Annie and I enjoyed a 5 week break from sailing in Newcastle, about 2 hours (155 km) north of our home in Sydney. Esprit was tied up at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, where we spent some nights, while on other nights we stayed at Eugene Quinn’s (Evan’s dad) quaint turn of the century house in Mayfield east, not far from Karen’s house in Mayfield.

Eugene’s house.

Eugene’s backyard with a cosy flat and a you beaut shed.

Eugene spends most of his time in Anna Bay near Port Stephens and insisted we stay at his house. We took out our bikes and when not walking, we cycled with Karen and Evan to see the sights of Newcastle – including the pub where they first met some years ago.

The pub where two pairs of eyes met across a crowded room.

Bear with me, as this post won’t be about sailing, but about our family, as we haven’t seen our daughters in three years. It was great to spend time with Karen and Michelle, catch up with their news, meet their friends, explore Newcastle and have some home comforts for a change.

Karen’s house with her spotless little Nissan Micra which she has been driving for the last 13 years.

On our first Friday night in town we went to the exhibition of the theses for the Master degree in Architecture at Newcastle University – Karen’s friend was exhibiting her thesis. It was most interesting to see how the content and presentation of these theses have changed since our days at Architecture school back in the sixties/seventies. The work is now more conceptual with little or no understanding of building technology or structural design. I am sure the engineers will come to the rescue!

Design and presentation are now computerised which is understandable, as working on a drawing board is hard yakka.  Apart from that, what used to be a 6 year course concluding with a thesis to gain a B. Arch. and then 2 years working as an architect in training, has now been condensed into 3 years for a B.Arch. and another 2 years for a M. Arch.

How can that be? I suppose the young folks of today are much smarter and technical proficiency is no longer a requirement in the real world. That is only my view, but the one thing that has not changed since my day, are the eccentric and sometimes weird characters studying architecture! — Enough of that, now on to some music.

Eugene (right) having a band practice with his mates at his house.

Brett at Wednesday night band practice.

A few days after arriving in Newcastle, we took up the Government’s offer of Covid booster shots, as it was six months since our vaccinations in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Just as well, as the next week the new Omicron strain of the virus started spreading like wildfire. In the interest of science and in an effort to develop a new oral vaccine for this new threat, I tirelessly self-medicated each evening, carefully evaluating the efficacy of various cultivars of Australian wine. The jury is still out on the results, but I will selflessly pursue my research.

For the rest of the time leading up to Christmas, we met Evan’s family, all of them warm and down to earth people. Evan is a liberated and caring young man – also a romantic, as we learned. He proposed to Karen in the rain under a picnic shelter at Nobby’s Beach, with one of their favourite local musicians, Lili Crane playing Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” for them. Karen was surprised.

A wet Evan pops the question to a wet Karen.

Kaz & Quinno (as their mates call them) with Lili Crane.

Evan also presented Karen with a ring, which left Annie jealous, quickly reminding me that the only ring I ever gave her, was the ring around the inside of the bathtub.

Newcastle, the coal and once, the steel hub of New South Wales, has an amazing collection of historical buildings and Victorian workers cottages, as well as some well designed modern buildings, interspersed with factories and old trade businesses.

The old Technical College on Hunter Street.

A veritable feast for the eyes, as most of the old building stock are well maintained while the rest are in the process of being renovated and the areas gentrified. We may invest in property locally, as a lot of young folks are moving here from Sydney and the rental returns are better than Sydney. We also visited the Newcastle Art Gallery.

The School of Arts – just a small sample of historical Newcastle.

Walking along the harbourfront – someone put Christmas decorations on this tree

Summer solstice sunset, 21st December – we had a walk, swim and picnic at Nobby’s Beach.

Annie in particular, did a lot of walking with Michelle, who is working hard to strengthen her knee after her knee arthroscopy, in preparation for a hiking tour to Europe from June to August 2022 – Covid allowing. Karen and Evan are practising for another triathlon in Jervis Bay and I did a lot of reading and as usual, thinking – and listening to music.

Karen giving me a pre-Christmas haircut.

On Christmas Eve, Karen and Evan had their annual  Orphan’s dinner (persons without parents in Newcastle). This year only about 20 friends attended, because, with Covid restrictions temporarily lifted, many were able to travel home. The evening was a rip roaring affair with some hilarious quiz games prepared by Paula and Nick. Lots of food, drinks, music and laughter until late, with a wonderful group of young people.

Annie & Karen with their ham before putting it into the oven.

Quiz mistress Paula explaining the rules.

The 3 teams ready to roll with the quiz.

Charades – scene from “Titanic”

Oops! I don’t think this was in the script.

Team no. 3 members cheering on their actors.

Molly and Nick’s suggestive act comes to an end.

On Christmas Day we went for a walk and a swim at Merewether Beach, followed by a traditional family seafood lunch of salmon, prawns and salads at Karen’s house – Evan had lunch with his family. After two big successive meals, we all needed a Nanna nap!

G’day Merewether Beach.

The girls with Christmas lunch.

Farzher and Shelly with Aperols.

Not for long though, as on Boxing Day, it was the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which had a glued to the TV. The rest of Australia’s cricket tragics were watching the third Ashes test against the Poms in Melbourne, where the Aussies won and retained the Ashes.

The rest of the week leading up to the New Year was spent doing things on the boat like fitting beach wheels to our dinghy and using Eugene’s gurney to give the dinghy and Esprit’s deck, cockpit and topsides a good clean and polish afterwards. I also managed to do a few maintenance jobs for Karen at her house. On the 31st we cleaned the house and moved back to the boat after 14 days at Eugene’s house, which was a welcome break for us on land.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening for us with both Karen and Michelle and their friends camping and walking in the bush. Newcastle put on a very good fireworks display which we enjoyed with a bottle of wine and snacks on our deck. New Year’s Day and Annie’s 67th birthday, turned out a sunny day and after a hearty breakfast prepared by moi, we cycled to Newcastle Beach where we joined the locals worshipping the sun and swimming.

In the evening, we had a fabulous roast leg of lamb on our Weber Baby Q with all the accoutrements and the company of Karen and Evan. The start of a promising new year was ahead for all of us.

The following week saw us visiting Evan’s 96 year old Grandma Hedi for tea and cake. I also went for a medical checkup with a local doctor. We had a visit for lunch from Ron & Dot Thompson, our neighbours in Sydney and a lunch BBQ at Evan’s mom Vicky, while waiting for the new rudder bearings for Esprit to arrive from Sydney.

The 12th January marked our 26th anniversary in Australia, which we toasted with champagne, happy to be living in this wonderful country.

G’day mate! (Newcastle Art Gallery)

We departed Newcastle on Friday 14th January 2022, for the 63 nm sail to the Royal Motor Yacht Club, on the Pittwater at Newport in Sydney. Karen & Michelle sailed the last leg with us, with Karen enjoying steering all the way in the good breeze.

Leaving Newcastle with a cargo vessel entering the harbour.

Leaving Newcastle behind.

The Girls.

Entering the Pittwater sailing past the familiar Barrenjoey lighthouse.

Karen at the wheel.

Michelle belting out a Bonnie Raitt song with Lion Island in the background.

Welcomed at RMYC by my dear friend Ron Watson.

Professor Balogh, Karen’s boss, explaining the bloodline of his champion homing pigeons.

Drawing a parallel with our homecoming, we release two of his champion homing pigeons.

Thus ended the journey we started from RMYC on the 15th May 2016, finishing back here after 5 years and 8 months. During this time Esprit has covered 38,937 nm (72,111 km), including the 1,603 nm from Cairns back to Sydney. An experience we have thoroughly enjoyed, but which won’t be our last. We will keep you posted on events during 2022 and beyond. Cheers for now!

Esprit’s route around the world. (Click to enlarge)