Monday, 30 January 2012

Happy Birthday Australia!!!!

Working on the Southern Swan has its perks, and being aboard for Australia day was definitely one of them.  Sure the weather couldn't make its mind up (raining, sunny, chucking it down then clearing) but what a day. In the first sail every boat and it mum was in the harbour, all dressed up to commemorate the birth of a nation.  And then there was the Tall ship race, in which the Swan fought against its sister ship the Soren Larsen, 17th century replica the Duyfken, and replica training vessel the Young Endeavour (who ended up winning!).

Then for the evening cruise, the ship took part in a parade in cockle bay in Darling Harbour, it was pretty bizarre seeing myself on the big screen, knowing that my image was being broadcast across the country (I grinned and waved like an idiot). And then we watched the fire works, which were, as always, amazing.

And for both sails it was great to have a two member band playing,  the singers voice - wow.
So thank you Australia, for another great experience.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Looking after your pennies: Seven budgeting tips for Australia

Its pretty obvious that as a western country with a strong currency, travelling Australia isn't cheap. I've met so many people (including myself ) that start to run out of funds in a matter of weeks. Believe me, stressing over money can really put a dampener on things.
Here I've put together seven tips on how to stretch your pennies and make the most of what you're spending. Sure there are some things you really can't afford to skimp on (blog article to come soon) but this is a list I wished I'd known before getting here.

1) Research your entitlement to a Medicare card.  Coming from a land where health care is free to all, forking out $60 odd AU dollars for a GP appointment has been a bit of a culture shock. Unlucky enough to need an ambulance called out and you could be looking at a bill of $300.  There's no question that skipping health cover would be a really stupid idea, but how you go about it is the  crunch point.  Insurance companies are excellent at making claims difficult to put through and refusing to pay you back!
For citizens of countries like the UK and Sweden, citizens are able to obtain a Medicare card.  This will allow you free (or reimbursed) doctors appointments and subsidised costs. So check whether you could have one.
Note: Medicare does not include dentistry costs, so make sure your insurance covers this (my $135 dollar trip to the dentist taught me this).

2) With accommodation, the Internet is your friend.  Even with an Internet site taking its commission, booking accommodation via a third party is cheaper than calling up the hostel.  Sites like hostel world can give great deals.  Sometimes questioning the price of a bed won't get you far, however if its off peak and there is more than one hostel in town, don't be afraid to barter.  This can even work with Campsites.
If camping its also worth researching free sites on the net and don't be shy to quiz tourist information centres.
Remember, if staying in an area for a while, ask the hostels about work for accommodation.

3)  DIY tours. A great thing about Australia is there are a lot of free resources and activities at your disposal.  In the cities, visit the tourist information centres, make your own walking tour, make note of the free museums, parks and transport.  major cities like Perth and Melbourne have free shuttle buses (Perth) and trams (Melbourne)in their centres.  All it takes is a few google searches
Out in the country, again use tourist information centres to find out walking trails and beauty spots you don't have to pay for.

4) Get your own wheels and share the ride - Buying or renting, not only does having your own vehicle give your more freedom, it also works out pretty cheap. Choose the right one and it can double up as your accommodation. The more people sharing the journey, also means split fuel costs. If you find you've got a spare seat, why not put a few adverts in a few hostels.  maybe your the one looking to hitch a ride. If so, check the notice boards.

5) Get a job you bum!!!  This is a popular 'budgeting' technique, i.e you can't so you need to find cash - sharpish.  Luckily due to its mining exports, Australia is one of the few countries where jobs are still in demand.  Find the right job and not only will you make a little money, you'll experience something totally different. Outback work may have its challenges, but the pay can be good and the culture very Australian. However, if your visa won't allow you to work but you wish to prolong your travel, organisations like workaway and woofing maybe for you.  volunteers can find a host of small companies and families looking for help. In exchange for food and board, volunteers work a few hours a day.

6) Staying connected.  a lot of my budgeting techniques have included researching on the net, so its only proper on tip should centre on staying connected.  Its may only be a few dollars at a time but Internet cafe bills can add up after a while. Therefore, finding free wifi facilities always makes me smile. Generic chains like MacDonald's and the coffee club have got me through some tough times, as public libraries. The more populous the area, the more likely cafe with have wifi.  Also some transport systems, like Sydney ferries, have wifi aboard.

7) Yummy food doesn't always cost a bomb - I know fighting with a dozen other travellers for space in a hostel kitchen isn't glamorous, but it will save you money.  However, when you want to splash out on a meal, pick up local tourist guides in hostels and information centres. You'll usually find discount coupons and deals on the back pages. could wear an orange jumpsuit like the fellow above and make your millions on Circular Quay!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sydney wishlist 2012

I've been in Sydney for about 5 months now and although I've got through a few activities, there is always more in this city. Yet now that I have a time limit in the city (I'll be leaving in April) it maybe time to write my remaining goals.  I began writing a wish list for Sydney, but as time went by its only got longer and I will definitely won't get through them all in two months. Therefore, I've performed a list cull. here are the activities and places I must do by April.

  1. Luna park - I see it everyday on the day cruises. It looks like the tackiest theme park to grace the east coast - and I really want to go!!!!!!
  2. Visit surry hills  -A suburb that's home to bohemian cafe and cute boutiques.
  3. Do something active - either go surfing, kayaking, try a paddle board or dive once more!
  4. Go to Taronga zoo - I need to sought out a wombat, they maybe my favourite Ozzy animal and I still haven't seen one.
  5. Go to a new beach. I've gone to Coogee, Bronte, Bondi, Manly, Shelley sand Clovella - but I need to sample one more.

So there you have it. You guys are my witnesses that I must complete this wish list. And if I don't, I must have some elaborate excuse to tell you.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Out and about in Sydney: Manly

During the last few months I've made several trips to Manly, just a short ferry ride from central Sydney. Granted the main beach can get jammed backed, at night time the atmosphere can turn a little sour and the main street shouts 'g'day tourists,' I'm pretty fond of this little spot. If you ever get a chance to come here, this is what I suggest...

The ferry over is a great way to see the harbour, but if your bored of looking out at the shoreline and boats, make use of the free wi-fi on board.
Once the ferry is docked, walk to the small beach by the wharf. You might even be in the mood to buy something from the  ice cream stand,  However this is not the best beach Manly has to offer.

walk along the main street to manly main beach front, but still, this is not the best beach.
keep walking right along the 'cabbage tree park' area.  Along this stretch  of walk way you'll find water dragons, signs telling you not to take water dragons home, a salt water swimming pool, a cute little coffee shop and at low tide, flat rocks to sun bathe on.

Then you'll find one of my favourite little coves; Shelley beach.  From here you can snorkel, swim and laze.

But if you're still wanting more, walk up the hill to a small amount of bushland set aside.  There you'll get excellent views of the sea and during the right time of year, its whale spotting galore.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Learning to sail

Before September, I'd hear the word sailing and think yacht clubs, jersey shirts, around the world sagas, record breaking and Olympic gold medals.  Mention the word tall ship and I'd say something stupid about pirates.  Start talking about lines, clues and bunts and I'd guess you were talking about the rules to a board game.  Five months on since I stepper aboard the Southern Swan and things have definitely changed.
Some how I've ended up working on a beautiful ship, in an environment I  never imagined.  The only previous experience I'd had was manning a small sailing boat in the lake district.  It was a school trip and I was thirteen. By the end my sailing partner was in tears and I was amazed I hadn't  crashed.  After that I didn't go out of my way to give it another go.

When the job started, I remember being shown the different lines (fact of the day, on a ship all rope, except that on the bell, is called line whether its used for mooring,  pulling or throwing) and thinking;

a) what language is he speaking? is it English? if so I think I've lost the ability to speak it!.
b) how will I remember where each line is kept,  maybe I should keep a diagram in my pocket.
c) who made up these names and what were they on?  Did he really just say 'c*&#t line'?
d) Knots? but I never did that badge in Guides!!!!

There was a little part of me (i.e a booming voice) that kept saying 'you think you can do this, really? REALLY???!!!'

Strangely, I found climbing the mast and working out on the yards one of the easiest things. I just took my time and worked up my confidence. Then slowly things started to sink in. I now feel pretty confident with the sails and the only mooring line I need to master is the main (as this entails throwing a heaving line to shore when coming in, my muscle power needs to improve).

And then this mean mistress showed up. Meet the Soren Larsen, another Danish ship that the company has taken on.

 Between April and October she can be found touring the pacific islands, but for this Ozzy summer she has been doing charters in the harbour.  She's a beast compared to the Southern Swan. Her lines are heavy and her Fore mast is a hell of a lot taller.  But due of my time on the swan, its easier to make sense of it all.  I can remember quickly where the sheets, clues and bunts are, I can shout the distances on headline and help bring her safely alongside.  Sure, I'm no hardened sailor and know very little about sea life, but at least I can say, five months on from my first day

a) He's speaking maritime English. don't worry I have my phrase book.
b) you'll take note of subtle differences and remember which is line is which. If in doubt give a little tug and see where it leads.
c) very bored (and lonely) sailors made up the names.
d) Knots are there to be learnt. even if you don't get a badge.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Years in Sydney

 Welcome to 2012 everybody! And I have to say 2011's new years eve was definitely the most exciting one I've ever had.  In the past new years has always been a bit of a let down; its expensive, you drink too much too soon, everybody is so desperate for it to be great that it just doesn't cut it.  its only been when the expectations have been taken away that you begin to have fun.  Previously, the best new years had been playing boards with my family back in Kent.

It may not have been my first new years in Oz, but it was in Sydney, crowned the new years eve capital of the world.  Sure I would be working, but I'd be on a tall ship, front row in the harbour over looking the bridge as the fireworks went off.   There was a lot of prep for the occasion, putting up the spectacular light ropes on not only the southern swan, but also two others vessels in the company's fleet.

Over two days we worked to get the ship ready for its big night and then at 6:30pm, headed to Campbell's cove to pick up the passengers for a 7:15 departure. There were so many people crammed onto the wharf I did not envy anyone there!

So for 5 hours the ship stayed in the harbour, I cooked food, the ship went in a parade with the heritage fleet, at nine a pre-fireworks display got under way and the the rope lights went on all ships.

                                                                          The southern swan's sister ship - the Soren Larsen.

                                                   The swan's light rope 'sails'

As I was working in the galley, all my work was done but 11 (although I still ended up on the bar)  which meant at 12am 1st Jan 2012, I was on the mast (sorry no pictures of this, for the first 5 minutes  i was awe struck) as the fireworks began, - wow. Sure, I've seen fireworks before, but nothing to such scale.  10 solid minutes of jammed packed explosion.

After all the passengers were safely back on land, it was time to have a first drink for some, but not me.  Because instead of going out and partying with the rest of Sydney, my stomach decided it didn't like me anymore and I'd have to be bed bound. But even with the sickness, Sydney, you gave me the best new years, ever.

Guys, I hope your was a good one. Happy new year. x

* The initial photo is the  James Craig, also in the heritage fleet.

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