Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Each year on Boxing Day, a fleet of magnificent yachts sails out of Sydney Harbour for the arduous journey to the southern capital. If you listen to yachtsmen, you are led to believe that the Sydney to Hobart is one of the toughest races in the world. The first race was in December 1945 with only 9 competitors in ordinary wooden cruising yachts that took over five days to make the trip. That first year they hit a storm that lasted 36 hours and there were fears that some of the boats were lost, but the smallest yacht suddenly appeared in Hobart and not only took line honours, but was one of only about half a dozen yachts to take handicap honours as well. This year, 86 yachts set out and there are still some at sea. But the maxi 'Wild Oats' finished the journey in record time - 1 day, 18 hours 40 minutes. Not only that, but it is now one of only a few the has the treble - line honurs, record time and handicap honours! An incredible race. It was closely followed by Alpha Romeo and not all that far behind was Skandia, Konica and AATP.
We decided this morning to enter into the festive atmosphere of Hobart docks and were happy to be around to see four yachts cross the line. There must have been about 30 boats in by the time we went home. So, to share the atmosphere and our enjoyment, here are just a few shots.
Furthest away Line Honours Winner 'Wild Oats'. On its right 'Alpha Romeo', and in the foreground a part of ' Konica Minolta'.'Pale Ale Rager' arrived as we arrived at the docks, gladly welcomed by family and friends.Just like all the 'girls', Carol is watching for the sailors to come in. And she wasn't disappointed. Ragamuffin has crossed the finishing line and is being led to her berth. Plus Wedgetail. Well done guys!Hobart is a welcoming city to the sailors and many Hobartians, including ourselves, were happy to be there and applaud the arrivals.Three of the maxis berthed at Princess Wharf. From left to right: Konica Minolta, Alpha Romeo, AAPT
This is just one marina. Constitution Dock is in the background and also had a number of yachts. Constitution Dock is the traditional place where yachts finally tied up.

And finally, another shot showing off three maxis, this time including Skandia which capsized in Bass Strait last year, lost its keel, but stayed afloat (upside down), was recovered and had a great race to Hobart this time - came in third. There are certainly some very dedicated sailors taking part in the Sydney - Hobart! About 3 months ago one man who had taken part in every race since 1948 retired at the age of 78, only to die about 10 days before the race. Then again just a few weeks before the race a couple of older men sailed into Hobart in a rather battered yacht - they had left after last year's race to sail around the world and had just got back in time to make some much needed repairs and take part in this year's race!

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Interlude

Another Christmas has come and gone. I was just saying to Carol, "This has been the 46th Christmas we have enjoyed together, and each year it is different." Now, isn't that something! It is really how life unfolds. We share and learn and experience something new every day and don't always realise it. One thing that again stands out with us is how vital and important each member of our family is. Yet, with each passing year, each member of this wonderful family moves further into their own life's experience and we wish each as wonderful a life as we enjoy. We feel thoroughly blessed!!
The fact that we could celebrate the birth of the Son of God in company of 21 of our children and grandchildren is blessing indeed. We were delighted to have all the Hobart-based family plus Amy and Georgie from Melbourne here to celebrate at Heather & Brent's place. The weather was marginal and so we mostly stayed indoors and chatted, drank, ate (and ate ate ate). It was a great occasion and we thought you would like to share with us through this blog. The photos are not the best I have ever taken, but hopefully will convey something of the atmosphere.

Men at work, carving up the meat:
Just a few shots of our interaction over food:

Then of course the younger grandchildren - Ellie, Kirsty (it was really special to have her join us on this occasion) & Luke:

Desert was fantastic, but hard to fit in after ham, turkey, pork, lamb & chicken. Just look at those raspberries, freshly picked from our garden. The pavlova is Jacquie's creation, the jummy chocolate ripple cake from Georgie, the sensational mudcake from Kathryn and the plum pudding from Carol:

As you can see, Elli was all for tucking in bigtime. She really likes her food, that one. Come to that, SHE LOVES PARTYING!

What's a party without balloons - ably led by Ann and Heather:

Contentment has to be the conclusion of all, and here are just a couple of photos to proof that:

Jacquie with our latest grandchild, Josiah Timothy, aged 3 months:
And finally, THOMAS, who was absolutely transformed!

That's it for another year! Back to normal (!!??) as from today.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Grand Tour Part 10 - Prague

We had looked forward with enormous anticipation to our visit to Prague. Many friends had talked to us about its beautiful architecture and the magic surroundings, plus of course its history. Certainly we were not disappointed.
The bus dropped us off in the Castle Square situated on the top of the hill from where it commands great panoramic views of the city:
As we left the bus, we immediately got a good view of St. Vitus Cathedral which is very prominent on the Prague skyline:

One wonders how tired these guards must get when tourists stand along side them and try to chat them up. I was a good boy and just said 'g'day' and 'thank you'. It is just a fun picture to take and hence, here it is:

We were an attentive lot as we listened carefully to our local guide, giving us the run down on the history of the castle and its surroundings.

One of the disappointments for the day was that, being a national public holiday, the cathedral was closed to the public as it was being prepared for a special service. When asked, the guide informed us that there was not a lot of interest in religion by young people and that the older generation kept up the interest in the things of God. Sadly to me, that is a reflection of the western world generally.

Inside the castle, the guide told us the story of how in the 1400s the Chancellor was thrown out of the window - the higher one above the steps in the picture. Obviously, he must have been one of those very 'popular' politicians! As luck would have it for the Chancellor he fell into a heap of garbage that was just dumped where the steps are and so he had a comparitively 'soft' landing and survived. What that says is that rubbish was just thrown out and left for goodness how long. A habit of the times.

The views from this part of the castle were also excellent, as the following will show:

From here we were guided along narrow streets with lots of atmosphere. Little shops attracted our attention as did display windows way above the heads of the crowds:

As we wandered down the hills, we enjoyed the views again as well as more of the Prague atmosphere:

On the way down to the old city, it was delightful views such as this that caught our attention:

Finally, the Charles Bridge that dates back to the 1400s and a look back at St..Vitus on the hill.

Even had to join the rest of tourist in posing here:
Once across the bridge, we entered the old city and found a marvellous variety of architecture. Here is just a small sample:

Having wandered and shopped at the Bohemian Glass Shop, we relaxed over lunch with Shaun. This surely was welcome after so much walking:

In the afternoon it was good to cruise on the river and take in the sights over a drink with some eats:

Finally, and as a fitting end to a great tour, we went out together as a group to a restaurant for a wonderful night of entertainment and good food.
The young man was a virtuoso on the cimbalom or hammer dulcimer, while the older guy with the white moustache was a virtuoso on the washboard!

It was a fitting end to an interesting and enjoyable tour with special thanks to our Tour Guide Thomas and our fantastic bus driver Juri. Plus of course we made lots of new friends and trust that they continued to enjoy their own itineraries. As to us, we are off to the Baltic States and welcome you to follow our journey as we fly to our next chapter of adventure in Tallinn, Estonia.