July #2 2010
From Stef Railey RnR Charters Ltd
Wellington to Brisbane
in fourteen days, Brisbane to Hell'n back in one!
On 22nd June two Kiwi guys (Wayne and Bill) set off on a 40'
Jenneau yacht out of Wellington, a day later than intended but
once NZ Customs has cleared the vessel, there's no turning back.
Cook Strait is not a place to hang about, so despite the delay
getting away, they headed out into the Strait and across Tasman
Bay and battled their way out into the Tasman through heavy seas
and a bitter Sou'Easter, lightning flashing around them as the
storm moved north. The seas got bigger and bigger and all they
could see were dirty great rollers behind them with winds at
50knots, gusting 80knots, in Waynes words, "not nice".
With just two crew on board the watches were three hourly and
it was a pretty wet and cold three hour watch, as this yacht
is helmed from an open cockpit and no dog house to shelter from
At times, when there was nil visibility, the auto pilot was used
and eyes were on the radar screen. For the first four days and
nights this was the routine. Radio scheds were daily at 07.30hrs
to NZ Maritime Radio and Waynes partner Stef was calling Maritime
Radio, getting the scheds and plotting the course and watching
the weather using the metvuw.com website to keep tabs on their
position from the comfort of home.
The weather only eased on the fifth day and that night, the famine
began, with no wind at all so they fired up the motor and spent
the night motoring. Next day, day seven, the wind came back in,
but a comfortable 15knots, and built to 35knots during the day.
The next four days were more of the same, wind up and down, rain,
a bit of motor sailing and a lot of sail adjustments to do. As
they got further away from NZ, the radio signal faded and the
last radio sched they were able to send out was on the 29th,
day eight. Stef had learned that their radio was not getting
a signal out back to NZ Maritime Radio and called Lord Howe Island
to let them know the yacht might call them up and as they had
made slow progress with no wind in the area, they might be needing
diesel too, so may call in.
On day nine as they neared Lord Howe Island, they spotted a ship
on their port side on the horizon on a converging heading. Being
on the port side, the ship should alter course, so keeping a
watchful eye on it they continued on. They could see the vessel
was going to cross their path at some stage and as visibility
was good, expected the Captain was aware of their presence and
so knew their position and heading as well. The ship was quite
close now and still no sign of a change in it's heading, so the
guys altered course and a 'friendly' sailor aboard the ship threw
a wave at them as the ship spun it's stern causing the ship to
pass uncomfortably close.
More motoring, so the guys called Lord Howe Island Customs and
were given permission to come in for fuel. It is only possible
to enter the lagoon during daylight hours, so they have to slow
to arrive there in the morning to pass through the reef. The
people on Lord Howe were very friendly and the Island is a tiny
tropical paradise. No diesel pumps on the Island for visiting
boats, so the radio operator there, Clive Wilson, offered them
a ride to a local farmlet, where an old single banger powered
an antique diesel pump, complete with old spinning wheels in
the glass case, a real old gem. There they filled their jerry
cans at A$3.00 per liter, then back to the boat after paying
all the visiting fees and an A$70.00 mooring fee. Not a cheap
stopover, but then, the Islanders have to make a living somehow.
Next day, on to Brisbane.
No wind again and spend all day motoring, in the calmer waters,
they trolled a 400lb 100m hand line hoping to catch an Albacore
Tuna for dinner. They got more than they bargained for when a
Blue Marlin took the lure and the line got caught around a fender,
so the skipper and Wayne hung on to the line for about 10 minutes
as the Marlin jumped and dived and eventually straightened the
hook out, a bit of excitement, but no fresh Albie for dinner.
They continued motoring through the night and could hear the
throb of more ships engines, but no lights to be seen. It was
a clear night and they could just make out the outline of two
big black ships, which circled and tailed them for a considerable
time. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable not knowing what was going
on, Bill the skipper called the ships, identified himself with
boat name and callsign, asking them to identify themselves too,
but the ships just dissappeared into the night, not to be seen
or heard again. They must have been either pirate fishing boats
or the Australian Navy on exercises anybodies guess!
The wind kicked back in just on daylight on the twelfth day.
30 to 45 knots on the beam with wind against the 2 knot tide
running and the seas got nasty. They stayed on the helm all night,
no auto pilot now, the salt water had delt to that and the wind
increased to 40 knots, gusting 60knots, but the boat handled
it really well. Next morning the wind was still blowing quite
strong 30-40knots, but from behind now and they made good progress,
making Stradbroke Island just after dark. Luckily, as Wayne had
spent time there on the prawn trawlers years ago, he was familiar
with the region and was able to carefully navigate around the
rocks off the end of the Island. At dawn, they crossed the bar
to go through the entrance and on through the network of sandy
channels between North Stradbroke Island and Morton Island and
across to Brisbane River.
Clearing Customs from a yacht in Queenland.
The Queensland Customs team was less than friendly and took Bill
the skipper aside and accused him of not notifying them of his
arrival within the 96 hours they demand. Customs disregarded
Stefs call to Lord Howe Island, which was made more than 96 hours
before the guys arrived there and did not accept that they had
asked permission to call into Lord Howe Island and did not accept
that permission had been given by the Customs agent there.
The skipper had his boat impounded and had to appear in Brisbane
court the next day with a resulting fine of A$1,800 plus A$950.00
court costs. The prosecutor told him he got the lowest possible
fine. He also has a conviction now. Welcome to Australia !!!!
The delivery done, Wayne spent a day with his cousin and found
out that this is a common occurrence. The view locally is, 'that
the State of Queensland is broke and they are finding new ways
to pay the bills'. Well, it did seem just a bit unfair and not
a pleasant way to be welcomed to the sunshine capital.
Wayne flew back to NZ, but not before suffering one last shot
from the Ozzies, Security took him aside and frisked him for
explosives before boarding the plane. Me, I'm glad to see him
home and when we go offshore again, the Sunshine Coast will be
last on our list.
Anybody wanting to find out the ins and outs of cruising the
waters of Queensland can contact Bob email@example.com
or go to the website http://thecoastalpassage.com/index.html
read interesting stories like this one, http://thecoastalpassage.com/msqbusted.html
to find out what (who) you are dealing with when visiting the
Sunshine Coast in a boat.
Information and Recomendations
for Vessels entering Australia from The Coastal Passage
It is imperative that yacht skippers study
the information on the Customs website (www.customs.gov.au)
and do not assume lenience in enforcement. Their email address
and fax is 61 2 6275 5078. When you contact Customs insure you
have a receipt to prove you have made notice. Ask for a reply
to your email or fax and save it. We do not recommend notification
by phone. We have numerous examples of the port of entry not
having been forwarded the notice from the headquarters in Canberra.
The entry port will assume your guilt unless you can prove your
With your notification you are required
to provide this information;
" The name of your craft
" Craft's Country and Port of Registration
" Your intended first port of arrival
" Your estimated arrival time
" Your last four ports
" The details of people on board including name, date of
birth, nationality and passport number
" Details of any illness or disease recently encountered
" If you have any animals on board
" If you have any firearms on board
We would add that recently Customs have been asking if you have
any pornography with you. If you deny having any and some is
found, you may be charged. If you declare it, Customs may examine
your publications or computer files to determine if they believe
it is illegal content.
Upon arrival you may be asked to provide a saliva sample. Your
vessel may be searched with dogs. In exceptional cases (we have
several on file), you may be asked to leave your vessel whilst
it is thoroughly and possibly, destructively searched. See
One more note, quarantine has raised their fees considerably.
A weekend arrival will cost you over $800AUD over and above all
other fees. Try to time your arrival for a weekday in normal
business hours if possible.
Things you can do to minimise risk;
1, Do not clear in in Queensland, especially in Brisbane or Bundaberg.
They have the worst record by far. Coffs Harbour in New South
Wales may be less convenient but may be better in the long run.
Customs is a federal agency but has regional enforcement control.
2, Do not relate any information not required of you. If you
feel Customs may be interested in your arrival, be assured that
any conversation over and above the required information can
and will be used against you. If customs officials state you
may be in violation, ask for legal assistance and stop talking
except to provide information about the contents of your vessel
or other information normally involved in clearance. Customs
officers will ask you questions that are designed for them to
assess your legal vulnerability, for example, are you likely
to plead guilty to avoid delays or inconvenience? Are you likely
to have the money for the fines?
This kind of assessment has been typical from the very first
prosecution and appears to be part of the training of officers.
For the stories of the first three cases as written by the sailors,
see this link. http://thecoastalpassage.com/brutal_customs.html
We truly regret these actions as the presence
of foreign vessels in Australia is a benefit to the local marine
industry and a pleasure and interest to local yachts. But we
will not be a party to luring in unsuspecting victims either.
We hope you still come, but be prepared.