The decision came down from on high. We were to decamp a day early from Rozelle Bay, steam down through the ruins of the old railroad swing bridge, under the Anzac Bridge and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, past the magnificent Opera House, sliding into Farm Cove, staying as far out of the anchorage as prudent without challenging the powers that be. Tomorrow The Man would be setting a line of yellow floating cones to establish a border between what’s fair and what’s foul. Yes, we’re breathless with anticipation because the countdown for the greatest show on earth has begun. It’s New Year’s in Sydney Harbor!
We’re here a day earlier than last year because we Escapees wanted to announce our presence with authority. Last year we had a few problems with Johnny-come-latelies and so far it looks good because there are very few boats in Farm Cove this morning as we sidled up to two serious looking cruising yachts and anchored. They came out into their cockpits with a smile, a nod, and a knowing wave. That’s at least a couple of boats near us that we won’t have to worry about. The day developed with an overcast sky and the chop from Ferry wakes was exactly what you’d expect. Nasty.
I couldn’t tell you when the Sydney chop subsided but it was dark and it was the kind of thing that sneaks up on you, kind of like a lobster in a gradually heating pot who thinks that man, we’re having a heat wave and next thing you know you’re cooked. The flip side is that in the morning the wakes started, one at a time at first, until Sydney fully woke up and huge cruise liners were added to the ferries and the tugs and the motor yachts and the sailboats and the fishermen in tinnies until we were engulfed in the full symphony of Sydney Harbor on eleven.
Vessels of all description began to enter Farm Cove. The later it got the more desperate the boaters seemed and the more ill equipped they were with the skills that are required for anchoring in really tight spaces. Cramming ten tons of boats in the five ton sack of Farm Cove just has disaster written all over it. For us it became a defense of our ground tackle. Time after time people tried to drop their anchors on ours or they dropped their anchor but the clothesline they just bought and hastily tied to it was all in knots. So many boats got their ground tackle tangled together that rescue boats just circulated Farm Cove waiting for the inevitable death spiral as tangled boats tried to separate, but couldn’t.
We three amigos who spent the night here helped each other with all the yelling and pointing — “no, not there!” — and only one of us was hooked by a huge stinkpotter whose windlass stopped working so he drove around the cove dragging his anchor like a grappling hook, snagging four boats in the process that followed him around like little ducklings. This apparently panicked him into gunning his engines causing huge clouds of black toxic diesel smoke obscuring the scene and covering the water with a shiny black oil slick.
In between all the anchoring schmozzle, two stunt planes trailing smoke chased each other around the harbor but really the big show is the wizardry of the bombs and sky rockets. Helicopters hovered, coming and going, and with all the police boats it started to feel a little weird, but when the show started, well, there aren’t many things that can make me feel like a little kid again.
It was magnificent!
Watch the news video of the full program here.