Last gorgeous night at sea, and a fitting way to complete our crossing of the Pacific. Flat water, gentle sailing breeze, just-past-full moon, quiet, peaceful, and we’ll be at Mackay at dawn. Got buzzed by the Border Force airplane, and hailed on VHF, but they were very friendly and welcomed us to Oz. Have cleaned the boat thoroughly and disposed of all fresh foods, in anticipation of their stringent inspection. Fingers crossed about that. Have already scheduled our haul out for new paint. We’re as ready as we can be for our arrival and the changes that will occur.
Clearing in was an interesting, lengthy and somewhat stressful experience. Five uniformed Border Force officials plus the sniffer dog greeted us. We were to stay up on the bow nets until the dog was done sniffing. That took a while, especially because she got excited about something in our spares locker. So they bring in the drug-and-explosive analyzer device, and determine that an aluminum (aluminium) bracket has traces of pseudo epinephrine, or something like that. Can I explain that…? No, makes no sense. (Later Tahawus had a similar experience where they detected traces of cocaine on some random piece of gear. Norm thinks they do that intentionally to rattle you!)
Then lots of questions, some seemingly friendly/chatty, but clearly they are trained to keep you talking about your background, etc. and they split the crew from the skipper, so your stories had better check out! The big question up front: “Are we going to find anything aboard that might be an issue? Weapons, plants, drugs,…?” Well, yes, actually. We have a 12-gauge flare gun, which we’ve been told is considered a weapon in Australia. “No worries, flare guns are fine.” Okay, but we also have a big store of prescription medicines, since our third owner, not present, is a physician. That turned out to be only a minor issue. They pulled out the two boxes of narcotics and sealed them in an unused locker in the head. When we check out of the country we have to show that the locker is still sealed.
Okay, but there is one other thing. We had heard that mace and pepper spray are considered weapons, and Bob alerted me just before the inspection that he had a can of bear spray! Bob is from Canada, remember, so of course he carries bear spray across the Pacific 😉
That led to some research by Border Force, and with apologies they said they would have to confiscate the bear spray. Later in the afternoon we walked past an outdoor bar, and one of the guys was there. Seeing us, he of course asked if we’d seen any bears yet. No worries, the Border Force was friendly, courteous, professional, and they didn’t give us any further grief about strange substances on our spare aluminum bracket.
But still pending was the dreaded quarantine inspection. The agriculture guy was delayed, so we had to continue to stay aboard another couple hours until he showed up. We had been told they will confiscate most of your food, sometimes even your spices. Also told they would inspect the bottom of the boat with an underwater camera, and if they spotted any barnacles we would have to haul the boat immediately and have it cleaned at our expense. We were also told that if they found any insects, alive or dead, the boat would have to be fumigated, including sealing it all up and us moving off of it for two days — again at our expense, of course.
Well, the bloke was nice enough, but he certainly was painfully thorough — going through every locker, inspecting all food packages, and tapping all woodwork looking for signs of termites. He found some weevils in a bag of pasta. Uh oh… No worries, he says, these are garden variety weevils that are already in Australia. He disposes of the bag, but no further action. Then he takes a woven basket that I bought in Tonga and bangs it on the counter. And proceeds to point out tiny crawly things. This I had feared, as I had seen tiny ants around the basket, and I had sprayed it with an ant poison, but here they were still. Book lice, he says, not ants; the bane of libraries. Not a problem — he just wanted to show us that they were there!
In fact he ended up taking very little. Our 7 remaining eggs, the pasta, and the only fresh produce we still had aboard – some garlic. As he was leaving I asked about the underwater inspection. Yes, he has the camera in his car, but he only uses it on the boats with major growth. The gypsies, he says, who stay in one place a long time and don’t clean/repainted the boat.
Whew! Everyone was friendly and heartily welcomed us to Australia, but it was a major relief when it was over, we could take down our quarantine flag, and move the boat from the quarantine dock to a slip in the marina.
Hauled the boat. Everyone seems professional and knowledgeable. By the end of the day the bottom is already clean, the waterline is taped for painting, a lower shroud is removed for measuring the new wire, and the first batch of decisions is behind us.
I feel an emotional “whiplash.” Being at sea one day, talking with various contractors the next. From solitude to city. We took the bus to the mall (just to look around; there wasn’t anything there that we needed). Bob rented a car. I visited a dentist to reattach a crown that had popped off. (I consider myself very lucky that this happened one day before arriving in civilization!) We have a list of maybe 30 boat tasks/issues/questions. Hard to prioritize, after the obvious top items. And what’s it all going to cost???
Video of our welcome to the Great Barrier Reef: