Friday 11 November 2016

Australia and the Transition Back to Land..

Fishing vessels at Scarborough Marina (Brisbane)

Amelie safely docked at Bundaberg Marina, our port of entry into Australia

November 11 2016,
Decisions, decisionsA few months back, we had a choice to make: New Zealand or Australia as our final destination. 
On the one hand, New Zealand was familiar and we knew that it was cheaper. On the other hand, Australia was an easier sail away, a larger market for selling Amelie and promised some new adventures and discoveries. So, after having pulled the anchor one last time in Vanuatu, we decided to point the bow towards the West. After a three day sail to a wonderful 6 day rest stop at Chesterfield Reef, it took us less than 3 final days to get into Bundaberg Marina, where the helpful and friendly immigration and quarantine officers managed to get us cleared into this wonderful country, which we had called home, nearly 20 years ago. 

It didn’t take long for us to remember what we loved about Oz. The quality of life is very good. Large open green spaces, tons of playgrounds and outdoor activities. People live outdoors here, alot !  Matthew never got tired of riding his bike up and down the path in front of the marina, and then going for long showers ! The sea food, including scrumptious Spanner Crabs and Moreton Bay Bugs, is sublime ! 

Entering Australia importing and selling the boat  ! We had another few decisions to make early on, and, from all evidence, we feel that we made the right choices on all counts:

First, for the Port of Entry:  We knew from experience that, at times in can be a challenge for sailors to undergo the complex checking in process into Australia. There are many hoops to jumps through and the immigration/customs agents have a reputation of being extremely diligent. (with good reason given the many vulnerable ecosystems at risk). We chose to enter through the “back door”, the smaller community of Bundaberg, (or just “Bundy”,as Aussies like to shorten everything!)  

Bundy has a reputation of having friendly and no non-sense customs agents. This was very much what we experienced on October 17th when we arrived. After days of scrubbing, cleaning, purging, getting rid of fresh foods and dairy products, after having used alot of bug spray everywhere, and after having  read and re read all of the rules and regulations we were feeling a little bit nervous, even if we knew that Amelie didn’t have any pests or bugs or any such nuisances on board, we still collectively kind of held our breath until the very last agent walked off the boat , and with a kind smile and warm welcome , granted us permission to enter- PHEW ! We all went for a celebratory dinner on shore where MC wept a few tears of pure joy and relief!

On our last sail, this humpback whale offered us a final farewell from the Sea

 Second was the decision to put the boat up for sale in Brisbane. Being a blue water boat, we’d heard that the best place to sell would be in Queensland because the brokers in Sydney are more geared towards coastal and racing boats. We feel that our broker in Scarborough marina did a very good job of advertising Amelie for what she is: a solid and comfortable vessel ready for travel across oceans ! 

By the time we (finally) got her officially imported into Australia (a necessary expense for putting her up for sale here), it took less than a week before we had an offer and only 18 days later, the deal was done !  Amelie was sold !  We were in Melbourne by this time and it was a relief to have it all settled before leaving Australia. Mark only had  to travel the short distance from Sydney to Brisbane to participate in the sea trial and help with the transition to the new owners. It was very nice for the whole crew  to be told that Angus and his wife were very excited about acquiring her, and as happy as we had been 4 years before. How did it feel you ask ? I would say that it was all very bitter sweet but GRATITUDE was the foremost emotion for us all. 

A Spanner Crab 

So, our first week, that is what we did: Rode our bikes, cleaned the boat and ate sea food !

An Ibis, the "pigeon of Brisbane"

On what was to be our last sail on board Amelie, we sailed down the coast to Brisbane
(going outside and around Fraser Island - much easier for 'Otto' to drive!) which took us about a day and a half. In the last hour of this memorable last sail, we were treated to a spectacular marine show involving a humpback whale and her calf and we witnessed no less than 10 tail slaps just off our port quarter.  I chose to see this as a symbolic farewell from the sea.
We were safely docked in Scarborough Marina late in the morning on Saturday October 22nd, 936 days after having left St Lucia, Rodney Bay Marina dock back in 2014.

Now for some stats, for those of you who like to crunch numbers:
During the last 31 months, we have been to 168 anchorages on 98  different islands and have visited 23 countries and we’ve travelled around 16,500 nmiles on the boat. Out of those 936 days, we spent exactly 50 in a van, traveling around New Zealand, and, for Meg and MC, another 11 days were out trekking around Peru back in 2015, but other than this and MC’s recent July get away, Amelie has not only been our means of transportation across the Caribbean, the Panama Canal  and the Pacific Ocean, she has also been our comfortable and safe home. 

This week, we are in the final steps of moving out of this home. We will move into a holiday park cottage until our land travels take us South down the East Coast in our rental car. We have given Amelie a well deserved and full beauty makeover, inside and out, and with a big sigh, after a job well done, we are happy to say that she is looking better than ever ! We will be sad to let her go, but proud of what we have accomplished so far and grateful for the experience. Our heads are filled with memories and images which will never fade. Our children have grown up into two lovely teenagers, and we have developed strong friendships with truly remarkable people from all over the globe. 

This is what 3 years looks like

But we are not done ! Oh no, not quite yet !
Our plan is to head overland and to revisit Oz, almost 20 years after having lived and travelled here. We have enjoyed catching up with friends here in Brisbane, and look forward to re-connecting with more in Sydney, Melbourne and finally in Perth, where we can share with our children the place where we were married back in 1998.

Then, if all goes as planned, we will find our way to Indonesia, Singapore (so Meg can see where she was born), then on to Thailand and Japan before easing ourselves back into  a "Canadian Spring" in late March/early April (Mark says he refuses to go back before winter's done!).  After so much time away, we look forward to being home again and spending quality time with loved ones, on both the East and West ends of our great nation.

For those who are interested, we will continue to update the blog, even if the sailing is done, for the South East Asia Land trip. 

Australia: So far so good mate !
In the meantime, I will leave you with some photos taken over the last few weeks here in Australia. We have been mainly working to get the boat cleaned and ready for sale, but we did manage to take a two day break to celebrate Matthew’s 17th birthday by visiting Steve Irwins Excellent zoo, also known as "Australia Zoo", in Beerwah (near the Sunshine coast).  

Matthew gets a ride for his 17th birthday

Big Al, the largest of the salt water crocs at Australia Zoo

The irreplaceable Steve Irwin

Don't try this at home kids ! 

The awesome Aqua Park in Coolum, near the Sunshine Coast.

Mark getting ready to launch his daughter into orbit

Matthew having a blast at his birthday

Bee Gees Way in Redcliffe

The second day was spent at a fun aqua park a few hours North. Everyone really enjoyed the weekend.  We've also discovered that Redcliffe Peninsula (where Scarborough Marina is situated, just North of Brisbane) happens to be the home town of Mo, Robin and Barry Gibbs, whom you may simply know as “the Bee Gees.” On more than one occasion we have enjoyed walking down the memory lane called “Bee Gees Way”, paying homage to the celebrated trio with video, photos, quotes and statues. It has been nice to learn more about a band who were so prominent in our lives back in our youth. Meg and Matthew (& Mark!) have since been subjected to a rebirth of their music onboard Amelie, and the melodies were well received, even with their more modern taste in music !

The city of Brisbane as seen from the South Bank

Brisbane South Bank


  1. Wow. It has truly been an amazing time for you all. And it has truly changed you all as well - of this I am sure. Travel changes us. I for one look forward to your continuing posts as you make your way across Oz and into Singapore, Thailand and especially Japan as we have been there twice and love the country. Safe travels to you all and we look forward to your future posts.

    And tell Meg that I am envious of her photo with the koala. I have always wanted to hold one. On my bucket list.

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  3. So incredible, 4M! WE look forward to updates on your land travels and to your eventual return to your most recent land home - Mark, we will do the short winter dance for you. To date - beautiful fall in YYC!