The land down under
John & Susan Simpson
Tue 24 Oct 2023 08:20
We called in to New Caledonia on our way from Vanuatu to Brisbane due to bad weather and after a restful few days were ready to set out again. This final leg of our Pacific crossing was probably the trickiest to plan in terms of weather as the systems coming up from Antartica and New Zealand are very variable and can bring heavy sailing conditions with only a few days warning. This time the weather was kind to us and we had as good a crossing from New Caledonia to Australia as we could have hoped for. The days were cool with (mostly) light breeze but sunny and we were treated to some lovely sunrises and sunsets.
Sunset en route to Australia
We needed fleeces by day and coats and hats by night
In this stretch of water we had some strong currents to contend with and this added an extra dimension to the navigation. The following photo shows the current off the Queensland coast and the blue blob is where Casamara was when the screenshot was taken. We were crossing right to left. The direction of the current is shown by the arrows and the colours indicate its strength, with the blue/white area showing an area of swift flowing current from North to South. We had to be careful to cross at the right point or we might have been swept past the entrance to Brisbane!
It was a momentous moment when we crossed the line on the chart into Australian waters!
After five days at sea we arrived in Brisbane and tied to the quarantine dock in Rivergate Marina mid-morning on Sunday 1st October. The Australian Border Force (ABF) officers were very efficient and helpful. We were visited by Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity officers who interviewed us, had a good look around the boat and concluded that we were bona fide visitors and gave Casamara the all clear to remain in the country for the next 12 months. We’d done quite a lot of preparation for our arrival into Australia because they have very strict rules on importation of food and other goods. The ABF website has a checklist of what can and can’t be brought into Australia and we were amused to read that whilst chocolate and confectionery is allowed, chocolate and confectionery ‘including meat, e.g. bacon’ is not. Try as we might we can’t think of any sweets we’ve ever tried that contain bacon! We were fortunate that we had nothing on board that was not permitted so had nothing confiscated. There is a fee per Kg for anything the Border Force has to take away so we were pleased not to have anything to pay on that front, although the immigration entry fees were quite hefty even so! We couldn’t quite believe that we were finally in Australia and had completed our Pacific crossing. It’s been a goal for so long that we were unprepared for how it would feel actually to have achieved it.
Arrived in Brisbane, visible in the distance behind us. The bridge by the quarantine dock looks almost identical to the one we moor next to in Southampton. It felt a bit like coming home!
Due to weather delays we were a little later arriving into Australia than we’d intended. We had flights booked to the UK on 10th October and Casamara was booked into a marina, to remain there for the next 9 months, so we had quite a lot of work to pack in to the 8 days we had left before flying home. We put Casamara into position in Scarborough Marina just outside Brisbane. British seaside towns seem to feature heavily along this coast as Margate and Brighton are just next door! A number of our friends are also leaving their boats in Scarborough so we maintained the social calendar right to the end with drinks and dinner every evening. Our friendly ABF officials had given us a number of recommended restaurants to try and they turned out to be a great success.
With friends from yachts North Star, Che Figata and Walkabout in ’The Rustic Olive’ restaurant, Redcliffe.
Days were spent packing up and cleaning the boat throughout. Ropes and sails were taken off, the sails to be taken away for cleaning, mending and storage, and we removed all loose items from on deck. After 9 months intensive sailing Casamara was in need of some TLC. Whilst we are away she will be checked and aired once a week, and we have set up contractors to carry out maintenance such as servicing the engine and generator. There was a lot to be done but we managed to tick off everything on the to do list before we left.
Folding Casamara’s mainsail. The sails look enormous when they’re on the dock!
We’re now back in the UK for a few months and will be returning to Australia to celebrate New Year in Sydney followed by land-based travel in New Zealand and Australia. It felt like the end of an era as we drove to Brisbane airport but, having said our final goodbyes to our fellow World ARC Pacific Rally friends, who should we meet in Brisbane airport but Nicolas, skipper of the yacht ‘Brainwave’. Not only were we there at the same time but we were on the same flight as far as Dubai! He then flew on to Switzerland whilst we flew back to Heathrow. It was a nice reminder that this is just a pause in our journey and we will be back to resume our travels shortly.
Meeting up with Nicolas in Brisbane Airport …… ’Sante!'