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Christmas Day at Bondi Beach

Golden sand, azure seas and blue sky: this is what it's all about.

Golden sand, azure seas and blue sky: this is what it’s all about.

For many Sydneysiders (and tourists), Christmas Day means a visit to the beach. And what better stretch of sand than Australia’s iconic Bondi Beach? I lived here during my first residence in Sydney (1999 to 2004), and now I’ve finally been able to move back. 🙂

On Christmas Day, festive headgear is part of the dress code.

Even the police get into the spirit of the season.

Not a snowflake in sight, but the trappings of a Northern Hemisphere Christmas are unavoidable.

The Red Baron dropped in for a visit, too.

There’s no escaping the crowd, however.

This is NOT my idea of fun!

This is NOT my idea of fun!

Even the waves were full of people.

Crowded waters

Crowded waters

The sweep of the beach seen from the north end.

Remember I said I moved back? My building is the white one at the far left of this photo.

Remember I said I moved back? My building is the white one at the far left of this photo.

So now you know what Christmas Day at Bondi Beach is like!

Bondi mural

Bondi mural

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Boxing Day on the water: ‘James Craig’ and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race

‘James Craig’ is a Sydney-based barque-rigged tall ship (the two photos above). If you’ve followed my blog for any time, you will have come across photos taken while sailing in tall ships. This year I joined ‘James Craig’ as a passenger (I felt quite wicked not having to pull ropes, or helm, or go aloft, or clean the heads, or wash the dishes …) for a day sail that also gave prime viewing of the first stage of the annual Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

The morning was bright and sunny, and we motored from the ship’s berth in Darling Harbour, along Sydney harbour and out between The Heads (the two headlands that frame the entrance to Sydney harbour from the ocean). It was a perfect few hours of sun tanning, admiring the scenery and taking photos of the ship.

Facts, figures and history of 'James Craig'.

Facts, figures and history of ‘James Craig’. You can also see some of those 50,000 rivets!

Time to set some sails!

Jibs on the bowsprit.

Jibs on the bowsprit.

Crew undoing the gaskets on the fore topgallant sail.

Crew undoing the gaskets on the fore topgallant sail.

The race

Of course, the highlight of the day was seeing the yachts burst out of the harbour and into the ocean. Since 1945, yachts have competed on the day after Christmas in a race covering the roughly 630nm from Sydney to Hobart. They boats must cross the Bass Strait, notorious for high winds, dangerous currents and unpredictable seas. 2015’s race began in idyllic sunshine in Sydney, but the crews knew they would be facing a “southerly buster” later the first night.

This is one of the course markers, seen in front of South Head. There are four markers, two inner and two outer, indicating where the larger and smaller yachts must turn. Pass on the wrong side, and you must turn around, go back and try again! (The red and white lighthouse is the Hornby Lighthouse, which began operations in 1858.)

This is one of the course markers, seen in front of South Head. There are four markers, two inner and two outer, indicating where the larger and smaller yachts must turn. Pass on the wrong side, and you must turn around, go back and try again! (The red and white lighthouse is the Hornby Lighthouse, which began operations in 1858.)

(I freely admit that the quality of these next photos is not great. Maximum camera zoom, sea spray, haze, overcast sky, and trying to shoot bouncing objects while also trying to stay upright on a ship that is itself rolling and pitching was a fatal combination! But you’ll get an idea of what it’s all about.)

The first yachts to pass the heads — and the ones that gather all the glory and excitement — are the biggest ones. These are the rock stars of yacht racing.

And here they are, still in the harbour: Comanche, Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100 and Rambler.

And here they are, still in the harbour (the ocean is to the right). From right to left: Comanche, Perpetual Loyal, Wild Oats XI, Ragamuffin 100 and Rambler.

Starting to spread out …

And if racing a high-tech 100-foot yacht isn’t hard enough, the crews have to contend with the dozens of small boats around them.

Perpetual Loyal surrounded by spectators.

Perpetual Loyal surrounded by spectators.

That explosion beside Comanche is a small power boat hitting a wave.

That explosion beside Comanche is a small power boat hitting a wave.

No, that's not a cliff face behind that tiny power boat, it's Comanche. Look at how big those waves are, and how small that boat is! And none of those people are wearing a life jacket.

No, that’s not a cliff face behind that tiny power boat, it’s Comanche. Look at how big those waves are, and how small that boat is! And none of those people are wearing a life jacket.

This is Wild Oats (L) and Ragmuffin (R), and hordes of spectator boats.

This is Wild Oats (L) and Ragmuffin (R), and hordes of spectator boats.

Here’s Wild Oats again. The people give some scale to the size of the yacht!

Tiny people, giant sail!

Tiny people, giant sail!

In case you’ve got the idea that there are only five boats in this race, think again! Dozens of yachts of various sizes take part. The fastest takes just over two days to reach Hobart; the slowest just over four days.

Here they come, straggling out into the ocean.

Here they come, straggling out into the ocean.

No spectator swarm for the middle of the pack!

No spectator swarm for the middle of the pack!

Heading off to Tassie, spinnakers flying.

Heading off to Tassie, spinnakers flying.

Back on ‘James Craig’

It was time for us to head for home. And yup, it started to rain. The weather did have the advantage of clearing the decks and giving a new look to the ship.

I could not have taken this photo of the poopdeck before the rain, as it was packed with people.

I could not have taken this photo of the poopdeck before the rain, as it was packed with people.

What IS this thing? An exhaust? A speaking tube? A garbage chute?

I don't know what it is, but it's eye catching. Even in the rain.

I don’t know what it is, but it’s eye catching. Even in the rain.

Here is the ship’s second bell, which I hadn’t spotted until cowering under an awning while hiding from the rain.

Turn the glass and strike the bell!

Turn the glass and strike the bell!

I do know that this thing is: a bilge pump, which relies on human power to work. Luckily for the crew (all volunteers), they don’t actually use it.

Bilge pump.

Bilge pump.

These wonderful lines belong to a wooden boat mounted on the deck house.

Perfectly symmetrical planking.

Perfectly symmetrical planking.

Rain adds an interesting element to things you might otherwise take for granted.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge loomed over us as we neared the turn into Darling Harbour.

You may have to look twice to make out the bridge and two flags.

You may have to look twice to make out the bridge and two flags. That curved metal thing is not part of the ship!

Looking up the fore mast as we passed under the bridge.

Looking up the fore mast as we passed under the bridge.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into an Australian Boxing Day tradition. I know I had a great day! You can read the full story behind the ‘James Craig’ — its working life, abandonment and resurrection by a dedicated team of volunteers — at the Sydney Heritage Fleet website.

Race update: the wild weather of the first night played havoc with a number of boats. At time of writing, 1 day and 6 hours into the race, 22 yachts have retired, including two of the maxis. The mainsail of Wild Oats (which has been the first yacht to reach Hobart for the past eight years) split during a squall, and although no one was injured the yacht returned to Sydney. Perpetual Loyal pulled out with a broken rudder. Comanche hit something in the dark, suffering a broken rudder and damaged daggerboard, but the crew decided to continue the race as best they could. Hours later, Rambler, too, struck something, but is limping on.
The five yachts closest to Hobart are: Comanche (US), Rambler (US), Ragamuffin (AUS), Maserati (Italy) and Ichi Ban (AUS). If you’d like more information, visit the official race site.


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Sculpture by the Sea 2015

dust - Norton Flavel

dust – Norton Flavel

The annual outdoor display of sculptures is on again in Sydney. With artworks dotted for 2km along the coast from Tamarama Beach to Bondi Beach, this free two-week event is hugely popular.

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There are over 100 artworks on display — but don’t worry, I didn’t photograph every one. 😉

A few sculptures that caught my eye

ashes to ashes – Kim Perrier

bath – Vince Vozzo

bath - Vince Vozzo (detail)

bjf13 – Ben Fasham

city dreams – Gao Xiaowu

city dreams - Gao Xiaowu

fun! – Naidee Changmoh

fun!- - Naidee Changmoh

intervention – Mike Van Dam

intervention - Mike Van Dam

kakashi – Zilvinas Zempinas

kakashi - Zilvinas Zempinas

man on ball – Wang Shugang

listen time passes – Barbara Licha

listen time passes - Barbara Licha

tree spirit eggs – Mark Eliott

tree spirit eggs - Mark Eliott

undulation – Benjamin Storch

undulation - Benjamin Storch

quotidianity the brothers – Fabio Pietrantonio

quotidianity the brothers - Fabio Pietrantonio

These “sculptures” were created by Mother Nature — eroded sandstone.

A few other things that caught my eye

I deliberately took a day off work so I could avoid the crazy crowds on a weekend, but look at all the people on the path! I’ve put this post in my Strolls around Sydney category because, believe me, a strolling pace is as fast as it’s possible to move.

It’s important to stay hydrated and safe in the Sydney sun (when the sun actually shines, that is — it’s been very wet here for the past few days!). There was free water …

… and free sunscreen.

And someone has to keep the artworks looking clean!

Keeping it clean.

Keeping it clean.


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Wishing I was back in Vanuatu

Eratap Beach Resort, Etafe,cabana

Eratap Beach Resort, on the island of Etafe. Each villa has its own thatched beach cabana.

After three days of torrential rain and gale force winds, of broken umbrellas and wet feet, of disrupted transport, fallen trees and floods, of a storm billed variously as “Sydney’s storm of the decade” or even (eek!) “Sydney’s storm of the century”, my thoughts turn longingly to the sunny tropical paradise of Vanuatu. Memories of my holiday there led, of course, to recollections of the devastation wrought on that island nation by the recent tropical storm, which put Sydney’s storm into perspective. But my mind turns to pleasanter times.

Outrigger canoe, Lelepa Island.

Outrigger canoe, Lelepa Island. The snorkelling here was astounding: calm clear water, healthy and vibrant coral, a myriad of colourful fish, all accessible from the beach.

Sunset, Eratap, Vanuatu

Sunset from my own stretch of beach.

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Bench with a view: Coogee and Clovelly

Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

You know the saying: every dark cloud has a silver lining. My particular dark cloud for the past two days has been having to endure a “corporate team-building event”, a peculiar mix of stultifying boredom and the stress brought on by the need to hide such boredom. My silver lining was that the event was held at a hotel in Coogee, which is a beach suburb just a few kilometres south of where I live. Free (at last!!) at 4:45pm today, I headed home along the coast path, savouring the treat of a weekday walk as the sun set.

I knew there were a number of benches en route, but not until I started to photograph them did I notice that they were not all the same. Wooden benches, metal benches, art benches — all with a view. Just the thing for another post for HeyJude’s Benches with a View!

A bench with very long legs! Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

A bench with very long legs! Late afternoon, Coogee Beach.

This couple was more interested in each other than the view from their bench.

This couple was more interested in each other than in the view from their bench.

This bench looks down on Gordons Bay, a popular swimming, snorkelling and diving spot.

This bench looks down on Gordons Bay, a popular swimming, snorkelling and diving spot.

A row of sinuous metal benches at Clovelly.

A row of sinuous metal benches at Clovelly.

Near the lifeguard station, Clovelly.

Near the lifeguard station, Clovelly.

I had hoped for a more dramatic sunset, but the peacefulness of my last shot almost makes up for the lack of drama.

Watching the sun set, Clovelly.

Watching the sun set, Clovelly.

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Location shots


In Your Sights
In Your Sights is finished, at last. The Kindle version went live on Amazon on 10 December, the paperback will be on Amazon by the end of this week, and over the next few weeks the e-book will trickle into Apple, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Much of the novel is set in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, the area in which I have lived for the 10 years I’ve been in Sydney. I love the proximity to the ocean, the carved cliffs on whose edges I can sit and watch the ocean, and the often-poignant decay of Waverley Cemetery.

I worked all these things into In Your Sights.

I was surprised, though, at how my mind tricked me. I would write lines about seeing this or that, and then a few weeks later I would walk over a path or cliff and think, “Hang on, so-and-so can’t actually see that!” So I took a number of location shots that I could refer to while writing.

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