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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


We came to Australia, largely, so I could get to know the place.  Even though I've been an Australian citizen since birth, I had spent all of six weeks of my adult life here before we arrived on Pelagic. When we got here, I had the bright idea that being on a yacht, and around yachties, might be a great entrée into Australian life, a way to meet remarkable Australians whose paths we might have otherwise never crossed.

It mostly hasn't worked that way.

We have met some fantastic people in Australia, really good friends, who have nothing at all to do with yachts.  We have met some other wonderful people here who have lived on yachts for years and years and years.  But the first group we met in spite of living on a yacht, and the second group has so much in common with us that it feels almost inevitable to meet up with them.  So the idea of the sailing life as a shortcut to meeting remarkable Australians has generally not panned out.

Sydney was the second great city of the world that we have sailed to on Pelagic, the first being San Francisco.  We felt the same wonder of viewing iconic landmarks from the decks of our little boat that we felt in San Francisco, the same aesthetic delight in a city that benefits from a perfect setting, the same satisfaction of viewing the city from the detached perspective of the water.  But while San Francisco was once my home, Sydney was totally new to us.

After we had our fill of dodging ferry traffic and staring at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge we set a course to meet up with Alex and Diana, seen above next to their yacht Kukka.  We had met them briefly in Queensland last winter, and based on that brief acquaintance, they met us at the dock and rolled out the biggest red carpet that you could imagine.

Alex and Diana helped us with our dock lines and then handed us a key ring with two keys on it - the key to their house, and the key to their marina.  They had arranged for us to tie up Pelagic, for free, at the guest dock at their marina for the duration of our stay.  So all the urban headaches of rolling, insecure anchorages and difficulties finding a safe spot to leave the dingy were immediately forgotten.

We had dinner at their house that night, and found that we had broad areas of overlapping interests, so that we could talk and talk and talk - about favorite authors, and travel experiences, Australian politics and culture, U.S. politics and culture, and so on.  We even talked a bit about sailing.

Alex and Diana both traveled extensively back in the day, and they treated near-complete strangers us with the sort of complete hospitality that is the hallmark of the former traveler.  They had us over to their house night after night for dinner and showers and laundry, they drove us around the city, they introduced us to their kids, they took us to see the mighty New Year's fireworks over the harbor, and (joy of joys!) they babysat Elias so we could go see the new Pedro Almodóvar joint.

More than all that, they turned what would have been a very impersonal visit to the big city into a little taste of daily life around their house in Balmain.  So we got to hang with the locals, which is all that a traveller really wants.

And it all happened because we shared an anchorage with them near Townsville last winter.

Elias touring a replica of the Endeavor, Captain Cook's ship on his great first voyage of discovery, at the Sydney maritime museum.

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