Sailing with the Smallwoods: Cruising across borders

Sharon and Julian Smallwood believe cruisers should not be put off from visiting some states and countries because of bureaucratic red tape and differing rules and regulations.

Firstly a big thanks to everyone who commented on the last blog about getting your sea-time recognised (Sailing with the Smallwoods: Getting your sea-time recognised) . It's comforting to know we're by no means alone. I think the answer to bureaucratic problems (such as recreational sea-time ratification) lie in (respectfully) standing our ground with the relevant authorities and not giving up. As I previously stated, if the emphasis truly is on safety, then cruisers with years of sea-going experience are a valuable asset to Australia's maritime industries. It is up to us to keep putting that across.

It was actually a couple of reader comments that led me to the subject of this blog. As Ms Chrissy and Joe P so rightly pointed out, the rules for recognising recreational sea-time seem to differ from state to state. It would appear that QLD and NSW are “not on the same page,” so to speak.

We all know this applies to many aspects of boating. In NSW you can't legally live aboard (on anchor at least). In QLD this ruling changes from place to place. In the NT it's simply not a problem. I could cite the various discrepancies indefinitely, but it's not really their existence that concerns me. What sincerely saddens me is the negative impact they seem to have on encouraging people to sail our seas.

I must therefore (politely) disagree with H Morgan, who tells us to “give QLD the flick.” Why should we? The Great Barrier Reef is our natural treasure to enjoy. The Whitsundays are among the best cruising grounds in the world. If the bureaucrats put us off these places then surely we have let them win.

Worse than this, where will it end? You could easily apply this attitude to many cruising destinations. Avoid Australia — there are too many rules. Don't go to Indonesia — it's corrupt. In fact, don't go cruising at all — there are pirates, wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, flu epidemics and endless reams of paperwork. Is this where we're headed? I hope not. In the words of William Shedd, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that's not what ships are for.”

All destinations have their highs and lows, their good points and their bad. Sometimes you have to experience both and sometimes you don't. Of the five countries we've visited by boat (Australia included), we have not found one to be better or worse than the other. Each have had their merits and faults. We accept the mix as part of the balance of cruising and indeed life. Nothing is perfect.

While in Australia we have cruised the NT, QLD and NSW coasts. I personally found NSW to be the least cruiser-friendly of the three, largely due to the liveaboard rules. Nonetheless, I wouldn't say this particularly impacted on our enjoyment of the place. There are usually legitimate ways around these things. As a wayward teenager I was repeatedly told, “you cannot beat the system”. I quickly learned that while this is true, what you can do is look for the loopholes! The ability to stay calm and think laterally is one of the pre-requisites of cruising and it can certainly apply when sailing from state to state.

Cruising across borders, whether domestic or international, requires keeping an open mind. Aboard Brilliant II, we give people and places the benefit of the doubt. We are courteous to officials and never deliberately flout the rules. We respect the individuality of each place we cruise and seek always to leave good will for those in our wake. I would heartily encourage other cruisers to do the same. The fear of red tape should not stop us from setting sail.

 What do you think? Comment below if you want to share your views.

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