Ode to the Jet Cat

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Circular Quay
Sydney, Australia
January 21, 2006

The F/V Sir David Martin, a jet-drive catamaran (JetCat) that made the 6.5 nm voyage from Circular Quay at downtown Sydney to the ferry dock at the seaside retreat of Manley at the northeast extreme of Sydney Harbour in about 15 minutes. Aside from the fact that it shaved at least 40 minutes off of a trip by car or an hour by bus, you could not ask for a more beautiful urban commute. For years when I would go to Sydney on business Рespecially in the mid-1990s РI would stay in or around Manley.

Between October and April I’d rise with the Sun, usually around 4:30, don my trunks, and head to the beach. I’d spend an hour or so body surfing, head back, shower, dress, and take a leisurely walk down the Corso shopping street to the ferry wharf. I’d buy a ticket, have a leisurely breakfast, hop the JetCat and grab a seat outside on the top deck, enjoy the legendary view for fifteen minutes, and be at the office at Chifley Tower downtown an hour before my colleagues. Brilliant.

Alas, the JetCats are gone, claimed by the rising costs of maintaining the speedboats as they aged. The ferry is still there, still a spectacular journey in almost any weather, and my decade-long love affair with the Antipodes has long since run its course. But it was brilliant while it lasted, especially as an antidote to the constant background stress of living in China.

Strolling to my table at City Extra, an immense cafe at Circular Quay notable less for the unique quality of its food than the variety of edible comforts on the menu and the ability to sit down, plug in, and balance your day between productivity and the best people-watching in the Southern Hemisphere. It was my hang-out, and many good times – and good meals – were had there.