Australia Day 2001

Sydney has had no shortage of celebrations this summer. Since our post-Olympics arrival, Sydney Harbour has been the venue for the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race, New Year’s Eve, the Centenary of Federation and Australia Day, which is like the fourth of July for us Yanks.

Of course it is an official holiday, which in itself is cause for celebration in Sydney. Add to it a day of perfect summer weather and top it off with a full schedule of events and once again Sydney goes off.

Sydney Harbour is rather narrow in spots and we were warned that everyone with a boat would be out on the water, so we opted to keep Moonshadow safely snug in the marina. David and his dog Skipper from Bossanova, Cate and I jumped into the dink and took a putt out to the Harbour Bridge to get up close and personal with some of the on-the-water action.

As expected, the harbor was “jammers.” We dodged boats and wakes as everyone jockeyed for position. Every conceivable type of vessel from small “tinnies” (aluminum dinghies) to posh mega yachts was out on the water. Much of the driving was less than professional, so we hugged the sidelines. The atmosphere was festive and the Sydneysiders were doing what they do best-enjoying themselves. There seemed to be a party aboard every vessel on the water.

The first event of interest to us was the Ferrython. A key part of Sydney’s excellent public transportation system is its extensive ferry system. There are all types of ferryboats, from old tubs that move in both directions (props and rudders at both ends) to sleek, modern, high speed, shallow draft power cats that look like a Ferrari without wheels. They are nearly as fast (first gear for the F-Car) and leave a negligible wake. At 1100 hours the start gun went off and a fleet of patriotically decorated ferries raced from the Harbour Bridge to Manley, near where the protected harbor opens out into the unforgiving Tasman Sea. It was quite a spectacle and the smoke from all the straining engines was enough to choke a herd of kangaroos.

Next was the tall ships parade and race. In the light air, there wasn’t much speed, but I always find it an awesome sight to see a tall ship gliding along under full set of sails.

We took a break and headed over to the fish market for a casual lunch. As usual for a weekend or holiday, it was jammed, but the meals are fresh, tasty and cheap and the atmosphere very, well uh, fishy.

On the way back to the marina we watched a flight of military jets doing some fine formation flying over the area, and were rudely harassed by a Waterways (like the Coast Guard) officer for missing a traffic signal at a draw bridge (we didn’t even go under the opening part) and exceeding the eight knot speed limit (with three people and a dog in our dingy-NOT!) This bloke clearly had no sense of humor.

After a relaxing afternoon, a quick trip to the gym for some exercise and a light dinner, we hopped into the dink and took a short ride out to the end of our wharf in Pyrmont Bay to catch the “Jazz on the Water” Concert.

The stage was set up on the poop deck of some sort of funny looking Navy ship and the music was directed out to a massive fleet of boats that had anchored in Darling Harbour, many just a few feet from each other. We poached a front row seat by tying up to the stern of a trawler that had anchored in prime position. The finale was at around nine when an impressive display of fireworks was set off in front of us in nearby Cockle Bay. They reflected off the glass skyscrapers of downtown Sydney to our left while the band played jazz to our right. As they they say down here-simply brilliant!

The revelry went on into the wee hours, much later than us, until a downpour fell on the city. We woke up to clean decks and a lousy weather forecast, squelching our plans to sail north to Pittwater for the weekend. Bugger!

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