“We finally left Darwin with our engine supposedly rebuilt and fixed. Well, it wasn’t and that’s a poor showing by these Aussie types. Most middle aged Australian males go on and on about supposedly ‘winging poms’… which means moaning Brits to those of you who aren’t educated in such things. But let me tell you this, give me a hard working British engine mechanic any day and he’ll get the job done. And, do you know? Most Aussies hate the Abbos’ too for some reason… but we encountered only good indigenous aboriginals who wanted to be our friends, giving us rides into town and telling funny stories whenever we had reason to go ashore.” Dave
Port Douglas to the Whitsundays & Brisbane
From Cairns southwards everything so far changed. Marie & Henry returned to the UK and Ali left to travel around Australia. Dave’s brother Gary, the Commodor, travelled out to help sail Sänna south to the Whitsunday Islands where Marie would rejoin. The sail south was fairly uneventful and southern Queensland is a completely different proposition to the Northern Territories. This was western civilisation in its element and there’s no doubt we had now found first-world culture big time. The big disappointment was that, as a British vessel, we began to encounter hostility from Australian boaters which we found difficult to understand. There is something in the Australian physc that is competitive and hostile against the British, which is strange considering almost all second nation Australians descend from UK emigration to some degree. This prejudicism isn’t found so much in the younger generation but there is a definite alpha-male syndrome in the Aussie middle-class ‘bloke’. It surfaces in hostility towards the aboriginal people too. Australia is such a wonderful country and it’s a shame the average male is so openly homophobic in his thinking.
But we mustn’t complain. Or should we? The Whitsunday Islands were a massive disappointment to us. An unbelievable contrast to the fantasticly remote and incredibly vast sailing grounds between Darwin and Cook Town. And westwards from Darwin too. But we quickly learned that Aussie sailors are quite timid in their outlook and rarely venture too far to pit themselves against the reliable trade winds blowing along their shorelines. Of course, there are intrepid sailors about and we’ve met and befriended those more adventurous types cruising far offshore, but even then we find them quite reserved in their ambitions. Not at all like the tough New Zealanders or the flamboyant French, nor are they like the stylish Italians or Germans and we Brits surely show the Aussies a thing or two. But we’ve yet to come across the Yanks in greater numbers; we have that joy to come…
And so the Whitsunday Islands are crowded, not that spectacular and easy to leave behind. There’s an incredibly over-done cruising guide titled ‘100 Magic Miles’ detailing the Whitsunday Islands for sailing adventures. The publication is unbelievable in its complexity and builds the region into something which it’s not… paradise!
Leaving the Whitsundays we quickly made our way south to Brisbane, realising we’d left the best of what Australia had to offer for sailboat cruisers in the far north. Brisbane, however, was superb. We were able to moor right in the centre of this lovely city, taking a berth along the Brisbane River with only a few short minutes walk into the metropolis. Unfortunately, when it was time to leave for the long crossing to New Zealand and our appointment with Australian Customs, we were caught out by the fast flowing river currents and collided with moored Australian yachts, causing ourselves considerable damage. And so the irrepressible Aussies had the last laugh.
Brisbane to New Zealand
After completing emergency repairs we cleared Customs and departed Australia. Our overall impression is still massively positive and without doubt it’s one of the most amazing countries we’ve sailed into. But now it was time to make the eleven hundred mile crossing to New Zealand. As ever, it was eventful and tough.
The Tasman Sea has a formidable reputation with the weather systems blowing up from the southern ocean. And so it proved as we encountered thirty to forty knot winds and big seas during our first four days out from Brisbane. Sänna broke all of our existing daily records for sea miles covered… over two hundred miles on two consecutive days! Then, five days out and we suffered a real trauma! We found a body floating in the sea. Not wishing to dwell upon these things in these pages, you can read the full story here in Boating New Zealand magazine which details events once we’d reported the find to the New Zealand navy. We encountered one of their warships off the North Shore coast and radioed in a report of our encounter and they boarded us to ascertain further details. Needless to say they were polite, professional and efficient but, nevertheless, the police were waiting for us upon our arrival.
Our seven day crossing of the Tasman Sea was therefore eventful. We rounded North Cape, the northern most point of New Zealand’s North Island and made for Whangerei, southwards down the east coast. Waiting for us there were our faithful friends Jill & Robert onboard Fat Annie, a British Yacht we’d met back in the Mediterranean and who’d pretty much made the same circumnavigation route eastwards like ourselves. It was a fantastic reunion, made surreal by the waiting police who were anxious to interview us over the body in the water incident.
New Zealand is magical, the culmination of our voyage so far and our dream destination since leaving the Mediterranean. Our blog Finding Fat Annie sums everything up really. Dave also fulfilled his long term desire to bury his little tin box containing a snip of his daughter’s hair, a promise he’d made to her mother when they’d lost six year old Sanni to leukaemia in 2000. Together we buried the small box beneath a rock right beside the lighthouse on the tip of the Northshore peninsula… the North Cape we’d rounded only two weeks previously. Curiously, a small girl of the same age and distinct appreance watched us solemnly from a short distance, spoke in Finnish and then mysteriously vanished. Strange world eh?
In Whangerei we arranged haul Sänna out of the water in Docklands boat yard to antifoul and sandblast our rusting keel. There was also the Brisbane damage to be repaired and other hull work too… a marvellous technique using sponge blasting to remove old antifoul resins to enable a completely new epoxy seal to be applied to Sänna’s hull before final antifouling. We also did the road trip around the North Island, instantly falling in love with this spectacular country and warm people who, oddly, share our own opinions about our Australian cousins!
Dave & Marie
Whangerei, New Zealand. November 2011.
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