The Final Chapter
The Trip: Gold Coast, Queensland to Tahiti, Oct 2021
The Yacht: 43' Custom trimaran
Now that I'm on a plane flying home, it's a good opportunity to reflect on this last trip and what seems to be a recurring theme with these sailing jobs that I take on. To those that might remember, the last sailing gig I had was to help take a client's yacht from Majorca to Gibralter and then onto Barcelona. That was a drama filled three weeks too. All I can think of when I come across these opportunities is it sounds good in theory but yachts (and owners) are capricious creatures and no matter how much due diligence you do prior, it's not until you step aboard and go sailing do you really find out about the boats capabilities.
In this case, with an owner in Hawaii and a local "boat manager" who was meant to have it fully prepared for the delivery trip, I took on the job on the understanding Bambu was ready for a blue water passage. The boat manager is a Master 5 skipper with offshore experience so you'd think he'd know what he was doing. Bad assumption.
So that leads me to explaining what happened on the last day as I took the boat from Ballina back up to the Gold Coast.
Setting off at first light, I motored out of the river mouth and into a very pleasant 10-15knt south westerly. Absolutely perfect for a run up the coast. It was dull, overcast and raining but I didn't care as it made the sailing pretty straightforward and I covered the 60M in good time. I'd kept Australian Border Force completely up to date with my movements and when I received a telephone call from Queensland Maritime Services about 5M out from the Seaway, you could have knocked me over with a feather. The gist of the conversation was my movements had been tracked on AIS and I was entering Queensland without a permit. They requested I turn around and head back to the Tweed River and NSW. I tried explaining I had cleared out of Australia with ABF and was re-entering with their full knowledge of my emergency stop in Ballina. I was told they are a federal agency and QMS are a state government agency and the two agencies don't communicate on matters like this. Terrific.
After a bit of backwards and forwards, I said there's no way I'm turning back to NSW to be quarantined on a boat sitting on a mooring in the middle of a river. So with that, they did a bit of head scratching and decided to meet me just inside the Seaway entrance. I was physically issued with a 'Quarantine Directive' and told to proceed to the berth at the Boatworks and not leave the boat under any circumstances until I got a COVID registered transfer to the airport for the flight home. They gave me an exemption because common sense prevailed and they could slot my re-entry into Queensland under a 'business related' exemption.
After all that happened the previous week, this was a final cruel twist as all I was looking forward to was getting off the boat, having a good shower and maybe the luxury of a nice meal and glass of wine somewhere. No such luck.
With all the QMS kerfuffling, it had delayed my trip up the Coomera River back to Boatworks and it was now late afternoon. It takes 90 minutes motoring up the river to get to the berth and by the time I rounded the last bend and could see the marina, it was dark. No matter, I breathed a huge sigh of relief at the thought I'd be tied up alongside in 5 minutes. And yet, there was one more twist of the knife in store for me yet. You will find this hard to believe as I was within 500 meters of the berth and the engine died. No motor again. What black cat had I crossed recently as this was just unbelievable!
There as a bit of current running and I was going to drift onto a row of super yachts tied up at the marina if I don't do something quickly. Down goes the anchor and that at least makes me secure until I figure out what to do next.
This boat doesn't have fuel gauges but I had 500 litres of diesel onboard when I set off. I've done about 20 hours motoring so obviously it can't be a low fuel issue. Wrong! Both port and starboard tanks are empty. For the second time that afternoon you could have knocked me over with a feather.
It was one of those do I laugh or cry moments for sure. I just wanted to berth the bloody thing so got a few jerry cans of diesel, emptied these into the starboard tank, bled the air out of the fuel line and tried re-starting the engine. Eventually it started so I up anchored, made it over the final 500m to the berth, tied up and wished I had a nice cold beer. Which I didn't.
So there you go. Not much else to say at this point!!
And here's a question for any sailors out there familiar with Iridium GO. Now that I'm back on dry land, I had a look at my tracking page at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV_Bambu. It shows some pretty wild deviations off my actual route, particularly down near Lord Howe Island and then after Ballina, it shows me heading west for about 100km inland past Casino in NSW. Neat trick on a yacht. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts on why it didn't track me properly.