Day ten at sea was Pilot Day in the Coral Sea. At 08:00 we were just off the coast of Noosa. Spent some happy time remembering our months living at sunny Peregian Beach when Felix was three. More thoughts of going forward by retreating. The sand at Peregian set into tiles after rain, the tessellations easily ground into the soft sand below as one sat in the sun listening to sea rolling in. I remembered the bee-eaters zipping through the ever-changing line where sand met bush, the curling clouds, and that long, long slice of beach into the distance. It had been a time of redefining who we wanted to be, supported by family and friendship. Including Louiselle whom I would see that very afternoon!
The crew looked spic and span, wearing uniforms with different epaulettes. I would have to question them on their meaning later. The deck worker was back in the bow, checking the machinery around the ropes. The Captain was on the Bridge, together with both of the Third Officers and an Able Seaman. Everyone seemed relaxed and ready for action.
I kept scanning the waters and the misty horizon, not just for Australia, but whales.
The Caption mentioned that in other places in the world a speed limit of 10 knots is imposed in known whale territory. Australia? No. He thought things would change as soon as a whale beached killed by propeller gashes. He was a very positive person.
The ship slowed at 09:50 and I skipped along to my starboard wing deck to watch for the pilot’s approach. The cloud lifted revealing stretches of golden sand and funny cusinaire blocks of flats strung along the beach like a poor attempt at a picket fence.
I supposed we were not far from my mother’s little holiday flat at Maroochydoore where she would visit with her friends the McVitties.
We sailed close to Queensland and the shipping channel took us hard by Morton Island, the northern tip still on fire after days of burning through National Park. The smoke billowed across the water. Welcome to Australia. It’s on fire.
Jittery and nervous, I managed my morning routine up to lunch and then went to watch as we drew closer to the port.
Noted a peculiar shaped vessel and found out later from port security that it was a car-carrier. The man at security added there’d been a few recently infested with undesirable insects. Some had been sent out offshore to be fumigated and he knew at least one had been returned to sender unopened.
Land reclamation and building in preparation for more berths was underway although Louiselle told me there was also regeneration and conservation nearby to placate environmental lobby groups.
The Port of Brisbane did not allow trucks to deliver shipside, rather using robotic straddlers to deliver the correct container in suitable order. Near our berth they only used a small form of the robot but next door there was a taller version. They carried the container in a dead lift up to their robotic chins before rolling through the array of boxes up to the cranes. I was not exactly sure of my protocol as Only Passenger so stayed to watch the tug pushing the ship towards our berth and the little boat carrying our forward ropes towards three shoremen at the bollard.
I think this was where the sun cracked down upon my face for I did get burned at some stage. Welcome to burning Australia AGAIN. I was intrigued by the power – our engine still seemed to be engaged – the Chief told me later it kicked in and then off, for small spurts of energy, while the tug was directional, shoving us gently towards the wharf.
Then the door behind me clanged shut. It was locked. I could not see who had shut it. Luckily the Bosun was watching from the deck below me and he signalled I should join him. His door was also locked and he led me down to the lower floor where again we were locked in. He waved at me to stay where I was on Deck A and he went away between containers to gain access in some difficult sailor kind of way to let me in.
Later, I realised I could easily have gone straight up to the Bridge, where everyone was gathered, but didn’t want to get in the way of Important Business.
When I saw we had arrived I wandered down to the Ship’s Office, empty. Nothing for it. Up to the Bridge. As I pushed open the heavy door I heard the Pilot say into his walkie talkie, ‘Thank you everyone.’ I figured it was safe to request permission to be there.
The Captain told me it would be a waiting game until the Border Force came on board and cleared me to go.
Eventually we went to the Captain’s office and two women and one man, all armed and alert but very pleasant, requested I fill out an arrival card. It was so nice to hear those Australian accents, ‘Does she need to fill this out if she’s only staying here a night?’ ‘Yeah, that’ll do.’ The young woman asked where I’d been and, on hearing of my cross continental trip, said, ‘Is this an emissions thing?’
What a great question. Yes, it is. Are there any alternatives to flying?
She pointed out the reason the Captain kept the crew’s passports was so they couldn’t jump ship. There was no need for him to keep mine. But, as I would not need it to get out of and back into port security, we figured he may as well have it for now.
The shipping agent arranged for security to come and pick me up. I had to collect the ship’s phone number and address (Berth 10 – on my tenth day at sea!) before I could eventually go down the gangplank (strangely shorter than I remembered from Kaohsiung – why was that? You know, don’t you?) and wait for a kind woman from security to collect me. She had her right arm and hand in plaster which made giving me the slip of paper printed with the security phone number, not to mention driving, slightly awkward for her.
When security tried to phone the Seafarers’ Mission they found it engaged so I got them to phone Louiselle directly, as I knew she was patiently waiting there. She came along in the van and we were so pleased to see each other it didn’t matter what we did or where we went. As it turned out we drove around a fair bit to find a post office selling SIM cards, drove around some more to find a supermarket to sell us a picnic and finally sat down and ate and strolled through memory lanes stretching far back into the mid-eighties and covering many interesting nautical milestones.
We were at Pandanus Park, overlooking the growing port and container terminal. I drank water from a public bubbler! Australian water! Australian people wore singlets and strolled along the beach. Too soon we packed up and drove back to the Seafarers.
The Brisbane mission had been voted best Seafarers Mission in the world by merchant seamen. It was a wonderful place, part tourist souvenir shop, part snack/treat shop and part op shop, it offered a place for sailors to relax and restock. There was a little garden dell outside, presumably for smokers, and conversation hubs with entertainment like pool tables inside. There was free clothes with a particular focus on warm gear. The volunteers told me most crew get about $1,500 a month mostly sent to families back home. Often the companies charge them hundreds of dollars a month to use the WiFi. Coming from Asia, many of the youngsters have never seen a beanie or warm socks and certainly need them.
The gangway on my return didn’t seem steep at all and I wondered if that was because we were lower? Was there more cargo or ballast on board? When I asked the Chief he looked at me strangely before replying, ‘Tides’. Right.
Tao 46 informed me there was no greater fault than desire for success. Therefore, knowing enough is enough is always enough. Thanks, then. That’ll be enough.