Australia here we come
With new crew and a clear weather forecast we set out of New Caledonia and headed for Australia, land of Oz. The crossing was nearly perfect, mild winds, large swells, calm seas and a full moon. Chris did get a bit sea sick but took it like a trooper. I have never seen anyone be so cheerful and puking at the same time.
As we were entering a large shipping area I was concerned about traffic. We passed two ships on the opposite course, one at night and one by day until we reached the Australian coast. Under a clear sky and bright moon we encountered heavy shipping traffic coming into Brisbane. The AIS again proved to be an essential tool.
The entrance into the North Pass of Brisbane is a long windy waterway with constant big ship traffic, finally we cut across a well charted area out of the shipping lanes and headed to what all the books said was the Quarantine area just to find out it had been moved to the main part of town. The officials were very helpful in getting us to the right place. Australia requires vessels to report entrance 96 hours prior to arrival and to give an ETA, not too hard for us but seemingly impossible for a sailboat. Actually had we been going the right place we would have been within 15 minutes of my ETA given 6 days earlier.
As we entered the Brisbane River we passed by the shipping terminal which far exceeded my expectations, this is a major shipping port. We landed at the Quarantine dock and were locked in until the officials arrived. I had read many accounts of how difficult customs are in Australia but found everyone I dealt with to be courteous and reasonable. Australia does have strict laws as to what foods can be brought in, mostly around country of origin, like you can have New Zealand cheese but not Fiji cheese. Same goes for any dairy product, I got keep my Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream but not the Fiji stuff They took all beans, popcorn, just about anything not in a can. Mayonnaise, mustard and some other weird stuff went also. All in all it took less than two hours, and they took two bags of stuff, mostly junk and garbage anyway.
We soon figured that the marina we were in was far from town and moved to Dockside Marina the next day. The ride up the river was fascinating. Brissy is a much more metropolitan city than I predicted. As it is all along a windy river, the whole public transit system is on the water, a combination of old style ferries and modern City Cats. The architecture is a combination of colonial, old industry and modern design. The city is a model of planning with amazing public access to the waterway and endless parks.
We instantly made new friends and found some old ones. The boat next to us was there for the weekend and invited us to join them in attending a concert the next night—wow, Chicago, Brian Wilson, America and Peter Frampton all in a park just a hop away! I am a big Beach Boys fan and followed the rise and fall and rise of Brian Wilson up to his album release about 10 years ago. At that time he was still suffering heavily from depression and his music, talented as it may be, was not good so it was with some apprehension and some hopefulness that I went. The hopeful side won again! He did all the BB’s songs, had an amazing 10 piece band and rocked the crowd. I was gleaming as we dance dance danced the night away. Funny none of my Ausie guy friends know what a deuce coupe was—ahh so good to have a bit of home so far away.
We will stay in Brisbane a bit longer as it is just a wonderful city and we have a great dock right in town. Everything in Oz is spendy and our dollar is about par right now so it is tough on the cruising kitty but we quickly have found what to do and not to do to get by and a haircut on the dock is now a tradition for my crew.