Christmas in Perth


The thoroughly modern centre of Perth reflects the resources-based economic boom which has made Western Australia so prosperous in recent years. The mineral wealth of the state has been exploited - some would say too ruthlessly - to such an extent that there is a significant labour shortage and house prices in Perth are now higher than those in Sydney. Though the centre of the city has little character to distinguish it from other modern cities, the surroundings are very attractive, particularly the park areas along the lake-sides formed by the Swan river. As elsewhere in Australia, public access to shore-frontage has been preserved almost everywhere and Aussies make excellent use of this - assisted of course by a climate that encourages outdoor living. In fact, the 'barbie' is a virtual obsession and we were repeatedly amazed at the lengths to which Aussie families were willing to go in elaborate preparations in order to be able to enjoy the debatable delights of cooking and eating outdoors. The views of the city and its parkland from the war memorial in the beautifully tended gardens of King's Park were particularly striking.


Hilary and Denis Yovich were kindness itself, not only making our stay in Fremantle easy in practical ways, but welcoming us into their family for the Christmas period. We drove into the Swan valley for wine tasting and visited the immigrants wall at the Maritime Museum, where Hilary and Denis could point to the arrival of their families in Australia. Denis was just beginning to explore the minute mysteries of Bonsai trees, so we learned a little about it too.


Once the excitement of the Etchells worlds had abated, we found a better berth for 'Sunstone' in one of those peculiarly Australian inventions, the 'pen'. These are very economical of marina space, but make boarding and moving the boat in and out something of a feat of practical ingenuity. However, the Fremantle Sailing Club was very welcoming as were many members, particularly David, Tina, Matt, Earla and Julie, who all helped make our stay more pleasant. In addition we got a number of Race fixes, which always put us in a better mood. As usual we were baffled by the local rating systems, especially since there seemed to be different ones for each of the many series run by the Club. To add to the confusion, we re-validated our IRC rating, which we hadn't used since leaving England and found that the local measurer was Malcolm Runnalls, with whom we had sailed in 'Apriori' in the early 90's.


Fremantle's harbour is the striking setting for the annual Harbour Classic to which specific local yachts are invited. They race up and down the narrow waterway, between container ships and bulk carriers, with the barque 'Leeuwin' and the striking architecture of the Maritime Museum as a fitting backdrop.


We later had an opportunity to visit the excellent Museum, in which the exhibits are often very imaginatively, if improbably, laid out. Perhaps the most dramatic is Jon Sander's yacht in which he completed a triple, solo, non-stop circumnavigation from Fremantle.

'Sunstone' received its usual Christmas treat of the inflatable tree, as well as a coat of varnish, applied this time in fore and aft halves, rather than side to side, because of the geometry of the 'pen'. In the meantime Vicky was suitably dressed for Antipodean present wrapping and well prepared for her Christmas day swim with Denis at a local beach, well populated with other Christmas celebrants. Having had a festive sail at the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, we felt thoroughly imbued with the holiday spirit.

This was rounded off by a proper family Christmas lunch with three generations of Yoviches. Watching Francesca open her presents gave everyone more pleasure than their own.