|Owen hoists our oversized courtesy flag and yellow quarantine flag.|
In fact it was more than a feeling, we DID make an unbelievable mistake. We came to the wrong place!
So sure of our ability to arrive in a country with documents and our confident selves ready to face Customs and Quarantine officials, we failed to question the information published in the three Cruising Guides we were using.
Note to any cruiser planning to check in at Scarborough, or Manly in Queensland; don't try it. The official check-in office is now Rivergate, on the Brisbane River. There is no other check-in location for a Brisbane landfall.
|Queensland's Glasshouse Mountains with Bribie Island foreground|
With the threat of a major storm with lightning and damaging winds forecast for Moreton Bay, we congratulated ourselves on getting to Scarborough in the dark, before the storm. The volunteer with the Coast Guard was visible in his "ivory tower" so we radioed but he was unable to give us any information and no, we could not tie up at the fisheries dock because we were not authorized (thanks for the welcome). Someone in a slip yelled that customs had moved to Manly and they could make a phone call for us.
|Storms at sea|
A radio call came from the volunteer Coast Guard, "Captain, what are your intentions?". Hmmm, so the Coast Guard DOES care about where we are and wants to keep an eye on us? Followed was what seemed like a scripted conversation on the CG's side, suggesting that "You're the Captain so it is up to you, but you could come back in and tie up at the public dock until the storm passes". By this time it was about 9:00PM. Ok, we'll do that, sounds like the best offer we've had tonight.
At last we were tied up, no help offered, awaiting the storm and feeling a little shell-shocked after our welcome and the past 8 days at sea. We feel like we have the plague. Knock, knock, thump, thump, three armed Officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are standing on the dock beside us. Welcome aboard!
After being read the riot act about illegal entry into this fine country of ours, and being questioned about why we came to Scarborough, they decided not to press charges. They proceeded to then process our customs and immigration clearance on the spot, while the rain poured down and the lightning and thunder welcomed us to Australia. Not exactly what we would have planned. We finally got to sleep around midnight.
|The mouth of the Brisbane River. Beyond is Moreton Bay.|
On a very positive note, we have to dispel some of the bad news out there in the cruising community. Yes the officials are very serious about their role as protectors of Australia's borders. God help anyone who comes in with ill-intent. The approach is equivalent to what we experienced in Puerto Rico with the US Coast Guard and what we encounter entering the US. No messing around. There's nothing to fear when arriving with nothing to hide. The officials, once they established we'd made a silly (very embarrassing) mistake about port of entry, were extremely courteous and helpful and did indeed welcome us with sunny smiles. We slept, comforted with the thought that our protection was assured.