Salute To The Down Under Rally

Before we get too far along with our travel and plans for Australia we want to take a moment to send a hearty salute to the Down Under Rally team! John Hembrow and his lovely wife, Leanne, did an amazing job with the Go West Rally for 2022. In fact we were so blown away we decided to dedicate an entire article to them. 

Dan exchanges a CHP challenge coin with one of the Australian Border Force Officers

Let me begin by saying that we are simply not “rally people”. Nope, the whole idea of being bunched up with hordes of other cruisers all vying for marina space, anchorage space and services from the various vendors leaves us feeling very uncomfortable and quite frankly, crowded. So, why did we choose to participate in the Go West Rally for our trip from Fiji to Australia? Well, that’s an excellent question so let me tell you about it.

First of all we had heard nothing but amazing things about this rally from those who have gone before us. It seems everyone has good things to say about the organizers, the perks and services offered and most importantly the excellent value. 

You see, checking into Australia on a boat is certainly not the least expensive thing you’ll ever do and if your boat is filled with wood the way Dazzler is with her forest of teak, it can be over the top costly.

Provided you check in during normal business hours the Customs Office does not charge any fee to provide a Certificate of Clearance to you and your crew. Sounds pretty nice right? Well, it is until you realize that BioSecurity is an entirely different beast. If you have a lot of wood on your vessel then you can expect this part of check in to take a great deal of time and be quite costly as each vessel undergoes a thorough timber inspection as part of the BioSecurity process. 

The sailor on the boat next to us at Bundaberg Port Marina said his BioSecurity inspection left his boat in such disarray that it was as if he had just moved aboard. Apparently they were very, very thorough going through each and every locker. Our inspection certainly didn’t leave us in that shape but it was very thorough. Of course the depth to which they go during this inspection isn’t just dictated by the amount of wood on board, it also has to do with which port or ports you visited just prior to entry. 

There’s also something to be said for presenting a clean and well organized boat for inspection. After all, if your boat is chaotic and filthy then you’re likely to be scrutinized a bit more closely. As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Even though no one wants to clean up their passage chaos before arrival it just seems like a good idea to have your vessel looking ship shape. 

The Cost Of Doing Business

We’ve been told that this inspection is to ensure that vessels aren’t bringing in wood boring pests that could negatively affect Australia. Honestly it seems a bit funny to hear this when you see termites everywhere. Heck we’ve walked out to our rental car more than once to find termite wings covering the roof and windshield.

Dan exchanges a CHP patch for an Australian Border Force Patch with our BioSecurity Officer.

What’s most interesting about this “much needed” inspection is that according to their officers they have fourteen days from the date of your arrival to complete the timber inspection. Now I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but if you do have wood boring insects on board and they wait fourteen days to find them, isn’t it highly likely they would have found their way to land by then? Yeah, I know, logical thinking and government simply do not play well together. Maybe it is as everyone suspects….just another way to tax the man.

Anyway, as we always say, “Their country, their rules” so we got down in the sandbox with big smiles and played right along. Now according to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website the average cost is $450 AUD for cruising boats less than 25 meters but that’s before they kick into overtime which they charge at a rate of $50 AUD every 15 minutes. I read recently where a bloke who decided not to join the rally was stuck with a bill well over $800 AUD due to the overtime charges. You can bet he was wishing he’d have joined the rally.

When you consider the fact that your rally fees not only include your one year membership but also include your entry fees into the country (overtime fees excluded), it’s seems like a no brainer. But then add in all the other benefits like discounts at suppliers, marinas etc.., welcome parties & barbecues and extremely well done seminars and you’d honestly have to be a bit nicked in the head not to join up. The $660 AUD fee to join truly is a bargain!!!

Salute To The Down Under Rally

Like I said in the beginning of this article, we really aren’t rally people at all but in the end we’re thrilled that we joined up with John & Leanne for the Go West Rally to Australia. Their dedication to making life easier for visiting yachties is really something. They aren’t just there for you during the welcome week either. No, they are there anytime you have a question. John is always so quick to get back to us after we’ve emailed and he’s offered many times to have phone chats as well. 

Leanne and John Hembrow…The outstanding rally organizers!

Heck, he even stepped completely outside of what we’d believe a rally organizer would do when he helped me to locate medical treatment for an ongoing illness. I was becoming rather frustrated trying to navigate their medical system when I thought to drop John a line. A few hours later he’d recommended a clinic and by the following morning I had an appointment with a doctor to continue my treatment.

When we were in Vanuatu on our way from Fiji we had posted about an issue we were having with checking into country. Without us even asking, John quickly emailed us to offer any assistance he could provide. He even offered to send our paperwork for us or to try to follow up with the Customs & Immigration on our behalf. 

And, when we were stuck on Dazzler waiting seven hours for the BioSecurity Officer to give us our Practique so we could go ashore, John even offered to arrange to have someone bring beer and food down to the boat for us. Now THAT is true dedication to cruiser happiness. 

While we had already made plans to go back to the US just after arriving and we missed some of the very informative seminars they put on, we found the ones we did attend to be truly helpful. John & Leanne also told us if we needed any information from seminars we missed all we had to do was let them know and they’d gladly email it to us. And, of course, we certainly enjoyed the welcome parties and events.

Yes, like we said, the Down Under Rally is not only a bargain….as far as we’re concerned, it’s a must if you’re heading to Australia. So, we just want to give a huge shout out to John & Leanne to thank you for making our trip to the Land Down Under one that we will cherish for a lifetime. Your assistance is so greatly appreciated and we wish you both many more years of exceptional rallies. 

Until Next Time,

Jilly & Dan

The Smoking Ceremony

The Welcome Party was truly lovely as they incorporated some aboriginal traditions including the welcome smoke ceremony. The smoking ceremony is an ancient custom among Aboriginal Australians that involves smoldering native plants to produce smoke then the participants walk through the smoke cloud. This herbal smoke is believed to have both spiritual and physical cleansing properties, as well as the ability to ward off bad spirits. Here’s a quick 50 second video showing a portion of the welcome ceremony for the rally.

Below are just a few of the images we took at the rally events. Sorry we don’t have better pics. We were having too much fun to stop and snap them.

Click the logos below to learn more about the fabulous rallies put on by John & Leanne Hembrow. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Down Under Rally Logo

Click Here To Read More About Our Arrival In Australia

Author: Dan & Jilly

2 thoughts on “Salute To The Down Under Rally

  1. Ahoy Jilly & Dan,
    Thank you so much for your kind words and recognition of our efforts.
    It was a great pleasure to meet you both and be able to help make your entry into Australia memorable for the right reasons. Safe sailing guys and remember we are just and email or a phone call away should you need anything during your time Down Under!
    John Hembrow
    Down Under Rally, Australia 🇦🇺

    1. It was our pleasure John! We loved every second of being a part of the Go West Rally.

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