Sounds like a long time.  Wrong – if you are on the Clipper Stopover Package!

After leaving the Yacht Club at 2.30am in the morning, we all had to back on the boat for 9.30am to start the deep clean.  No sleep for the wicked!  I didn’t actually make it until 11.00am, although as the victualler I am supposed to be exempt from this “activity”.  The boat was being taken to a different area to be lifted out of the water for anti fouling at lunch time, so all the sails had to be taken off for inspection and repair.  I was down for the sail repair team for the next three days, so I had to be there.  The boat went off, and we carried a couple of sails to the park to start work.  Yes, the park.  No electricity for the sewing machine, or clean flat floor here.

There was a storm predicted for the afternoon, so just after getting one of the spinnakers laid out the clouds came over and darkness was upon us.  We quickly got a tarpaulin over the hastily folded sail, and then the wind came.  And the rain.  Whilst most of us retreated to the bar and watched the sky lighten and heard the thunder and the incessant rain thumping on the roof, Emily and Steve decided to sit on the sail in the park under the tarpaulin to stop it from blowing away.  Not sure that was the best idea during what turned out to be the worst storm Sydney had seen for years, as it was also under a tree.  A shopping centre roof was taken out about three miles away, and hail stones the size of tea plates were being shown on the news channel as we sat in the bar.  Welcome to Australia!

It was a bit of a wipe out day really – no work could be done in the park, and the boat had left for the anti fouling.  So we called it a day and went back to the apartment – knowing that the next two days were going to be long ones to get everything done.  And they were, but in lovely sunshine thank goodness.  Even with Paul, Fran and Georgina helping out both days it was past 6pm on the second day before we finished.  But finish we did, and hopefully the sails are now as good as new.  Or at least good enough to take us where we need to go – until we manage to break them again!

But we did have some very good news on the evening of the first day.  We had to take a water taxi over to the Royal Yacht Club (very posh!) for our Prize Giving Awards for the last leg, and the Danang Vietnam boat won the Social Spirit Award.  All because of the people that read my blog, and took the time to vote for us on the Stormhoek Facebook Page.  Thank you very much – it is really appreciated and you have made the crew of the Danang boat and her skipper very happy.  We know we aren’t among the elite in this competition, but we are one of the happiest boats afloat.

Friday was earmarked for me to start on the shopping spreadsheets for the remainder of this leg – Sydney to Hobart and Hobart to Airlie Beach.  Although Wendo only wants to victual until Hobart as she wants the boat as light as possible.  Not going to happen – we only get two days in Hobart and one of those is New Years Day when the shops are unlikely to be open.  Overruled!  We had a seminar and lunch in the morning with the Vietnamese Ambassador who had flown down from Canberra and some more dignitaries together with a group of Travel Agents.  Home from home!  I heard all of what Danang has to offer – and jolly good it sounds too.  The Vietnamese are certainly taking the sponsorship of our boat very seriously.  But it did mean that not many spreadsheets got done!

Saturday, Sunday and Monday were my allocated days off for this stopover.  Three more than I have had in most other stopovers.  We decided that we ought to have a few Christmas decorations up in the apartment, so went to Bondi Junction to get some.  We found a little tree complete with baubles, ribbons and tree lights for $6.  Bargain!

As we were near to the beach, we had a walk along the promenade and had dinner next to a very noisy and popular bar.  The one we were in had no alcohol, so was empty.  At least we got a seat!!

Sunday we went to Taronga Zoo.  All four of us got a travel card that covered ferries, trains and buses for a total of $10 for the day.  Another bargain.  Funday Sunday, or something similar.  We took the train, and then the ferry across the harbour to get to the zoo, and spent a very pleasant day wandering around with beautiful views across the harbour to the bridge and the opera house.  Not sure I am too keen on zoos though – much prefer to view animals in their own habitat.  We had been invited to Olly’s house to a barbeque later in the afternoon, so headed back to Bondi.  Olly was on Leg 3, and lived in Sydney (obviously) and was also joining us again for the Sydney to Hobart part of this leg only.  A few of the crew were there, and we had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening in his garden.

Monday, my last day off, was spent doing all the preparations for the food shopping.  Some day off that turned out to be!  Spreadsheets, shopping lists, packing lists – it all had to be done before we set off for the shops the following morning.  But the treat of the day was dinner at Est in George Street.  A wonderful surprise gift from all the girls at Travel Stop for our Christmas present.  Luckily Paul had brought me a dress, shoes and a sparkly handbag.  Good job he wasn’t stopped going through customs with that in his luggage – would take some explaining!  We had a seven course taster menu, which was one of the best meals I have ever had.  One of the courses came out in a saucepan of liquid nitrogen with champagne as one of the ingredients – wonder if I can recreate that on the boat?  Superb – thank you lovely ladies.

Tuesday morning was back to earth with a bump.  Food shopping for 22 people for 19 days.  Oh what joy!  Michael had offered to drive us as he lives about an hour north of Sydney and had a large 4 x 4, so he collected Amanda, Paul & I at 9.00am and off we went armed with lists and spreadsheets.  He knew which supermarket to take us to, and apart from not being able to get into the car park because the car was too high it went without a hitch.  Apart from a couple of things that were out of stock, we managed to get most of what we wanted.  We even managed to find a health food shop that stocked TVP (textured vegetable protein) that we are making the chilli with in future.  They had just had a delivery, so we bought everything that they had.  Not sure how easy it is going to be to get it once we get into Vietnam and China.  The only downside was that it was raining incessantly, and once we got it back to the marina, it had to be taken to the boat and then all packed away.

We managed to get it all onto the boat in about five trolleys borrowed from the marina, but it was fairly wet when we got it to the boat.  A tarpaulin had been erected as a semi shelter, but we still got very wet packing it all away.  It was well past 6 o’clock when we finished – a very long day! And it wasn’t completely finished – there was still some to finish the next day.  By the time we got home we were both like drowned rats – so after a lovely shower we decided to go out for dinner again.  Paul found a great Steak Restaurant called Prime – fantastic Wagyu Chateaubriand, but I did feel we were charged for the whole cow!  Still, good food doesn’t come around too often on this trip.

The next day started with the Clipper Crew Brief for both the Sydney to Hobart and Hobart to Airlie Beach races.  And surprise, surprise – the weather is meant to be pretty awful.  There are predictions of broken boats well before Hobart, although I feel the clippers will not fare so badly as we have already been in pretty awful conditions – several times!  Hopefully we will get to Hobart before the New Year celebrations begin – and Paul, Fran and Georgina will all be there to greet me again.  I am getting spoilt.

The rest of the day was spent sorting and packing the rest of the food, and waiting for a delivery of freeze dried meat that didn’t arrive.  Another fairly long day, but rounded off with a visit to the largest IMAX cinema in the world for the new Star Wars film.  Valerie came with us – a real fan.  There is nothing about Star Wars that she doesn’t know, so she and Paul were discussing plots and features all evening.  A lovely dinner al fresco in Darling Harbour followed – really getting spoiled now!

Christmas Eve, and the day started with a Danang Vietnam Crew brief.  We are going to “sail it hard”.  Oh goody.  Really liked the bit where we were told it was only a four or five day race, so sleep doesn’t matter.  Great.  Perhaps I could fly with the others…..  There seemed to be loads still to do – this boat really sucks up time.  I had to get to a bakery fifteen minutes away before they closed to order the filled sandwiches, pies and breakfast pastries for the first 24 hours, and only just made it in time.  The lovely owner is going to deliver it to the yacht club at 8am on Boxing Day morning – great service!  A few years ago we met a couple on the Orion cruise we went on that lived in Sydney.  We had dinner with them at Manta Restaurant in Woolloomooloo – and it was a delightful evening.  She has a boat that she sails in Sydney Harbour, but was in awe of my challenge.  I think I look back on it and I am a bit in awe as well.  It has been a huge achievement getting so far – just hope I can hang on in there to do the rest.

Christmas morning – it just didn’t feel like Christmas morning at all.  Even though we had a tree, and Fran and Georgina were there, it just did not feel like Christmas at all.  I had bought a “cake” at the bakery – which was a cheesecake with Santa on the top.  Actually was very nice, but just isn’t the normal Christmas way.  Georgina opened her few presents that had been brought here (Santa has made his main delivery to Brisbane!) and then I had to pack all my gear to get to the boat.  I spoke on skype to William – it was still Christmas Eve in the UK, so Alexis had gone to bed early.  This stopover, yet again, has gone far too quickly.  Far too much time on the boat, and not enough time on land!  Might have a word with Sir Robin about the schedule – although I feel I may get no sympathy at all there.

Our friends from last night came to the boat for a little tour when we were down there – as well as a few other odds who decided that it would be a good idea to have a look around as there were people on the boat.
We were going for a bbq on Manly Beach with some of the crew of this and other boats, but we didn’t actually leave the boat until 2pm.  We got a taxi to Circular Quay, and then the ferry over to Manly.  With my expert food preparation, I hadn’t actually got any food for the bbq, so I was hoping that there would be some food places open so we could eat.  I am sure the main bbq had finished hours ago.  We bumped into a couple of the crew, and then had a really rank fish lunch (or dinner – it was past 4 o’clock when we ate).  It seems that we missed most of the crew because we went to the wrong beach.  Good job it isn’t my job to navigate the boat!

We got back to Circular Quay and I decided we needed to do something Christmassy.  We walked to Martin Place to see the big Christmas Tree.  It was nice – but artificial.  Bit disappointing.  We then walked down through Pitt Street Mall to see the illuminations, but they weren’t illuminated.  Disappointing.  Then we went to Market City on Hay Street to see the huge Snow Dome.  But it had been switched off and it wasn’t snowing.  Seems to have been a certain theme to today.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t like Christmas in hot countries.  I don’t like Christmas where I am not cooking the turkey and Christmas pudding and hosting all of my family.  I think I even missed some of the hype and decorations in the lead up to Christmas.  Never thought I would hear myself say that.  Next year will be back to normal – I hope!

Tomorrow we set off early for the next leg of the journey to Hobart.  At least when that is out of the way we can finally start setting off in the right direction for home.  Paul, Fran and Georgina are going to be on Lauren’s dad’s boat for the start, so they can experience the thrill of the start from the middle of Sydney Harbour.  But they get to come home to a comfortable bed and shower – whilst I am back on the high seas, experiencing high winds and going in the wrong direction!