New Year's Eve

We wanted to see the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Sydney Harbour. The display has several sets of fireworks set off from barges in the harbour, and a centrepiece display set off from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

We gathered a lot of information about the best views and anchorages for watching the fireworks. Everyone told us how crowded it would be, which we expected, and how inexperienced lots of the other boats out there would be, which we also expected. The best approach would be to choose a spot a little deeper than novice boaters would feel comfortable anchoring in, and hopefully that would provide more space for us. 

We had made a plan to anchor in Athol Bay, with a view of the Bridge and the Opera House. As plans go, this one changed with the weather forecast. Strong southerly winds were going to be arriving a few hours before midnight, and Athol Bay would be too exposed.  Along with our friends on SV Tregoning and SV Silhouette, we chose to anchor in Farm Cove, between Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair and the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We expected this to be a bit more crowded, but better protected from the forecasted winds. Our friends arrived before us and left a nice gap for us between them. The three of us were on the edge of the exclusion zone and had front row seats!

Tregoning in position in Farm Cove

For most of the afternoon, the wind was gentle and from the northwest and other boats kept arriving. About an hour before dusk, we watched the fireworks barges getting towed into position and were very excited about how great our position was. Just as predicted, at dusk the strong southerly winds arrived. Over 100 boats were anchored in Farm Cove, and we watched as each one quickly swung 180 degrees on their anchor and chaos soon followed.

Good as Gold in Farm Cove with a few other boats

Silhouette in Farm Cove, along with lots of others just before the wind shifted

There were about five or six boats near us that hadn’t anchored well and were now being pushed by the wind and dragging their anchors. In normal circumstances this is a problem that can be easily dealt with, but we were in an overcrowded anchorage with lots of novice boaters so there was a lot of yelling. To make things worse, some of the boats that were dragging got their anchors entangled with the anchors and chains of other boats. This will cause the boat that is dragging to head towards whoever it is entangle with, and sometimes this will pull out the anchor of the second boat. 

Dina went up to the bow and Malcolm went to the cockpit. We were prepared to move quickly if needed, and prepared to hold fenders out if other boats dragged too close to us. Phil, on Silhouette, was soon dealing with a boat that dragged right into him. Luckily, the two anchors didn’t get tangled and Phil’s anchor held the two of them while things were sorted out. We had a small boat drag past us and their anchor rope got hooked up on our rudder or propeller. They motored up closer to us and the weight of the anchor helped free them, but while this was going on a large catamaran that was entangled with another small boat drifted past within a few feet of us. 

Two entangled boats just missed us.

For the next 30-45 minutes we nervously watched as more entangle boats from further up the anchorage drifted downwind past us. The Marine Rescue services were on hand to help, and we did see they had bolt cutters for anyone who wanted to cut their anchor free rather than get dragged into a worse situation. It was a great show and things settled down before dark. Our boat and our friends’ boats were all okay.

Tregoning at dusk, after the wind shift

There is a first set of fireworks at 9pm. These “family” fireworks are a smaller show intended to let people see some fireworks without having to stay up past midnight. We got some champagne and sat up on the bimini to watch. We have seen lots of fireworks before, but these were way more impressive than anything we’d ever seen. It wasn’t just our great seats, but it was the way they used several different sets of barges and the bridge for launching the fireworks. That was just the family fireworks.

Early evening fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

At 11:57 pm we got more champagne and went back up onto the bimini, this time with a blanket. What followed was the most impressive fireworks display we have ever seen. Fireworks from the arch of the bridge, a waterfall of fire from the bridge deck, lots of fireworks from the barge nearby, fireworks from the barge 500m to the east, fireworks from the barge 500m further, fireworks from the barge on the other side of the bridge, and a light display on the Opera House and the pillars of the bridge.

Happy New Year!!

Good as Gold with fireworks in the distance

When it was all over, we stood on watch in case any of the hordes of boats leaving caused any issue. It was all okay and as we went to bed at 1:30am we wondered if watching fireworks in the future would be boring after this.