Having pulled it all together in a rather wonderful way (cat adoption, mega-shop, cooking frenzy, check-out of customs, happy dinners, sad farewells) we were ready to leave bang on time – on the morning of Friday 5 October. The weather forecast had remained fairly steady. Most importantly (for me) was minimal swell – I was desperate not to repeat our passage from Southport to Noumea (something I haven’t even written about because my psyche wants to bury it – the offer is open to M and/or Crewperson Sam to fill the gap here in blogland).
An hour before departure a low moan of despair reverberated around the anchorage.
“Our provisioning is BULLSHIT!”
It was the enraged cry of Captain M. We had just realised that our Shop of Glory had not included his drug. Coffee. I felt bad for him, but I felt worse for the rest of us – trapped aboard in the middle of the Coral Sea under the command of a captain in the throes of caffeine withdrawal.
The other thing we had forgotten was a few litres of diesel to run the stove. THIS WAS THE BAD THING. All the meals I had made and frozen… the last thing I wanted was for us to sit around a bolognese iceberg chipping bits off with forks.
Obviously I had to do what I could – I motored over to Pandion and begged them for spare diesel and coffee. Diesel they could do. Coffee? They gave us the petrified remains of some Nescafe Instant which, even if he didn’t drink, I thought M would be able to use the scent as a comfort tool.
A cup of tea, more goodbyes – and Small DB and I motored over to see Yanina – our Russian American friend who was anchored nearby. She and her husband were taking the first sips of their last coffee before sailing around to Luganville to replenish their stores. They were able to donate three sachets of instant coffee that they scrounged from the bottom of the cupboard. M was out of luck.
There is not a lot to write about the majority of the passage other than it was an ABSOLUTE NOVELTY. Why? Because there was NO SWELL. We literally skimmed along, thanking our lucky stars, and marvelling at our good fortune. We did not see any other boats at all…
Never has there been a large passage where we could actually Get. Things. Done. Seriously – we began cleaning Bella Luna to ready her for clearing customs… The Smalls did not feel ill, I was not willing myself through it all hour by hour, it was super-civilised.
We hoped to make it to Southport, but after a few days this became increasingly tenuous. There was a very large low coming up the south coast, and if we attempted to get to Southport we were going to run straight into the beginning of it. Also, we would make earlier landfall if we went to Bundaberg. So – after racking up a billion dollars on the satphone getting weather updates, we turned towards da ‘berg.
Of the whole passage (which I say was eight days long, and M says was seven and three-quarters) the last 48 hours were the least enjoyable – a lot of motoring when we ran out of wind. And as soon as we got within a few hundred nautical miles of land, ships became an issue. Ugh.
We ended up threading our way down the channel at the mouth of the Burnett River at about 9pm on Friday 12 October (L’s birthday – Happy Birthday L!) and dropping our anchor in the quarantine area outside the Bundaberg Port Marina.
An hour later, just as we had collapsed, there was a MASSIVE thunderstorm. Mere capital letters do not convey the ENORMO-NESS of the TORRENTIAL RAIN, SMASHING THUNDER AND UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE LIGHTNING. M was at the helm with the motors running, and a few times had to accelerate into the malestrom in order to encourage our anchor not to drag. Jeeez. After all that time at sea with no drama, we copped it right on arrival.
After that we slept, and in the morning we were allowed into the marina – which was VERY busy – and Border Force came and put us through our paces. We had chickpeas, lentils, chia seeds, popcorn, sprouting seeds, collections of shells – but the only thing that was taken from us was our fresh ginger and fresh garlic. We literally had no other fresh food left. They were particularly interested in if we had any driftwood, meat or cheese from Vanuatu, which we didn’t.
They didn’t look under the cushions, or in the bedrooms, bathroom or nook – M had cleaned the bajeezus out of the boat assuming there would be sniffer dogs and major inspection. There was zip. It cost us $400 instead of about $350 to re-enter Australia because it was a weekend… we were super relieved when it was all done and dusted. Hello Australia!