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killarney_sailor 07-07-2012 08:06 AM

Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
We have now arrived in Darwin after a 6 week trip from Brisbane. We had to go a bit faster than we would have liked because we needed to get hauled in Brissie before we left and hadn't expected this. Thought I would share some impressions about the trip.
  • It is longer than it looks on the map - just over 2000 nm
  • There are not very many people along the way after Cairns. It is remarkable how empty the land is.
  • I expected more boats along the way. Other than folks going to Darwin for the Indonesia rally there were only about 5 or 6 that we saw.
  • The small cities/towns along the way are quite lovely, with large differences between them. Bundaberg is a good honest farm town, while Cairns was all young people with lots of backpackers. Local governments have done a great job of developing the waterfront areas.
  • You better like running and broadreaching. After Bundaberg the forecasts were either SE 10 to 15 or SE 25 to 30. We found that the 10 to 15s were more likely 8 to 12s and not very good for making good progress. We found the 25 to 30s necessary for getting somewhere.
  • Going north and having the Great Barrier Reef come closer and closer to the mainland was fascinating and a bit intimidating You have to give great credit to Captain Cook and those who came after him who went through these waters with no charts, no depth sounder and no engine.
  • Many lovely beaches and anchorages and water temps that were over 85F, but you could not go swimming because there were crocs everywhere. We stopped in the Escape River where there is a pearl farm run by a very nice couple. They invited us to visit and we asked about crocs. Bronwyn said that the crocs in the river were very well-fed and we should not have a problem when we were in our dinghies if we kept moving. That makes you feel secure. You think about the number of times you have had to clean the jets in the carb of the mighty 6 hp Mercury. You understand why many Aussies have 'tinnies' for tenders (small aluminum fishing boats).
  • We caught our largest fish to date a barracuda that was about 52" long and around 30 pounds. All you want on a handline. We really decided we should have bought a gaff instead of a net.

Overall I would say that it is a more interesting cruising ground than I expected, although the Whitsundays were not as nice as I expected them to be. I thought they would be of the calibre of something like the Grenadines but I certainly did nott think so - perhaps people like them because you can swim there. :o

chall03 07-07-2012 08:26 AM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Thanks for the thoughts. Very interesting to hear!

We did cruised up to Far Nth Queensland last year but didn't get as far as Darwin. We got stuck in Bundaberg at one point and really learned to love the place. Port Bundaberg is certainly one of the most cruiser friendly Marinas up that direction.

The Whitsundays i think get over-hyped. I do still enjoy them, but in reality when cruising Queensland there are prettier islands elsewhere, better snorkelling/diving elsewhere and nicer beaches elsewhere.

Cairns itself is now very backpacker/tourist dominated, but there are nice places around Cairns.

Good luck with Sail Indonesia, I would really be VERY interested in hearing how it all goes for you.

It is something we are considering, we however have the problem that if we Sail Indonesia up to Singapore and don't keep on around( which at the moment we probably wouldn't) we then have to get the boat back to Australia. People have done it, but is doesn't sound like a great deal of fun.

Fair winds, hope you have enjoyed our country.

smurphny 07-07-2012 01:04 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Thank You for keeping us updated! Did you have any difficulties clearing into OZ? Have been gathering the info. on procedures, should I make it that far next year. They sound pretty daunting. Smooth sailing.

killarney_sailor 07-07-2012 05:25 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
There was no problem clearing into Oz, just expense. You have to get a visa ahead of time but you can do that over the internet (don't get me started on why a visa is needed from another Commonwealth country). We got a one-year, multi-entry visa that was AU$105 per person. On arrival, the customs/immigration/quarantine officials were very friendly and professional, but the quarantine inspection was $330 and for that they take away your garbage and any food that might be problematic (fruits, veggies, meat, eggs, etc). Forgot, you also need to tell them you are coming. They have gotten rid of the 8 hour rule. We just sent an email from Vanuatu to say we were on our way.

There are also internal restrictions. If you go to Thursday Island which is the main Aussie town in the Torres Strait (from within Australia) you must go through the quarantine process again. We are sitting at anchor in Darwin waiting for an inspection of the bottom of the boat and the through-hulls before being allowed into a marina here. This is a state process to keep out invasive species. For a country with very easy-going people, Australia has an incredible number of rules.

To Chall, we have very much enjoyed our visit to Oz. People are great, prices are a bit high though.

chall03 07-07-2012 05:56 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Trying living here permanently!!
Very expensive place to live.

You will enjoy South East Asia in that regard, most Aussies Vacation there now because of the value.

smurphny 07-07-2012 06:14 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Thank You again. This kind if information is invaluable. Hearing it from someone who has actually done it is better than getting it from a written guide or Noonsite. A summary of your travels including details of this kind of stuff would make a great book. I hope they are not going to charge you another three hundred bucks to drop the hook at Darwin.

killarney_sailor 07-07-2012 07:34 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
If you went to Thursday Island it would be another $300 for a new quarantine inspection. TI is only a few miles off the coast. We could have seen it when we went by except that there were other islands in the way.

Not much use doing a book about entering and clearing since everyone's experience is different, even in the same location. Some people in Fiji last year were being hit for a fumigation charge. We talked to one Kiwi boat and there cost for entering Fiji was almost $1000 (US) by the time all was said and done. The easiet and cheapest we have found were the French islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Worst are the Spanish speaking countries like Panama and Ecuador, although Chile (Easter Island) was OK. Oz is not nearly the worst, but far from the best. You just grin and bear it.

St Anna 07-07-2012 07:36 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Hey Bruce,
It was great meeting you in Brissie.

I love the trip from Bris to Darwin, could spend the rest of my life between Cairns and Darwin. Darwin is a pretty special/frontier town as well.

Have a wonderful, safe and fun trip. Keep us posted.

best regards
D & B

PS As for Thursday Is, Seisia is 15nm away and on the mainland - you do not need to clear AQIS there.

aeventyr60 07-07-2012 11:14 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions
Good to hear about your trip. We really enjoyed the blast up the Coast behind the Great barrier reef. Some of the best sailing around. Smooth seas, plenty of wind, good anchorages abound. Loved the Keppel's as well. We caught a 1 meter plus Spanish mackeral going into the escape river. Nice Spinnaker run up around cape York. A bit lumpy across the gulf. Cold beers at the Darwin Yacht club to celebrate our arrival in Darwin. Enjoy your passage through Indonesia, take your time here, lots to see....

aeventyr60 07-07-2012 11:21 PM

Re: Brisbane to Darwin - impressions

Originally Posted by smurphny (Post 893781)
Thank You for keeping us updated! Did you have any difficulties clearing into OZ? Have been gathering the info. on procedures, should I make it that far next year. They sound pretty daunting. Smooth sailing.

The Australian Customs and Quarantine officers were highly professional and entrance into Australia via Bundaberg was as easy as any where else we've been. Sure there is a certain procedure to follow, but not anything one should fear. A simple email to customs before your departure from, New Cal, Fiji or Vanauatu is all it takes. I don't think the fees were any more then what we paid for in French Polynesia either. Many, many miles of coastline to explore in OZ...could take a few lifetimes to see it all...

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