The Radisson Blu, in the heart of Sydney where we were to stay for three nights, was an old building that had been converted into a hotel. We were not very happy about being in the centre of the city but found that the hotel was in an ideal position – ten minutes walk to Circular Quay where the ferries and cruise boats dock, five minutes from the Botanical Gardens and only a few more minutes walk to the Opera House, with Darling Harbour just fifteen minutes or so walking time.
We joined a free tour of the city with a very knowledgeable tour guide who obviously loved the place and knew a great deal about its history. The tour finished on a platform overlooking the harbour, overshadowed by the Bridge.
Sydney Harbour Bridge has a span of 1,650ft with a total length of 3,770ft, a width of 152ft and is 440ft tall at its highest point. Crossing the bridge are eight vehicle lanes, two railway lines, a footpath and a cycleway, which makes the Tyne Bridge look like a baby brother.
A tour was planned so we embarked on a coach that took us to the north of the city, over the Bridge and into the beautiful suburbs where Jacaranda trees were in full purple bloom, to eventually arrive at Manly Beach, where we took a stroll and paddled in the Tasman Sea. This is such a popular beach that it is patrolled by helicopters keeping a lookout for sharks!
Then to Darling Harbour where a beautiful, white 1,000 ton cruise boat, the ‘Captain Cook’, waited. This was to be a lunch cruise of the harbour and it was served as we passed under the bridge and berthed at Circular Quay to take on the bulk of the passengers. A huge selection of sweets were on offer which we were eating as we passed close to the Opera House; I left my wife tucking in to take a photograph from the stern in a position where, it is said, is the only place in Sydney where you can see both the Bridge and the Opera House together.
And it was there that I met a gentleman in a white boiler suit who was the ship’s engineer. After a little chat, swapping life stories, he said, ‘Come on, I’ll take you to see the skipper!’
After dragging my good lady from her feast with strict instructions to the waitress not to remove the plates because, ‘we’ll be back!’ we followed the engineer to the bridge where we were introduced to the Captain and were rewarded with tremendous views of this huge harbour. There we sat in the Captain’s chair and briefly steered the vessel for a couple of miles or so. I was in my element and my wife, concentrating hard, also had a turn at the wheel. This, of course, became the highlight of the tour.
The cruise ended at Darling Harbour where our coach waited to take us on a tour of the Southern suburbs including the more famous Bondi Beach.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.