22 November 2006
Bundaberg Port Marina , Bundaberg Australia S E
I come (to you) from the land down under
We decided to join the Port 2 Port Rally for the leg from Vanauatu to Australia. This is a no cost event that is organized by the marine businesses in Bundaberg in order to entice boats to their city rather than to see them head for marinas and boat yards to the south. Also Bundaberg is popular for overseas yachts for its ease of entry, as customs and immigration are located there. It is critical that you inform customs 96 hours before entering Australia or there have been some really nasty fees and court cases for those that didn't, for various reasons. Anyway, we figured that by joining the rally they would make sure for us that all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed. The rally started with a "kick off" barbeque and information session and everyone was planning to depart the next day, weather permitting. Of course weather did not permit since on that very day cyclone Xavier was named and appeared to be headed for Vanuatu. Well, we pulled up our anchor and headed for a mooring ball and it is a good thing we did so because as the storm drew close most all the moorings were taken and we saw tempers flare. At one time we thought there would be a fist fight over one of the last remaining moorings.
We undertook the process of preparing the boat for the storm. First we attached four lines at different critical points on the mooring line. Then we removed the jib and everything else that could be ripped off the boat and finally we decided when the time came we would take the dinghy ashore, fill it with sand and head for a hotel. Local inter-island freighters and other work boats were headed for shore and came whizzing by Shiraz at top speed to run ashore and tie up to the mangrove trees. We held our breath as the rusty hulks ran within five feet of our boat. You wonder if these old hulks can be steered so delicately. Of course there is all this yelling going on in a language that you can't understand. Anyway, all this activity provided hours of entertainment while we waited to see which way Xavier was moving.
All that was left to do was to remove the bimbini and head to shore when suddenly the storm stalled and for several days circled and gained strength. We were also stalled but we had the World Series to watch, brought to you by Hong Kong ESPN. It was a matter of watching the games at the bar that started at noon and having someone run to the internet cafe regularly to check the progress of the storm. The storm held us there for a week and the rally was postponed. We left when the series was two games apiece. Cyclone Xavier came within 100 miles of Port Villa but fortunately for us at Vanuatu kept going east. We had several of our friends that had already left for Australia before Xavier was a concern, mainly because they were a smaller boat and needed more time to get to Australia and also some because they wanted to stop in Chesterfield Reef. There were some very anxious moments for those folks.
The nine day sail to Australia was probably the best days we have had at sea in the Pacific. We enjoyed good breezes and two meter seas. Despite the great conditions the damn genoa tore at the seam above the one we had repaired so it looks like it is time for a new jib. We were able to utilize half the jib but eventually hoisted the spinnaker. Upon arriving at Port Bundaberg Marina, we underwent formalities and found the process most reasonable despite the number of rumors about how strict the procedures could be. Quarantine has an extensive list of items not allowed to enter the country and they ask about the last time anti foul was put on your boat. They are also very careful to check for seed necklaces and special shells. Seed necklaces, even though they may look d
ormant, are not and given the right conditions could germinate. Quarantine will ask to look at your shells since some snail shells can carry meningitis. Fortunately customs didn't even care about the amount of liquor that we had stowed on board.
The folks at Bundaberg could not have been more hospitable. The schedule of events went on for over a week and participants of the rally were invited to at least one meal a day under a big enclosed tent that had been put up for this special occasion. In fact if you went to all the events you probably had time for little else. The Marina is new and modern and well kept although a bit remote from town. As our friends from the UK said "It's nice but it is a camels ride to anywhere!". The marina did provide a courtesy van that would take you into town at specified times in the morning. And then the public bus would return you, last trip from town to the marina was at 3:30 p.m. so having dinner in for a night was out unless you wanted to get a taxi to bring you back. The town was nice, clean, and compact. The grocery stores were well stocked and there was even a mall. The staff at the Marina, the Port 2Port staff and VMR488 (Volunteer Marine Rescue) people were all friendly and helpful and great fun. It was a great experience for our first rally and we would highly recommend it, and hey it's free. On the very first night at the marine we spotted kangaroos across the road. They were curious about we Yanks.
We were also in Bundaberg for the Melbourne Cup Race, which is very similar to the Kentucky Derby. Lots of locals showed up at the tent as the VMR put on a special event for the race. There were also some really great hats!
Fortunately for us we were also there for the beginning of the turtle laying season so one night a group of us went to the facility at Mon Repos beach to watch the turtles come to shore to lay their eggs. It is a very restricted and organized function. They have trained personel that walk the beach and watch for the turtles to come in. Once they spot a turtle they call on their walkie talkie and a group of people go out very quietly and with no lights to watch the turtle lay her eggs. We were at the beginning of the season but our hopes were high that we would get to see a turtle and we did. In fact two turtles layed their eggs that night, one much later. Action increases later in the season with sometimes a hundred turtles coming to shore during a single night. The eggs hatch in April-May and if you were to be in Bundaberg around that time you could go back and watch the little turtles make their way to the ocean.
If you are interested in viewing more images of our time in Bundaberg just click on the arrow to start a slide show. Remember, click on the square to stop the show.
If you're headed that way:
- Don't forget to equip your boat with a step down transformer. Outside of North and Southern America the rest of the world uses 220+V and you can't plug in without some protection for your electrical system.
- Have the receipt for your last haul out and antifouling paint job. We were not required to show ours but it could be requested.
- They will take all of your dairy products that were not made in Australia or New Zealand and all of your fresh fruit and vegetables, if you have any by the time you arrive.