren Parker, of DBY Boat Sales laconically asked. Darren knew we have a boat as we're gearing up to sell it through DBY.

Most of the yachties we know either sail boats like ours -- a bit too cosy for four, or, they already were full up with friends and family for the big event.
Even days before Sydney's world famous New Year's eve fireworks. we were agog with the lights of the city, including this ferris wheel on the other side of the Sydney Bridge.
What the heck -- if we could survive 18,000+ miles of sailing halfway around the world, which included getting hit twice by catamarans (this time, and this time), we could survive Sydney Harbour, New Year's Eve (madness) or not.

Thus, two days early, we staked out our spot at Farm Cove, the closest we could get to Sydney Bridge and Opera House.  That was the epicenter for Sydney's world famous New Years Eve display, with fireworks going off the bridge, and off two fireworks barges parked off the bridge.  No worries about sharing our space with superyachts -- 15 meters (49 feet) was the biggest boat allowed anchorage in Farm Cove.

At that point, there were only 6 of us boats anchored there.  The skies were gray, and we've had far calmer passages that rolly, regularly waked anchorage.  The entertainment and anticipation far outweighed the inconvenience and discomfort, when it took clever tactics to keep anything loose inside our boats from going airborne and landing with a hard thump.
Ovation of the Sea, dwarfing the Sydney Bridge, the night before "the big event."  No cruise ships allowed for that.

We watched the more sedate ginormous cruise ship, Ovation of the Sea, dwarf the Sydney Bridge as made its leviathan way exiting the harbor for the sea.

In the wee hours, calm reigned, briefly.  As a test run for the upcoming festivities, the bridge put on a light show, strobing and beaming in blue, turquoise, red, magenta, indigo, green, yellow and white lights.

By the time New Year's Eve fireworks kicked in, there were ~200 boats in Farm Cove and "the Island" a floating diner, booked for a private party for the eve.
Neville and Catherine, getting into the holiday spirit aboard their sailboat Dreamtime, in Farm Cove, Sydney.
Our friends Neville and Catherine chose their location brilliantly.  They anchored right next to the exclusion zone line, which gave them an unobstructed view of the fireworks.  "I want to be as close as I possibly can to seven tons of fireworks."  They did have to move when some local officials came by New Year's Eve day, when the anchorage was already packed, and pushed everyone near the line, back.  That took some doing, given the density of boats.

Friends Marce and Frank of Escape Velocity moved from "just as crazy" Apple Bay to Farm Cove, noting, "We didn't travel 12,000 miles to see Sydney's New Year's eve fireworks at a distance."  Good thing, as while visiting them from my kayak, I pushed a boat about to hit them, away.

For non-yachties... how close is too close for boats to anchor next to each other?  
A close call in Sydney's Farm Cove, New Year's Eve.  Note the classic glare combined with hands-on-hips pose, quaintly referred to amongst yachties in the know as "bitch wings."  In this case, the pose proved effective.
There's two parts to it.  

The first part is how much chain and/or rope there needs to be between the boat and the anchor.  Our minimum is usually 5:1.  That means in a 30 foot anchorage, like Farm Cove, we would put out 150 feet of chain.  

Assuming everyone around us is doing something similar, and that they're good enough at anchoring that that don't "drag" (that their anchor stays in one place), then it's just a question of "swing room".  Swing room is how much surface area a boat needs clear around it in order to not hit anything (like another boat); even on a well anchored boat shifts occur due to wind, tide, current and wakes from other passing boats.  
One of many official attempts to restore order within the harbour.  Farm Cove, Sydney, New Year's Eve.
For example, if there's 150 feet of chain, less 30 feet to the bottom, plus the length of the boat -- in our case that's 37 feet, that we should ideally retain 157 foot arc around our boat.  Other boats around us would have a similar arc -- in theory, for safety, those arcs should not overlap.For those who cut it closer, and unwilling to do the math, 3 boat lengths -- typically at least 100-120 feet, is a widely accepted minimum.

Pretty much everyone in the anchorage was MUCH closer than that.  Collisions ensued.  We were called by a friend in the anchorage to alert us to a boat that came near hitting us several times, and we watched one on our other side, which also repeatedly came within less than 10 feet.  Amazingly, we didn't get hit.

Fortunately, despite being packed like sardines and lots of alcohol, everyone was pretty pleasant.  We were all there to have a good time.

In fact, while neither Wayne nor I are much for crowds, "yachter-tainment" aka "yacht tv" (watching the ineptitude and antics of other yachties) was at its finest.  There were buff guys in hot pink speedos.  Partiers jumping off the tops of tall small fishing boats.  A current-aged beach boy look-alike swimming throughout the anchorage and inviting himself aboard (a friend's boat).  A whacky ancient lyric popped into my head, from Sherman Allan's "My Aunt Minnie," She went to a happening.  (And didn't know what was happening.)

port authority boat spraying water in Sydney HArbour
Port Authority boat starts off the Sydney New Year's eve festivities with a sprinkler show.
There there was the show itself.

It kicked off with a pair of stunt planes, twining and looping their way in tight tandem through the sky.  A Port Authority boat acted as a mobile massive sprinkler unit.  A solo stunt pilot showed off with steep vertical climbs, followed with spiraling earthward stalls, and rapid swoops near boats and up the face of the Sydney Bridge.  As dusk ensued, large fruit bats joined them in flight.

Darkness was ushered in with the presence of a lighted boat parade, all boats decked out in white lights, the tall ship South Passage the prettiest of the bunch.

Music drifted across the water from events on both sides of the cove, a tribute to the passing music legends David Bowie and Prince (reflected in later "Purple Rain" pyrotechnics).  It was too late in the game to pay tribute to Princess Leia aka Carrie Fisher or her mum, Debbie Reynolds.

From Fairfax Media's video of Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks.  Click here to watch it.
9 pm the first set of fireworks exploded, amidst the appropriate ooohs and ahhhhs and whoops and clicking and whirring of cameras and camphones.  Brent and Ana of Catamaran Impi did an excellent job of capturing the fireworks live - click here to see their video.

Midnight marked the finale, as the final artillery of the last of the 12,000 shells, 25,000 shooting comments and 100,000 pyrotechnic events.  A golden waterfall of light flowed over the bridge whilst the sky was ablaze with fireflowers in blues, greens, gold, violet, indigo and magenta.

$7 million dollars, gone in a puff of smoke, yet a truly glorious and epic smoke, shared to the delight of millions (and the two of us, on our little tiny sailboat, a long, long way from where we started).

As the smoke cleared, Farm Cove emptied out, while the Sydney Bridge light show continued.

view of Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks from Farm Cove
New Year's Eve ireworks fade, as the Sydney bridge lights begin their dance.
By 11 am, New Year's day, when we left, there were only about a dozen boats still in Farm Cove.

"Did you see the 'Happy New Year Sydney' flash in the sky?" asked our new Ozzie friend Michael at the beach the next day.  He watched the fireworks from a high land vantage point.  We didn't.  Nor did we see the "Willy Wonka" moment in tribute to the comic acting genius Gene Wilder

Regardless, it was one helluva spectacular show, one we will never forget.  Fittingly, Sydney earned its place among our favorite New Year's Eves, fittingly, right up there with Havana, Cuba, two years ago, near the start of our grand voyage.

Farm Cove, still pretty awesome without the fireworks - especially after so much time in 2nd and 3rd world countries.
Sydney Australia.
Nev, in his post, concludes "Would we do it all over again next year?  Absolutely!  Although perhaps on somebody else's boat."

My hope is that we can look back at 2017 with more fondness than we did 2016.  Maybe David Bowie's "Heroes," credited with helping bring down the Berlin wall is the perfect start. Per wikipedia, Bowie scholar David Buckly wrote " 'Heroes' is perhaps pop's definitive statement of the potential triumph of the human spirit over adversity."  

Yes - let's all hum a few bars and see what we can do to make it happen... "We can be heroes, just for one day...."


A little late (though there's still 360 days left)

Happy New Year!


Calm returns to Farm Cove, Sydney in the wee hours of New Year's morning.
Location Location
We anchored in Farm Cove (S33.51.571 E151.13.187) December 29 2016 - January 1, 2017.  We are back in Pittwater (S33.39.435 E151.18.041), resuming our prep for Journey's sale.  

Up Next
We're shopping for a van camper/conversion (downsizing again!).  Once we've found a van Journey is ready for show, we'll tour Australia for a bit by land before we return to work, somewhere.  There are still lots of catch-up posts coming, some blog clean-up and posts of our overland travels.  This year, my "best of 2016" recap will be late in coming - sometime by month's end.  2016 was a pretty intense end-of-year.