Sunday, August 1, 2010

Six months, 25 days

I just read The Totorore Voyage, a book describing a fantastic (and utterly nuts) circumnavigation of the earth at high southern latitudes by a Kiwi named Gerry Clark.  Just out of Cape Town, his 32-foot boat was rolled and dismasted.  He managed to limp into Marion Island, a South African possession in the sub-Antarctic, where he dropped off his two crew at a research station.  He then set out grimly, alone, to try to make it to Australia to fix his yacht.  Before him was a beyond-epic solo voyage over thousands of nautical miles of the Southern Ocean, navigating under a jury rig and sails made from a tarpaulin and a bedsheet.  He was capsized again and again, going through something like four or five separate jury rigs in the process.  He repeatedly despaired of ever surviving the experience.  Things got so bad that he contemplated just stepping off the side of his boat to hasten the inevitable.

Finally, against all odds, he limped into Fremantle, Australia, his boat a sodden mess, having performed heroic feats of seamanship to reach port safely and unassisted.

What did the Australian authorities do to greet him?

They brought a sniffer dog down to the boat to make sure he wasn't smuggling drugs.  They put him through entry formalities that lasted for seven hours.

I cannot think of another Anglophone country that would treat a distressed mariner this way.  It turns out that Australia has a spectacular talent, and tolerance, for bureaucracy.  It's a trait that's very surprising given the informal character of the country, but there it is.

This is the part where I mention that we have now been trying to import Pelagic into Australia for 6 months and 25 days.  Until she is imported, we cannot advertise her for sale.

It's not like we've been struggling through the bureaucracy on our own - we've employed two different customs brokers to assist us with the process.  Nor are we involved in some lengthy fight with Customs.  As far as I can tell, it's taken 6 months and 25 days to get us this far in the process...just because.  In addition to the over-developed bureaucratic streak, Australians can also demonstrate an amazing capacity to not get stuff done.  I think those two characteristics have come together to put us on the 7 month boat import plan.

I've learned that calling the customs broker four or five times a week is the only way to keep the process from succumbing to inertia.  And generally, I'm pretty Zen about the whole thing.  The boat will be imported when she is imported.

On the bright side, I've had plenty of time to get the boat ready to sell!


  1. It took you 7 months to import a boat? I'm sure it could've been much faster if you were able to let professional boat importers assist you. Why did it take so long? Well, I guess it can be slow sometimes. That's the thing with some customs brokers when it comes to global boat shipping, they're not in a hurry. But as long as it gets imported and no laws are broken in the process, there's no problem. Taking advantage of the delay by getting Pelagic ready for selling was definitely a good call!

  2. Mate, we did let two professional boat importers "assist" us. The first one was from the Sydney offices of quite a large international firm - Peters and May.