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The Qantas flight from Johannesburg landed in Sydney at 15:30 on Sunday 3rd February 2019, where Michelle our daughter was waiting to pick us up and deliver us to our Airbnb in North Curl Curl, 150m from the beach.

View from our deck.

It was a 38-deg C day in Sydney, so after dropping off our gear at Giles and Cecilia Hill’s “Curly Beach Hideaway” we walked down to the beach for a swim. We were joined by Chantale Tremblay for sundowners on our deck overlooking the beach.

The next day, we started exploring some of our favourite coastal walks in this great city and attending BBQ’s at some of ours and the girl’s friends.

Dee Why to Curl Curl walk – Long Reef in the distance.

Dee Why to Curl Curl walk – North Curly beach.

BBQ at Luke and Monika: Chantale, Annie, Monika, Michelle and the chicks.

A busy week with medical and dental check-ups followed while we were trying to get over the jetlag. The weekend saw us catching up with Michelle and Karen who drove down from Newcastle for a birthday party. Michelle shares a neat house with three guys near the beach in Coogee, south of the harbour.

Boat equipment that needed repairs were our Yamaha generator and the two B&G VHF handsets – these were dropped off at their respective distributors. We also spent quite a bit of time looking at apartments in Dee Why, Manly Vale and Freshwater for investment potential in our Self-Managed Super Fund.

Newcastle – Bar Beach

Then we drove up to Newcastle, 160 km north of Sydney, to have a sticky beak at where Karen settled in a flat on “The Hill” with another female surgery registrar. They get on well and are close to Bar beach and about 20 minutes from the John Hunter Hospital. We walked, swam and had lunch before driving back.

The interesting Memorial Walk bridge in front of Karen’s flat.

Karen and Annie on the bridge.

Newcastle = Tattoo Central.

After a swim at Bar beach.

Back in Sydney, we continued our morning walks with Michelle Watson around the Northern Beaches.

Annie, Michelle and Hooper at Harbord Diggers.

Annie at Long Reef.

In a flash the three weeks at Curly Beach Hideaway was over and we moved up to Newport to house sit our friends, Gavin and Debra Birch’s house for the rest of our stay, while they travelled overseas. Their daughter Imogen and partner Beau stayed in the self-contained flat below the house. We enjoyed some great BBQ’s.

Beau, Imogen, Karen, Remi, Michelle and Annie.

The 9.5km walk around Narrabeen Lake.

Our various medical, pathology, skin, dental and eye tests went off without a hitch for both of us and gave us peace of mind for the next couple of years. Annie was concerned about the longevity of my RH titanium knee replacement, which has served me well over the last 15 years, despite lots of walking and climbing mountains. After an examination of the knee and looking at the X-rays, Ed Marel my orthopaedic surgeon, declared it good to go for at least another 5 years of sailing around the world.

The new Northern Beaches Hospital

Ed’s practice is now in the new Northern Beaches Hospital, less than a kilometre from our house – the hospital was completed in our absence. The new roadworks is almost complete with the Warringah Road/Forest Way/Wakehurst Parkway intersections still in progress.

Occupying our minds, was our future crossing of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, relying solely on “Ben & Gerry” our B&G autopilot. The autopilot has played up a number of times in heavy seas, as reported in our previous posts from Papua New Guinea and crossing the Torres Strait. I have become quite adept at fixing the autopilot in emergency situations at sea, but having to spend extended periods of time hand steering, is exhausting. The other worry is losing the boat’s rudder while at sea – there are a number of accounts of this happening on Youtube. The autopilot would be useless in such a case, but a windvane steering system will work in a way.

The Hydrovane system.

So, with some time on our hands, I started researching windvane self steering systems – the mechanical systems that have been in use since before modern electric/hydraulic systems. There are a number of these systems on the market, of which two, the Canadian Hydrovane and German Windpilot systems appeared the most suitable to mount on Esprit’s stern configuration. Both companies were most helpful with their advice, but the prices were quite high (between AUD7,000 and AUD9,000), so we will chew this over for a while.

The Windpilot system.

Another option is to buy an autonomous USA standby CPT autopilot kit for about AUD2,500 as backup for our B&G autopilot and install it, if the B&G breaks down. We plan to winter in Tunisia at the end of 2019 and will therefore have to order a system by November, so that I can install a system during December, if needed.

The CPT autopilot kit.

Annie in the meantime, joined a Yoga group for classes during our stay in Newport, while I kept busy doing some walking – essential after various dinner parties, lunches and a birthday with our Sydney friends.

We visited the Royal Motor Yacht Club to see the new marina extensions, catch up with the marina guys and have lunch with Jayson McDonald, CEO of the club. There were a few more dinner parties to attend to before our departure for Greece on the 27th March. One of these, Ron Watson’s birthday party, was a liquid affair.

Ice cream birthday cake for Big Ronnie, with Ilija and Ashleigh.

Dinner with Karin, Daniel, Annie, Lynn, Kevin & Malcolm.

We took the train up to Newcastle for a sleepover at Karen to say goodbye before our departure. She showed us around Newcastle, including her workplace, the massive John Hunter hospital and introduced us to some of her colleagues at the local food, wine and craft beer festival. We slept most of the way back on the train.

Annie and Karen having a coffee at Merewether beach.

Sunday arvo drinks at the Newport SLS club with Imogen and Beau.

On our last weekend, Michelle and her friend Remi from London came to visit and we said our goodbyes. Karen surprised us with a last visit for two days before we left. The girls have indicated they want to join us in October 2020, for our Atlantic ocean crossing from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. We will keep you posted on developments.

Our next post will be from Croatia. Cheers until then!