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Clearance, Marinas, Mishaps and other Local Information

By Sue Richards last modified Mar 27, 2012 01:42 PM

Published: 2012-03-27 13:42:44
Countries: Australia

The major aim of this note is to update the information that we found available on line before doing our trip and show, in particular, that paperwork is very simple and can be easily done "oneself"; it also offers the opportunity to provide the cruising community with some maybe valuable information.
Claude and Jeanne
SY "Ailes et Iles"
ailesetiles@gmail.com

Clearance into Australia

We entered Australia at Bundaberg, coming from New Caledonia (via the Chesterfields) in early November 2010. Basically, we contacted Customs (yachtreport@customs.gov.au) several weeks in advance and then just followed their recommendations.

We arrived at the entrance of the Burnett River at night and moored in front of Bundaberg Port Marina where specific berths are allocated for clearance and where we were asked to move early in the morning. Checks by Quarantine were facilitated by the fact that the hull was relatively clean and our boat (a 46' monohull) is a fibreglass one (their major concern was termites). All paperwork with all services was done in less than half an hour and all agents were very kind and helpful.

Midtown Marina, Bundaberg & Rising Floods

We then motored ~7 nm up to Midtown Marina where we had chosen, mainly for financial reasons, to leave the boat for the summer season while flying back to France. In late November, we left the boat moored in series with other boats on fore and aft moorings provided by the marina and just in front of their offices, having adjusted the lines according to advice and paid the berthing in advance.

Even though the boat is equipped with a D+ Inmarsat beacon allowing me to check its position online, which I had been regularly doing from France once a day, we received an e-mail on 22 December from "Bob", an agent of Marine Safety Queensland, telling us that our boat had drifted downstream together with two other ones, all three being caught on a sunken boat by the moorings they had uplifted. I then checked and indeed, our boat was about 0.5 nm downstream from its normal location. When I contacted the marina I did not get any answer by either phone or e-mail: even if the river level had increased at the time by only ~2 m (what we were unaware of from regular news since it is a rather common situation in the summer there), it appeared that the marina's offices located just on the (normal) riverside were already abandoned.

Thanks to the conscientiousness of Bob, who asked the marina about the e-mail addresses of the three boats' owners and contacted us individually, we were informed within a very short time delay. The marina however failed to contact any of us about the situation. In our own case, this did not make a big difference since I was just about to check our boat's position via D+ Inmarsat, but this was essential information for the other owners. In addition, Bob e-mailed photos that reassured us about the boats’ situation.

I was able to fly to Australia on 24 December and arrived in Bundaberg on the morning of the 27th, still in time (the level was less than 3m above normal) for the marina director to agree to ferry me with their tender to our boat. In the following days, the level of the river increased up to ~8 m above normal. When I returned to the marina to be reimbursed, I noted interestingly enough that they had recorded the day and hour when our boat drifted away!

Bundaberg Slipways

We were sailing together with friends Annie and Daniel on SY Ananda (a 43' catamaran) who preferred to leave their boat on the hard at the nearby Bundaberg Slipways. Unfortunately, it was only fastened on top of the trailer with ropes that broke as the water level rose, resulting in their catamaran drifting downstream and getting stuck in the mangroves just upstream of my boat. Not surprisingly they suffered a great deal of damage and spent a full season effecting repairs. Cruisers should be sure to check their boats are sufficiently secured here, by securing a line around a nearby tree and lowering anchors.

Bundaberg Port Marina

I then hauled out our boat in Bundaberg Port Marina, where berthing is effectively more expensive, but where all the personnel from all services were very kind, efficient and professional. In particular, we appreciated the work done by the hardstand team, the well-provisioned and helpful chandlery, the bus made available for going to the market and downtown trips plus all on-site facilities (showers, restaurant, etc.).

Bundaberg to Darwin

We left Bundaberg in early May and, on our trip to Darwin, stopped for a couple of days in Abel Point Marina /Airlie Beach (that we did not like that much), and Marlin Marina / Cairns (that was much more pleasant; when arriving, moor at the fuel dock and use a buggy to do the paperwork). Up to Darwin, and apart from the Gulf of Carpentaria crossing, we only made day trips. Sailing conditions were roughly as expected with south-easterlies often blowing at 25-30 knots, waters were relatively muddy except in some offshore islands, anchorages on the mainland were often not as deep as we would have liked while those in the islands were sometimes not as large and sandy as hoped.

Crocodiles

We were very surprised by the quantity and aggressiveness of crocodiles.

I disturbed the first one from its "siesta" on a beach on Ingram Island (14°25'S, 144°53'E), ~10 nm from the mainland.

The second one I encountered attacked me (he bit the front of my home-made plywood-fibreglass dinghy) in Margaret Bay (11°58'S, 143°13'E) while I was rowing (backside) toward the beach. I walked along the same beach the day and evening before looking for crabs without having seen any footprints! It was not troubled by the oar blows I dealt on its head and quietly, but firmly, took me back to my boat.

The one we saw in Seisia (10°51'S, 142°22'E) used to come and lie, more or less every day, on a beach just in front of the jetty, used by many for fishing when no ferries or cargo ships were using it.

In a pond up on the beach at Mullet Bay (11'30'S, 133°24'E), one went in the water and swam firmly towards me while I was approaching.

We did not see, over a period of several days, neither footprints on the beach at Black Point (11°09'S, 132°08'E) nor the two big crocs that we were told live there, until they emerged just 100-200m on both sides of the boat while I was preparing my dinghy for a sailing trip.

Then there was the one I guessed was there thanks to its emerging eyes, in the calm waters of Kennedy Bay (11°14'S, 132°05'E), which I somehow provoked as I slowly continued rowing towards it (it was apparently smaller than the previous ones!). The croc slowly sank and swam directly towards my dinghy, emerging almost vertically and tried to bite me. Luckily it just succeeding in biting the side of the dinghy and was relatively young so it went away when I dealt oar blows to its head.

Therefore:
1. Really take care with crocodiles in Australia, and
2. Avoid using an inflatable (de-flatable) dinghy!

Darwin – Tipperary Waters Marina

We arrived in Darwin in early September and enjoyed Tipperary Waters Marina for its fees, the local facilities (showers and Christo's restaurant), the warm welcome at a nearby club, the close chandleries (in particular Darwin Shipstores that is not the nearest one but can be easily reached on foot), the convenient bus facilities for going downtown, etc..

Customs confirmed that the plane we had seen on a fairly regular basis, flying over us when cruising along the Northern Territories coastline, was checking for both irregular immigration from the North and the progress of boats such as ours. It is worth mentioning that Customs offer the possibility to be refunded for (or exempt from) paying GST (general sales tax) on fuel, goods for the boat (just provide them with invoices larger than 300 dollars paid less than 30 days before departure), spirits and even wine (we got some very good bargain prices from NT Pubco Pty Ltd at Parap Village Tavern).

Our next destination was Indonesia.

For Claude's report on Indonesia and obtaining paperwork etc. see here.

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