Greater Sydney - Exploring a New Home?

Greater Sydney - Exploring a New Home?

Getting towards Sydney brings along mixed feelings. From exciting new to preparing to say goodbye to old, from joy to sad, from making new friends to meeting others a last time for years, the constant remaining only the sense of privilege to experience all of this. The last stop before Sydney Harbor is Broken Bay / Pittwater. Here we find boats that crossed the Pacific with us already sold, friends preparing to sell, but nobody continuing as is.

A brief visit to a prospective broker ends in a super friendly welcome-to-Newport tour. The very well kept neighborhood, the splendid beach and great shopping and dining contrasts with our state of mind, not decided to go north or south. Wonderful sunsets, stormy days at anchor, learning about Australia and preparing for the job ahead keep us distracted at times. So we soon do what we enjoyed for the past months: keep exploring, keep cruising. And add some very nice iced coffees with an occasional ice cream - our solar power excess turns into well frozen ice cream on board (with one panel disconnected while at anchor, still, to avoid cooking the batteries every day)!

Jade Akka well stuffed with food on board and also in ourselves we first dinghy to the next bay and start walking. It’s a lovely walk under Eucalyptus trees and huge ferns. With a steep ascent we soon reach the red, washed out rocks, layered over each other, topping in a lookout over the bay. A lizard tries to hide from us by pressing closely to a dark tree, camouflaging with the dark skin of his body. He does not have to fear us, we are just here for leisure and, as said, well fed.

The next excursion is into Coasters Retreat. We hook up to a mooring, as winds are light. With our heavy displacement we are a rarity here and moorings are not built for it. So we only do this in very light winds. As the name suggests, everybody retreats here. Therefore we avoided the weekend. Still, the moorings were well used. A billabong, some grassy area as a camp ground, lots of Eucalyptus forest around, tranquil and undisturbed we chill and grill. Literally. We adopted the Aussi barbecue enthusiasm, instead of cooking down below.

A longer walk leads us again to rocks, sandy roads and a dry plateau with Aboriginal engravings. Every step we take we are glad when there is a forest covering us and shading the track. Open spaces turn the sun into a burning bright enemy in seconds, whereas the forest with a little wind is a relaxing place to walk. The engravings are about 1000 years old - young, for Aboriginal carvings or paintings. Wondering how they found these places in the wilderness we wandered back to the beach and our next barbecue.

A „Grüezi mitenand“ took our attention later in the evening as a neighboring mooring was being occupied. We agree to visit each others boats' in the morning and go to sleep. Cosmopolitan and entrepreneurial are probably the best characteristics to describe Adrien who moored beside us. From Holland via Switzerland to Australia and establishing two businesses on his own he certainly may serve as role model for us. However, our boats could not be more different: here the J-Boat for racing and there Jade Akka, the safe & comfort cruiser. As Adrien heads down to Sydney we move to America bay to explore the national park a bit more - and to sail as well as make water in less used waterways.

Waterfalls are great attractions in Australia. In the outback they were magic places, providing cool and refreshment. Here at the coast it’s a welcome difference in the landscape. The tracks leading up towards the rocks were too tempting. Despite walking bare feet I climbed up, feeling very much like at home or as when climbing Anacortes’ landmark with Ueli and Nono. It’s a quest to find the right track, a rock climb on the last meters and then a great view across the bay. The dinghy rested on the beach where I left it, only the water had receded some meters. So after dragging the dinghy back into water and motoring back to Jade Akka, time for the next barbecue - with lots of veggies on the barbie, of course!

Rain? Rain! NSW has seen an exceptional dry period, leaving farms struggling. For us, rain is welcome cleaning of Jade Akka. Since arrival in Brisbane we probably had three rainy days … today included. The rest: mostly sunshine. In between the rain these days we hiked another bush track to the top of another waterfall. Then we slowly sailed back to Pittwater to meet the import valuation surveyor.

The surveyor will provide customs with a market value of Jade Akka for the Australian market, with all it's pros and cons of a foreign built vessel, like 110V electricity - the Aussies are the high voltage people with 240V. Since Jade Akka was built in Canada we have to pay duty if we stay longer than a year - US built vessels are exempt thanks to a free trade agreement. To come up with a low value we postponed uncritical maintenance to the time after the valuation, expecting to make Jade Akka shine again in the months to come. So as soon as the valuation was done, we headed out south.

Pittwater / Broken Bay in pictures.

Sailing down to Sydney took us 3 hours. Wonderful wind, sunshine, a few other sailboat under way: the best way to say good-bye-to-cruising. The next months will see us checking out places to live, going home to Switzerland and of course sipping litres of lattes - and my highly loved Australian iced coffees (for the Swiss: not the ice cream with coffee taste but real coffee with some vanilla ice cream, crushed ice and milk). First location to check out is Manly.

Manly, where we arrived over 8 years ago short before finding I got elected into Maennedorf's city council. What exciting years this had been - with the last two years topping it all off. Finding an article requesting "high school education for everybody" in a Swiss newspaper and reflecting on our own path through life so far made us laugh: from apprenticeships to MSc in electrical engineering and in-depth-hands-on experience in urban planning, topped off with maintaining and sailing a little ship while cruising the Pacific it just is ridiculous to request we should have had mandatory high school education. Give people freedom to develop when they are ready, tear down barriers to change. Now it's time to explore Manly!

Beach, surf, sail, sunshine, commuting by ferry: that's Manly. Note on public transport stations: also here the groceries have placed them conveniently around the public transport hot spots. In Manly it's Aldi that occupies the prime location for the commuters to get their dinner after work - or sandwich in the morning.

While the beachfront is busy, it gets super relaxing in the second row of homes. From 3 to for 4 stories upfront we found small, charming old style houses just a bit farther back. Quite a mix as the neighborhood seems to be in transition still. Probably from a sleepy outskirt to a trendy beach location? That was our impression already 8 years ago and still is. Looks like a great place for sporty beach bums! Beach volley courts, waves to surf and a bay to dinghy sail or kayak, it's all just around the corner.

 ... & Sydney in pictures at the end.

Zoo? No, not my thing. Well, that was before seeing it. Taronga Zoo is superbly located opposite Sydney CBD on a hill with a view. Not to mention the neighborhood looks very wealthy. So we went to the Zoo as our friends from Merrion wanted to see it. And we had a great day! Mosman is the neighborhood, and it looks very upmarket, very groomed with very nice shops, restaurants etc at the center. There's also a beach and boat shed, so all you need to live there ;-) Compared to Manly it seems more settled, kind of a grey-head-done-good-business-and-wealthy-families-have-lived-here-for-ages-place. Probably not my place yet :-)

With our friends on board we sailed then into the heart of Port Jackson. Right downtown Sydney. Yet another fantastic downtown anchorage. Here Marta & Travis from Merrion turned back east after we had a great farewell barbie all together - they went on to New Zealand before heading back to set up a new home in Idaho. The sail from Manly to the Harbour Bridge was quick and intense. Racing dinghies, exercising ocean racing yachts, recreational fishing vessels, other sailboats and the ubiquitous ferries all share the water. Then there are the views to see, first all these waterfront places with wonderful beaches and parks, then the zoo and finally the high rises of the CBD. With the CBD the Harbour Bridge, the Governors place, the Botanical Garden etc etc.

While sailing in this nice breeze, going downwind with the full main up in the air, the feelings go wild as it strongly sinks in: this is it. Done. Harbour Bridge ahead. Closer and closer. Here she is, with the Opera at her side. Cameras out and photo, photo, photo. We are thrilled, excited. We made it. Who would ever have though we would sail to this extraordinary place? Happiness mix with sadness to leave. We shared many adventures. We explored on, under and besides the water. Remote places were our home. Now we are in the culmination of civilization. Our explorations will take so different routes. But with the experiences made, the challenges overcome we are all well prepared and confident that the future will be as exciting - albeit in very different ways. We drop anchor and enjoy a wonderful barbecue with views onto the city and it's famous landmarks.

While Merrion's crew, Marta & Travis, exchange their boat for an Airbus 380 to hop over to New Zealand, we start our investigation of Sydney downtown. Our shoes will suffer. As usual we walk for long stretches. Through Glebe with relaxed residences of all sizes except high rises towards the university campus, then through Newtown towards Central Park. The walk leads through old bluecollar housing with Victorian cast iron gates and balconies. We pass some modern designed houses on a similar, small, footprint. Often we find ourselves under huge trees, lining the streets and cooling us explorers. As we turn towards Central Park, we bump again into the old style streets, but as we turn around the next corner the latest high rises show off their facades.

Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster and others designed this lately developed area. As impressive the names, as good the atomsphere, as surprising the details. Seeing some before millenia developments downtown and comparing those to these latest redeveloped areas the contrast could not be stronger. Green areas, water and even sunlight is sculpted into an ensemble that spans blocks. Did you notice the not-to-be-missed ingredient for these type of new urbanism? Yes, the reference to the old, to history, maybe even to credibility? It of course centers the vertical garden covered high rise. Ripped of it's original use and content, the brik facade will soon host new urban pleasures - gone the days of industrial use. This impressive build up leaves us puzzled, but boosts our perception of urban Australia: high quality urban living from food to architecture. Richti Areal in Switzerland, try again with a bit more innovation and surprise. Talking of this type of development, one question must not be forgotten: where did the heavy industry go to? We will for now not be following that quest, but keep focusing on exploring places to live.

Back home on Jade Akka we have a rest to absorb all the impressions. With the view to the impressive ANZAC bridge, the urban oasis for dog walkers Blackwattle Bay Park, the rowing club and Fish Market across the water, it's a great place to be hooked to the ground. The muddy bottom grabs the anchor safely. And with the strict 4 knots speed limit the tourist jet boats, fishing vessels, luxury yacht and other cruisers do not shake the bay too much - not to mention the dragon boats and rowing boats that practice in early morning. We sleep sound and deep after our little excursions!