Learning the Ropes on a Budget

The weather is starting to change to winter (instead of those balmy 31 degree days we now have 26 degree days) I know it will get even colder but this already feels like the North Pole to me.  I am definitely a weather spoilt Sydney-sider.  In an effort to make the most of the beautiful days before Sydney does the torrential rain thing that it likes to do every winter, a few friends and I went sailing round the harbour.

Sailing Sydney Harbour

Now I can actually hear you rolling your eyes from here  – sailing, that’s for the rich and opulent! How can a simple backpacker/living by a shoestring budget afford to do that?  Well cease your rapid eye movements my friends there is a cheap way to do it.

Groupon.com of course! If you haven’t heard of this site and you are travelling to Sydney – get involved now. In a nut shell it is another deal website that offers cheap versions of things from facials, fancy dinners, cocktail courses and of course sailing. As a local, I love Groupon, it gives me access to things I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. I also recommend it to anyone who is travelling to Sydney as you never know what deal you may find on there – giving you some insight into our very beautiful city that you wouldn’t see if you just sloth through Kings Cross and Bondi.

We paid $120 per person for a full day of sailing round Sydney’s harbour’s with lunch included, was it worth it? (I have just checked the site again and there is a different sailing deal going at the moment for $69.)

Sailing Sydney Harbour

The great thing about this deal is that no sailing experience was necessary and you get to choose how hands on you are – if all you want to do is sunbake and look at the scenery, no one will mind – though of course you won’t be getting the most out of the experience that way.

We met nice and early at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club which is home to the Flying Fish Sailing School – who was responsible for our day of fun.  We would be the crew of a Beneteau 42 which was a former Australian racing yacht.

The weather gods were in our favour as the day started off with some light cloud cover,  there was a medium breeze which meant that the sales were always full but the sea wasn’t too choppy – in saying that I still took some sea-sickness tablets before I boarded (something I inherited from my father’s side of the family).

Our captain was a retired public servant who was teaching young hooligans like ourselves on the weekend for a little fun and some free sailing. There was no “tit-farting” about though – as soon as we were on board he had us grabbing lines and hoisting sales and winding in cranks.  Before we knew what was happening we were out in Middle Harbour with the sail flapping above us.

Sailing Sydney Harbour

Over the course of the morning he showed us how to tack back and forth, to catch the wind, the names of the different ropes and the most efficient way to winch anything. As we headed towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge the clouds finally disappeared leaving us with nothing but glorious sunshine and spectacular views.

Heading towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Heading towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge

We had tacked around the bridges skirts for a little while before we headed to the southern bay of Rushcutters for some lunch and relaxation.  Once the yacht had been moored, our captain and first mate had disappeared down into the galley to prepare our lunch, we hooligans quickly jumped into the water. For a moment we discussed the possibility of sharks (Sydney harbour being infamous for its Bull Sharks) but decided that in the middle of the day they were probably skulking along the bottom and not very interested in our thrashing legs.

Once we had tuckered ourselves out we climbed back on board only to find a feast had been laid out for us! Every delicious picnic food you can imagine, blue cheese, salami, cheddar, smoked ham, olives, salad (which you had to eat quick or the wind would blow it away), crusty bread, three types of dip, chips and some chocolate for desert.  Just what a human body needs after a morning on the high seas!

That afternoon our trusty captain took us up towards the Manly Heads for a little bit of reverse tacking.  At this point he let me steer… which was something the rest of my shipmates instantly regretted. Turns out I don’t have a knack for steering boats… I was constantly over steering to compensate for the previous oversteer I had done –  it was a little like being in a washing machine while I was navigating.

The helm was promptly wrestled out of my grasp and I went back to winching duties as we crossed out into open waters – I kept my eyes peeled for whales or dolphins but sadly none appeared.

Manly Ferry heading out through the Heads

Manly Ferry heading out through the Heads

As the sun started to turn golden and our thoughts turned away from guide lines  to napping our captain wisely pointed us towards home.  As we neared the dock we watched the gauge that told us how many meters of water was below the bottom of the ship.  Our captain assured us that we would be fine, he had navigated this a hundred times.  Just as he finished saying this, a yacht that had been cruising in beside us suddenly stopped – it had run aground!

But our nerves were for nothing as we watched the depth gauge increased as suddenly as it had dropped.

Back on land my legs felt strange and as I lay in bed that night completely exhausted and sun burnt the world still felt like it was silently rocking.  An awesome day that was worth every penny!

3 thoughts on “Learning the Ropes on a Budget

  1. You have let me down, stand away from the steering post, the Bobby dazzeler of a job for a deck hand just because you were ham fisted with the tiller, shame on you, on my ship you would have cleaned the “heads”. I glad you enjoyed the actual sailing. Don’t worry about not being able to steer at your first attempt it does take a while to get the feel of any craft they are all different in all sorts of weather conditions. I learnt when it was war time and everything was in the dark. only the binnacle light just bright enough to see the luberline, electrical steering gear with a time delay before the message passed to the steering motor, and a twin screwed big boxed deeply laden tramp in convoy. When you have learntthat you can steer anything,even a barge on a canal. Lots of love Grandjohn.

    Date: Wed, 21 May 2014 11:52:53 +0000 To: grand.john@live.co.uk

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