Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pittwater, Palm Beach and Balmoral

Saturday 13 October 2012
We had some fairly dramatic shifts in the weather in October 2012. Large snow falls fell across NSW on the Thursday/Friday but on the Saturday morning we headed out to hire a tinnie and take a little wander on Pittwater. The inclement weather and not such a fabulous weather forecast seem to have kept most people at home in the morning, and there was very little water traffic, and virtually no "Pittwater slop" which was great. :o) Pittwater slop is the random water movements resulting from the wakes of many vessels..
The view down Pittwater from Palm Beach Wharf
The break in the weather gave us what is called locally a "magic day". The sort of still, perfect morning that makes your spirit really soar and inspires a bright consciousness of how lucky you are to be alive.
Palm Beach Wharf

Boats at Anchor - Palm Beach
We collect our tinnie...for want of a better term.. is it still a tinnie when it's not made of aluminium? 
The men insist I take the helm. Neither of them have spent much time on small boats.  I'm a bit apprehensive, as I've not done this in many years, but it's like riding a bike and pretty soon the years of tutelage from Dad and my grandmother are put to use. Out here in this boat I feel like Dad and Granna are loitering just behind my shoulders, smiling.

 Our tinnie isn't the most glamorous girl, we've requested a canopy, which is important to have. This one is ratty, but it's better than nothing. You need to be careful of your sun exposure on the water, the UV bounces up off the water and you can still burn when you're in the shade. This early in the season it's not much of a problem for us.

We're just going to do a bit of a reccie (reconnoitre) today. We've only taken the boat for a couple of hours, so we'll head down to Towlers Bay and across to Coaster's Retreat and see how we go. In the picture above, Coaster's is on the right of the sail boat and Towler's Bay is around the point down to the far left of shot.
I think Pittwater joins Sydney harbour as the two most naturally beautiful places on the NSW coast. I guess the first Europeans settling this country agreed with me..I know Dad did.. but then we're born and bred Sydneysiders so I guess we're probably biased. Just a little. ;o)
Looking North towards Lion Island Nature Reserve

The tinnie only has a tiny little motor, so you can't go fast, and can't really get yourself into too much trouble. Initially we headed straight across to sniff around the entrance to Coaster's Retreat. We come back here later, but for now we decide to head down to Towler's Bay first then make our way back and see how we're going for time.
Looking in towards the Basin across Coaster's Retreat.
Travelling down Pittwater we pass the bait ground where you can have a lot of fun catching yakkas ie yellowtail. We give the boats at anchor there a wide berth. Head along. I'm giving the family a commentary on the area, and reminiscing of course. Dad was a keen reef fisherman, and a stop here to catch the bait before heading out was often part of a day on the water.

Hubby has thought ahead and packed survival rations. A tim tam in a tinnie on Pittwater on a magic day. Perfect.
We head south around the point...
Past another little sandy cove... too crowded...
 And we're coming in to Towler's Bay. This is the poor cousin of the basin. Dad loved it here. Nice and shallow for the kids to play and swim. Easy to anchor up in the shallows and hardly anyone used to come here we usually had it to ourselves.  The Basin is great, but it's also very popular and has been for generations. You never get the Basin to yourself.

We've had some happy times here at Towler's Bay. How the time has flown.

Towler's Bay has some pretty good mud flats at low tide. It's a great spot for yabbying.. or was.. I hope it still is.... I'm glad Dad thought to capture the action... the following shots were taken in the summer of 1962/63.  ...that's before my time! That's my mum in the pale hat. My grandmother in the black hat holding the baby.  The children in this shot are my older siblings. 

For those who've never been yabbying.. you stick the yabby pump in the mud and pull the plunger up to suck in the mud, then you push the plunger to spray the contents on the sand. It's quite hard work on the pump. Then everyone looks feverishly for the yabbies before they can dig back into the mud. Even the littlies join in, taught in their earliest years how to pick up the yabbies and avoid their nippers. Yabbies are great bait for catching bream.
Then it's back to Cero, my grandparent's boat, anchored a little off shore. The yabbies would sit in a basin of sea water out under the canopy. The tin lids (kids) would play with them, careful not to lose any, yabbies didn't waste any time shuffling themselves off to the water if you dropped them... we loved the yabbies but were quite philosophical that they would ultimately end up on the end of hook in the cause of a fresh fish dinner. What fun we had learning to row in the dinghy or playing on the air  beds (lilos) or playing old maid with Granna.
Cero anchored at Towlers' Bay
At low tide with more ground available, we'd sometimes leave the boat for a barbie on the shore. No need for more than a few rocks. Sometimes you only just manage to save a precious memory from the ravages of time.

We do a bit of a shuffle and I take a turn in the shade for while. Dad would be more than pleased to see Son2 learning the ropes as he takes us back to the north and onward to the basin.
It's about the middle of the day now and as is typical, the breeze has picked up. A few more vessels are about too, as we head back up past the yakka ground to the Basin.

Noone was keen to change into their shorts so we didn't land anywhere, but we'll be back to the Basin in a few weeks.
Looking across Coaster's Retreat to the Basin wharf 
A little Beach north of the Basin
We've had fun on the water and I'm quietly pleased that my boat handling skills are still reasonable after all this time, as we glide smoothly into the jetty for the return. It's a good time to be heading in with the wind picking up and the water traffic increasing. The Pittwater slop is starting and the tinnie gets harder to handle. We retrieve our deposit and jump back in the car for a quick squizz at the surf beach before heading towards home.
Palm Beach is on a very narrow peninsula, surf on one side, sheltered harbourside beaches on the other. It is the preserve of the very wealthy.. and is perhaps most famous internationally as the location for filming of the TV drama series Home and Away.
Palm Beach - the surf side looking north
Palm Beach - the surf beach looking south
We decide to grab some lunch at Balmoral on the way back across the bridge. I've been meaning to try the famous fish and chips there for a long time. There used to be a tram to Balmoral. I guess there's not that many places around the beaches on the northern side of Sydney that don't have pretty strong association with my Dad in my mind. Balmoral is another. It's always been a very popular spot and the tram in the old days made it accessible.
Balmoral looking north
We pay the exorbitant weekend parking charges and head over to Bottom of the Harbour. Sheesh this fish better be good.
Off the Hook is the building on the right.. on the corner opposite the beach.
Hubby went for the standard fish and chips option. Son2 ordered grilled, saltwater barramundi, and I splashed out and ordered one of the more expensive options.  Potato scallops all round. A couple of prawn cutlets.  It was OK. I don't think I'd come all this way for it again though.. and certainly not when you have to sell an organ for the privilege of parking. I'm up for a walk, but Son2 has places he needs to be so we pack back into the car and head off.  Another day enjoying our beautiful coastal areas. There's more to come.

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