I'll take a pass
17 January 2011 | Bundaberg, Australia
Take a pass
If you're thinking of sailing to Australia, you might think about taking a pass. At least as far as Queensland goes. The flooding and storms made a mess up there. We checked into Bundaberg and promptly motored the six miles up river to Midtown Marina and took a mooring ball in the heart of the city. Not bad, at first. Cheap as Chips claimed a Kiwi friend before he flew home for Christmas. He was on of the first to lose his boat to the flood in the Burnett River.
Bundaberg itself is a fair sized town with good infrastructure. It's a bit of a hick town where some of the ugliest tattoos decorate some of the fattest people we've seen in a long time... and we've been to Samoa and Tonga! I read that Australia has finally surpassed the US in the
gross weight of its people.
The real shocker came as the rain fell and the Burnett River started to rise. Along with the velocity of the current, were ever increasing piles of hyacinth, mangrove and logs coming downstream. Soon it was boats. We didn't have to wait long for boats to start dragging their moorings and disappearing downstream. Nothing much we could do with our wee little outboard dinghies and it quickly became evident that no official agency was going to lift a finger to help.
Something like six people went in the water from overturned dinghies and were rescued by other yachties. None died., a miracle in itself as the current reached over ten knots in places. Many more yachties tried to snag runaway boats as they flew past. To date, I think the Customs Service is looking for 24 boats, many out to sea or sunk along the way. Without yachties providing assistance in lieu of the government, they'd be looking for a hell of a lot more.
We managed to stay anchored farther downstream, clearing beaver dam sized piles of bush off the bow 24/7 while watching our neighbors drag anchor all around us. Ok. I admit it. I'm pissed because we couldn't get off the boat. Christmas dinner was a can of chili. I'll never get the stains out of my T-shirt. The week was by far worse than any ocean passage we've made. Including Bora Bora.
To top it off, VMR (Vessel Marine rescue) has gone from a government agency to a volunteer babysitting service that sat in their tower watching boats being flushed down the river and out to sea. Yer on yer own, mate is their attitude as their rescue boat(?) sits safely on a trailer. The long and short of it is: There is no meaningful rescue service anywhere in Australia to provide real time assistance to yachties in trouble.
So... what do I think of Australia? I haven't had the chance to see much of it but I'd likely pass it up for another trip to NZ next time. Personally, I'm sorry we left Fiji..