Cruising Australia – a mix of highs and lows and surprisingly remote  

So after a short but sweet stop in Fiji, which turned out to be a cruising destination we very much would like to return to some day (preferably with a forward scanning depth sounder though), it was time for yet another two week crossing to Australia. This had been a destination we were both looking forward to a lot, Charlotte had been looking forward to revisit the country she called home as a child and Max looked forward to visit the country that was so frequently praised both among tourists and sailors. More than anything we were looking forward to a destination that held the benefits of not being a small isolated island. 

We had a two week crossing with winds that were constantly stronger than forecasted and arrived cold, tired and stressed to get all the arrival procedures done correctly. Australia was one of the countries with the highest level of arrival formalities and in addition to the visas and marina formalities we had also sent the border force regular pre-arrival notifications to inform about our arrival. Following all the notifications we had a border force boat meet us as we entered the channel towards our port of entry, Cairns. The border force boat came along side us to confirm our identification and then followed us all the way to our assigned berth. Once approaching our berth, another two border force members stood on the dock waiting to board us as soon as we were tied up. We were not allowed to disembark the boat, so the marina staff took our lines and tied us up. As soon as we were docked, the two border force members came onboard for our questioning. While they were doing their questioning, checking our bilges, checking our track on our plotter etc. a third border force member came onboard with two dogs. One dog focused on narcotics and one dog focused on firearms and cash. Once we had passed the border force inspections we had to await the Biosecurity inspection. We arrived on a Sunday and the Biosecurity inspection would be carried out the next day, meanwhile we were not allowed to disembark and our yellow Q-flag was to remain hoisted. We were however told that we could order takeout to the boat, so following a great shower we were quick to order Dominos and gladly devoured this before calling it a night and had a great 12 hour sleep. The next day, after a pot of coffee and a nice slow morning, the Biosecurity officer arrived for his inspection. He had questions about the materials on the boat (for once we were very glad that most of the wood on Puffin is “fake” and not solid wood as this reduced the risk for termites and our risk level) and went through all our food onboard. We had to throw all foreign dairy products, egg, meat, fish and vegetables. Luckily some of the products we had bought in Fiji were from Australia and this we could keep. Products from New Zeeland were however a surprising no. Once the inspection was done and a big bag of food had been gathered, this and all our garbage were taken by the officer to be discarded in a biohazard bin. Thereafter we were all clear and could take down our Q-flag and disembark the boat. We took a long nice walk to discover this new city and after a browse though the city we seeked out the boat stores. On the top of our list was taking care of our tank and battery monitor situation, sadly our old monitor had given up and despite many efforts it seemed like it no longer wanted to join Puffin on the circumnavigation. 

Being back in a well stocked country felt like a luxury and we had a long list of things we wanted to get done. We had a few days of busy fixing before we had visitors. Max’s mother flew in to Australia and visited us. We had a few days of mixed boat work and exploration together, with excursions up in the rainforest and day sail out to the Great Barrier Reef. Then we took a break from boat life and flew down to Sydney to visit a few friends. While we really enjoy boat life, it felt like a huge luxury to get a break and live in a hotel for a few days. Daily long showers with endless amounts of warm water, zero worries about battery levels and sleeping in a real bed was a great treat. To be honest, a break from boat life was almost too good. 

Once we came back to Cairns we had a day of provisioning and preparations before heading off to cruise the Great Barrier Reef heading north and see what more Australia had to offer. We ticked off some final boat projects, did a big grocery run to restock the boat, cooked some food for the coming stretches and carried out all our usual pre-departure tasks. Just as we were getting ready, had checked out of the marina and were about to leave we noticed a big issue. First we saw one loose strand in our inner shrouds had come loose and upon further inspection we found a total of three loose strands in our inner shrouds. This was a big problem and very unexpected. One thing became very clear, departure was no longer set for this day. We wanted an even more thorough inspection of the rigg. With a magnifying glass we did an even more thorough inspection of the entire rigg, but luckily the status was unchanged. We had three strands in the inner shrouds that had come loose but couldn’t find anything more. 

Still very stressed and also very disappointed we had to start making a plan for how to solve our issue. Our greatest disappointment was in the fact that we thought we would be free of rigging issues as we had replaced all standing rigging before leaving Sweden, even though the cost for doing so took a large chunk of the upgrade budget. 

Even though we were bummed, there was nothing to do but to get to work. After tons of phone calls and chasing we managed to get two new inner shrouds made and we had the new ones mounted within three days. Even though the riggers in the area were either on vacation or busy, we finally managed to convince a rigger in the next town to have a look at the full rigg. We really wanted a second opinion on everything before moving on towards the Indian Ocean. On top of this we were also in contact with our riggers from Sweden, who in turn were in contact with the manufacturer of the shrouds that had broken. After five very stressful days all parties agreed that it was safe to move on and we had taken all the precautions we could. 

Slightly delayed we could leave Cairns and start making our way north. We had a week of sailing inside the Great Barrier Reef up to the northern tip of Australia. Sailing inside the reef allowed for a very calm sea state as the reef would take the waves rolling in from the Pacific. However, the winds were constantly strong and we had to sail long days to reach safe anchorages. Most days we would lift the anchor in the break of dawn and arrive just around sunset. We were constantly surprised of the low amount of sailing boats along the coast, it was prime sailing season but we only saw a handful of boats. In addition we were also hit by the realization of how remote Australia is, we had a full week of coastal sailing but never had any reception. 

Once having rounded Cape York we took a day to rest (even though the anchoring conditions weren’t the calmest) and prepare for our 750NM passage to Darwin. 

We had a great calm passage, sailing with full sails for the first time in months and even got to bring out the trade wind sail for some calm cruising. It was the type of pleasant sailing that once again reminded us why we enjoy sailing so much. We had tons of dolphins chasing us and even spotted a few sea snakes soaking up the sun floating on the surface. 

After roughly five and a half days we reached Darwin and dropped the anchor just in time for Gin & Tonics in front of a beautiful sunset. As we arrived a Saturday evening we had to wait at the anchorage for 36 hours and await our Biosecurity inspection and treatment on Monday morning. Entering a new Australian state required a second Biosecurity inspection even though we had never left the country (however, as we were happy to learn, the Biosecurity inspections in the Northern Territory were paid for by the state and didn’t cost us anything). This gave us a calm evening and day to shower, clean up the boat after the passage, catch up on things online and take care of a few boat projects. On Monday morning we lifted the hook as the sun was rising and sipped on a pot of coffee as we made our way in to the assigned dock. We rafted up outside a participant from the World Oyster Rally, a really kind boat that we hope to bump into more times as we will, more or less, be taking the same route until Cape Town in December. Both boats got inspected and treated and then we had to wait by the dock for 10 hours before Puffin was allowed to be moved. 

As the sun set in the evening, we were all cleared and could take the lock in to the marina and our assigned berth. We had a full week in Darwin with boat projects (thankfully nothing major), preparations for the Indian Ocean, exploring town and also spending time with a family friend of Charlotte who lived in town. 

We had a great week and Darwin surprised us with all the evening activities it offered, we visited the night markets along the beach, live sunset concerts and outdoor cinema under the stars. 

Every time we checked the wind to take us out on the Indian Ocean, there was none forecasted. We read, discussed and learned that this could be expected of the Timor Sea and there was no point in waiting because we could very well be waiting for the wind for weeks. We just had to bring as much fuel as possible and prepare for a lot of motoring. Thankfully we had actually bought more jerry cans in Cairns when we found them at a discount. 

So with very little wind in sight (the Australian landmass takes the trade winds that we otherwise let push us along during more or less the entire loop around the world) we headed off for our first passage in the Indian Ocean.