March 5, 2018


The Boating Industry Association has put together “Advanced Skipper”, an advanced boat safety instruction course, designed by industry experts, which offers a high level of safety training plus tailored information on local waterways. For recreational boaters who aren’t on the water a lot, it provides a refresher, keeping them safe and up to date on boating rules and regulations.

As many Australian’s are taking to the water in retirement, the Advanced Skipper course allows those who sat for their boat licence years ago and have had very little boating experience since, to refresh their knowledge before heading out to sea for fishing or sailing.


The Advanced Skipper certificate can be done at home in 60-90 minutes, via the online program for $55 (incl GST). Advanced Skipper presents 22 common boating situations from multiple angles and on completion of the course, Advanced Skipper status lasts for five years. 

Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond


July 9, 2014


The recent launch in Sydney of “Annabelle Rankin” has added a third, state of the art $2.6 million Rocket catamaran, to Captain Cook Cruises’ fleet. Designed in Sydney by Incat Crowther and built in Tasmania by Richardson Devine Marine, thisnew generation, 24 metre Rocket catamaran isfuel efficient, eco-friendly and equipped with the latest technologies to reduce her carbon footprint.

Destination New South Wales, Chief Executive Officer, Sandra Chipchase officially launched “Annabelle Rankin” in the traditional maritime way of breaking a champagne bottle across the bow, to the cheers and applause of those standing on the dock.

At the conclusion of the official duties, up came the gangway and “Annabelle Rankin” sailed from her dock at King Street Wharf. As we sailed under the Harbour Bridge, past the Opera House and out into the Harbour, I was delighted to join, with other guests at the launch, in toasting “Annabelle Rankin” with champagne and canapés. While we enjoyed the sunny morning sitting out on the deck, we were able to experience “Annabelle Rankin” going through her paces and I am sure this new red Rocket will be a welcome addition to the fleet.

The vessel is named after one of Australia’s pioneer stateswomen, Dame Annabelle Rankin (1908-1986). Dame Annabelle claimed a number of firsts in Australian government including the first female federal minister. She was also the first female federal opposition whip in the British Commonwealth (1951-66), the first female head of a diplomatic mission, as high commissioner to New Zealand (1971- 74) and the first Queensland female to enter federal politics as a senator for the state (1946-71). In 1957 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for political and public services.

“Annabelle Rankin” will join her sister vessels, “Elizabeth Cook” and “Mary Reibey” on Sydney Harbour. The two level catamaran has a main passenger cabin with seats for 116 passengers and a further 31 seats located on the lower outside deck. Upstairs an open upper deck has seating for 51 passengers, providing ample space for passengers to stand and view the sights.

Sandra Chipchase, CEO, Destination NSW

Sandra Chipchase, CEO, Destination NSW

Contracted to Harbour City Ferries (Sydney Ferries) until June 2017, “Annabelle Rankin” will be providing ferry charter services.

Jeff Ellison, Managing Director of SeaLink Travel Group, said this third new vessel was part of the company’s plan to be a major charter operator on Sydney Harbour.Mr Ellison commented that these new rockets offer a fast service and a high level of comfort for passengers including large viewing windows, contemporary seating and a 360 degree viewing sundeck.

One of Australia’s most dynamic tourism and transport operators, Adelaide based SeaLink Travel Group, has undergone a remarkable period of growth. Their operations extend across New South Wales (Captain Cook Cruises), Queensland (SeaLink Queensland), Northern Territory (SeaLink NT) and South Australia (Kangaroo Island SeaLink).

SeaLink has commissioned a fourth state of the art catamaran, which is due to arrive in Sydney Harbour in December 2014.

Sandra Tiltman.


June 29, 2014

WHALES off Sydney Harbour

Over the last few years, increasing numbers of whales have decided to take a detour into Sydney Harbour during their annual migration up and down the east coast of Australia.

The 2014 Whale Watching season that commenced on 17 May is no exception to previous years. Whales making their way north to the warmer waters for their breeding season, have been entering Sydney Harbour and sighted close to Manly, to the joy of everyone lucky enough to witness the spectacle.

For all those who want to get up close to the whales as they continue their journey up the coast, the best way is to take a whale watching cruise. These cruises provide an opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing these elegant creatures blowing a spout of water as they come to the surface and then dive back under the water.

I recently decided to become a tourist in my own city and headed down to Sydney’s Circular Quay where I joined Captain Cook Cruises’ afternoon whale watching cruise that departed at 1.30 pm. I was told all their whale watching cruises come with a whale guarantee and that if a whale was not spotted, all passengers would be offered the opportunity to cruise again for free. I knew I could not go wrong with a guarantee like that.

See Whales on Captain Cook Cruises Whale watching CruisesOnce on board, I headed up to the open top deck of the large modern ocean-going catamaran to find a seat. After leaving Circular Quay and passing the Opera House, we headed for Taronga Zoo, where we picked up more passengers as well as our informative guide Mel, who also worked at the zoo as a marine expert.

The catamaran then sailed out of Sydney Harbour and through the heads to open waters, where we were all eager to catch a glimpse of our first whale in its natural environment. As we looked, Mel’s commentary taught us just about everything there was to know about the whales, which we were soon to see. There was great excitement when the first whale spout was seen, with everyone having their cameras ready when it appeared out of the water, before diving back under again, providing a magnificent view of its large tail. This first sighting was quickly followed by a pair of whales swimming side by side, staying in view for quite a while, as our boat followed their progress up the coast.

Most whales are found within 2kms of the shore. The majority of whales seen along the New South Wales coast are Humpback and Southern Right Whales, with the occasional sighting of Killer and Minke whales.

The cruise returned to Circular Quay at 4.15 pm. The Sydney whale watching season goes through to16 November 2014 after the whales head back down the coast with their calves.

Sandra Tiltman


December 2, 2013

Elizabeth Cook 009

If you notice a new shiny red catamaran around Sydney Harbour, its Elizabeth Cook, the latest vessel to join Captain Cook Cruises Sydney Harbour Fleet. Named after Captain James Cook’s wife, she is SeaLink Travel Group’s new $2.6 million state of the art catamaran and first true multi-purpose boat, allowing her to operate in all corners of Sydney Harbour.

Lucy Hughes Turnbull, Chair – The Committee for Sydney, officially launched Elizabeth Cook recently in the traditional maritime way, breaking a champagne bottle across the bow, after a blessing by Father Dooley.

Designed in Sydney by Incat Crowther and built in Tasmania by Richardson Devine Marine, this new generation 24metre Rocket catamaran was designed to be eco-friendly and more fuel efficient, equipped with the latest technologies that will help reduce her carbon footprint.

Featuring two levels, the main passenger cabin has seats for 116 passengers with a further 31 seats located on the lower outside deck, while the open upper deck seats 51. There is also ample space for passengers to stand and view the sights. Elizabeth Cook will operate as a ferry, transfer service and host sightseeing cruises, especially the popular Hop On Hop Off service almost immediately. She will also be used to host charters and corporate events.

Managing Director, SeaLink Travel Group, Jeff Ellison said the company was very excited to have built a new vessel for Sydney Harbour. “We believe this is a prototype for the future. As well as being eco-friendly and cost efficient Elizabeth Cook offers a new level of comfort including large windows, a professional marine interior and a 360-degree viewing sundeck” Mr Ellison said.

Sandra Tiltman 


September 16, 2013
Tribute Artist, Damian Mullin

Tribute Artist, Damian Mullin

The legend of Elvis lives on.

Johnny Welsh, who put on last year’s fantastic three night Elvis Cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s “Rhapsody Of The Seas”, where 15 Elvis tribute artists kept the passengers entertained night and day, brought Elvis back to Sydney for one day only.

Sandra Tiltman with "Elvis", Mark Andrew.

Sandra Tiltman with “Elvis”, Mark Andrew.

Recently Johnny Welsh’s Music Themes Australia organised a four hour cruise around Sydney Harbour, where fans were entertained by not one, but two Elvis tribute artists, Mark Andrew and Damian Mullin.  During their performances, both artists gave us different versions of Elvis throughout his career, with their costume changes and song choices.

Fans of all ages enjoyed the afternoon cruise, which also included lunch, and will be sure to return for the next Elvis Sydney HarbourCruise on 3 November which will feature Pete Storm from the UK and Australia’s very own Allan Wright and Elias Jamhour.

To book tickets, call Margot on 0418 166 436.

Sandra Tiltman.

Photos:  John Pond


September 1, 2013

 Sandra Tiltman with Leisa Chell of Cruise Passenger Magazine

Sandra Tiltman with Leisa Chell of Cruise Passenger Magazine


In support of the McGrath Foundation, whose mission is to ensure every family experiencing breast cancer in Australia has access to a breast care nurse and to increase breast awareness across the community, Captain Cook Cruises is turning Sydney Harbour Pink this September.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaptain Cook Cruises hopes to raise much needed funds to help the McGrath Foundation place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities’ right across Australia.  They will donate 10% from every Sydney Harbour High Tea Cruise and Top Deck Lunch Cruise sold until 30 September to the McGrath Foundation.

The cruises will see an array of surprises, including hot pink attired waiters, best dressed prizes for those in pink and on some cruises, a special guest attendance by McGrath Foundation Ambassador and Director, Tracy Bevan.

Head of Sales and Marketing for Captain Cook Cruises, Richard Doyle, says Captain Cook Cruises are thrilled to be turning Sydney Harbour pink to support the McGrath Foundation.  “We’ve seen icons like Test Cricket and Facebook turn pink for Breast Cancer and we think it’s time Sydney’s most famous icon, Sydney Harbour, turns pink to help support those experiencing the disease. The McGrath Foundation is a wonderful charity that funds the placement of McGrath Breast Care Nurses throughout Australia and we are delighted to be supporting them.

Captain Cook Cruises has always had a strong corporate social responsibility and we understand the benefits it brings. Passengers have a wonderful time, the McGrath Foundation earns vital funds and our staff are enthused and inspired as we come into the busy spring-summer season.”

Richard Doyle went on to say “We hope everyone gets behind our efforts to turn Sydney Harbour Pink this September by either joining us for a High Tea, purchasing tickets to our Top Deck Lunch cruises or simply by spreading the word through social media. If groups purchase four or more tickets for a

Sandra Tiltman enjoying tea with Captain Cook's Anthony Haworth

Sandra Tiltman enjoying tea with Captain Cook’s Anthony Haworth

cruise, Captain Cook Cruises also promises to get the party started with a free pink welcome cocktail.”

Captain Cook Cruises High Tea at Sea cruises depart every Wednesday and Saturday from Jetty 6, Circular Quay at 2.30pm. The High Tea menu features a variety of savoury and sweet foods and includes an extensive tea menu with 15 different teas to choose from. High Tea at Sea is priced from $55.00 per adult which includes a glass of delectable pink bubbles.

What better way to enjoy the sights of Sydney Harbour than by cruising with Captain Cook and helping the McGrath Foundation at the same time. for details.

Sandra Tiltman    PHOTOS: John Pond




April 8, 2013


With 80 opera singers, 45 live musicians and Sydney Harbour with its magnificent backdrop of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and illuminated city buildings, Opera Australia’s Carmen is currently enthralling audiences each evening.  Seated outdoors in the specially constructed tiered grandstand, built on the shores of Sydney Harbour, alongside the Royal Botanic Gardens at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, this experience is like no other visit to the opera.

This is the third time I have seen Bizet’s Carmen, but this outdoor performance on the purpose built stage on Sydney Harbour, resembling a blood stained bullfighting ring, is certainly the most exciting.  The set features a neon lit outline of a bull as well as the giant 9 metre high red letters, spelling out CARMEN.  Two cranes lift props on and off the stage during the performance, but a highlight of the evening is watching enthralled as one of the cranes lowers the resplendent Toreador, Escamillo, onto the steeply raked stage from a great height.

Carmen is sung in French, with English subtitles projected onto the wall under the stage.

Two casts alternate at the performances, with Rinat Shaham and Milijana Nikolic starring as Carmen.

The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Brian Castles-Onion, sits under the stage in an orchestra pit which houses 45 musicians at each performance.

The colourful costumes and other special production surprises add to the wow factor that the audience will experience.  Even those who are not opera devotees should enjoy this performance.

I was worried during the evening that one of cast members would fall off the stage into the water, as they seemed to get so close to the edge, but this never happened.

This exciting, not to be missed production of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen will finish its all too short season on Sunday, 14 April 2013.   Sandra Tiltman