Water time in Sydney

Before we moved from Sydney in 2018, we’d toyed with the idea of getting a short term rental up by the beach, say Manly, for a couple of months, where we could could indulge in early morning swims or paddles. We never did make that work then (although we couldn’t complain, since where we lived in Waverton, we had access to a private jetty from which was a short paddle to the Opera House!). But this trip, we decided to make Manly our base, and found a cute Airbnb that had a gorgeous view of Manly and Shelly Beach.

In the mornings, we enjoyed strolls along the beach, marveling at the crowds of active folks already out jogging, playing beach volleyball, surfing and swimming. We lead a super sedentary lifestyle in Singapore by comparison.

Our goal was to relax, and get in as much water time as possible. We made it out to Spit Bridge twice, to get in some quality kayaking time, as we’d signed up for a 50km circumnavigation by kayak around Manhattan in New York City end May (yay for travel again). It was fun to paddle the old routes, out to Balmoral and around Middle Harbour – brought back memories of my training for the Murray Marathon. I haven’t used a Euro-blade paddle in far too long though, having gotten used to my Greenland paddle, and so suffered from numb hands pretty much the full 3-4 hours we were on the water. 😦

But since we’d lugged our paddle boards all the way from Singapore, we also made sure we got plenty of use out of them. We went out for a couple paddles in the North Harbour, in front of the Manly ferry terminal, and explored all the little coves and beaches. We were very tempted to paddle across to Balmoral and Watsons Bay, and even to the entrance of the Gap, the last of which we’d not even broached by kayak before… but we’re not the most confident of SUP boarders yet, and didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. Next time! But we did bring our boards to the Manly beach-side on a day when the surf looked much smaller than usual, and had a blast trying to catch small waves at the break point just outside Shelly Beach. Goals for next time too – surfing on SUPs!

We also got in a few swims from Manly to Shelly. The water temperature was a cool but comfortable 21+ degrees. Most days, the rains and surf rendered the water silty, so visibility was not the greatest. But we did have one beautiful day on Sunday when the sun was out in full blast, the winds calm, and the surf small, when the ocean looked like a beautiful swimming pool. We spotted baby dusky whaler sharks, tons of fishes, blue groupers and rays.

We had friends come out to Manly to hang with us a few different days, which was tons of fun. Our last evening though, we decided to venture back downtown to meet up with friends, and enjoyed riding the ferry at dusk back to Circular Quay. That sight never gets old!

Glorious vacation; till next time Sydney. ❤

How is it winter already?

2017 is zooming us by. I can’t believe it’s just a few days more before winter arrives in the Southern hemisphere.

Looking at the number of photographs I’ve taken so far this year, my output has fallen quite a bit. Indeed, I haven’t felt that driven to go out for sunrise shoots, or just shoots in general.

I could probably point to more than half a dozen reasons why this is the case, but I think part of it is due to my lousy sleep patterns. I just haven’t been sleeping that well. Most nights, I wake up at three and either just toss and turn for the next couple of hours or just give up and read in bed. By the time I’m feeling drowsy again, it’s almost time to get ready for sunrise – but I’m not in a safe state to drive.

The other big reason though, is that increasingly, I’ve felt that my seascapes photographs, in of themselves, are lonely scenes. They are just static pictures and don’t tell a story, of life, of adventure. I’ve enjoyed my past year in learning how to read the different conditions of the clouds and tides, the myriad compositions I can take to capture a certain mood or drama. But I’m beginning to feel removed from the action. Rather than take pictures of the waves, increasingly, I want to dive between the waves. To have my senses shocked by the biting cold waters, to be knocked off my feet by it’s sudden ferocity, then embraced by the swash.

And so, this past weekend, we have chosen to do just that. Left my camera and tripod at home, and just went ocean swimming with our snorkels. It felt good. To be able to efficiently slice through the water with bare hands, and ogle at leisure the schools of fish in the clear waters. Baby dusky whalers, wobbegongs, sting rays, groupers, squids, trumpet fish, old wifes, flounders, flatheads, leatherjackets, yellowtail scads, wrasses etc.

After, we unfolded our kayaks and paddled around North Harbour, starting from the Manly Sea Life Museum and hugging the Fairlight beach to Dobroyd Head, before crossing the harbour to Quarantine Station Wharf, Store Beach and Collins Flat Beach. It was a glorious end autumn day with brilliant blue skies and a warm sun.

I did snap a couple pictures with my phone though. Just for keepsake. 😉

Checking off our first open water swims

At the end of last year, we resolved that we would try an open water swim in Sydney. The 1.5km Manly to Shelly (and back) swim seemed like the easiest bet.

Last weekend seemed a good time to check off that bucket list. Winter is fast approaching; already, the water temperature is a fresh 20 Celsius. We’d a string of sunny days too and gentle swell in the weather report, so we asked a couple other friends keen to check off that swim as well and off we went!

Our friend Nicola has done that swim hundreds of times in the past 4 years. She did it again that Saturday morning at 7am, and messaged us soon that we just had to do it today. I’ve never seen conditions like it, she said. So many fish and sharks and awesome visibility, all the way through.

That was all the encouragement we needed. And indeed, what a swim! We’d brought snorkels in anticipation of gawking at the marine life, but it still blew our minds. We could see the bottom the entire length of the 700m swim from Manly to Shelly Beach, where we saw dozens of baby dusky whaler sharks lazily swimming about, schools of SBT (shiny bright things), three wobbegongs, groupers, sting rays (including a banded stingaree). We had so much fun, we forgot we were supposed to be swimming, and instead spent minutes hovering over the coral beds staring and pointing and grinning. Why had we thought it was a scary swim???

The next morning, Sunday, Nicola messaged us again. She’d gone out to swim again, and conditions were just as stellar. Rose and Lisa had other commitments, but Jeff and I didn’t need much prodding. This time, we brought the GoPro along too.

It was glorious. And we checked off our big 2017 resolution, twice. 😀

(Addendum: We went back to swim a week later – yesterday. The visibility was still quite good, but we learnt first hand that yes, the ocean won’t always be so nice and glassy. After battling the choppy waves for a while, we abandoned the effort. Oh well, the water was still nice and refreshing though.)

Gallery

Sunrise at Manly and Sydney Harbor National Park

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (1 of 65)-1

I had a breakfast date with a coworker bright and early Saturday morning at Manly, so I made the best of it and caught the sunrise. The sea was flat that morning, so there wasn’t much surfing action. But there were dozens of swimmers out, making the long trek in the cold waters from Manly to Shelly Beach. Hats off to them! There were kayakers out too, and paddle boarders, and as the sun rose and cast its golden rays everywhere, the snorkelers and divers came out to play as well.

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (22 of 65)-1



August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (19 of 65)-1

I also managed to make my way past the broken wall separating the Shelly beach lookout and Sydney Harbor National Park, and came across this quiet little oasis of a pond. It was all so lovely and serene, I felt happy, calm.

And then I slipped on a boardwalk off the trail that led to an old bunker, and chipped the glass on my brand new lens. Argh boardwalk! What’s wrong with a nice rocky trail!? Deep breaths. I think there’s no damage to the picture quality though. At least as far as I can tell now…

August 2015 Spring Weekend Manly and Muogamarra Reserve (55 of 65)-1

That incident with the camera lens aside, it was a perfect spring morning. Cool, fresh air, with excellent company and breakfast to boot.