42 vessels, hailing from ports in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, New Zealand , Marshall Islands , Hong Kong & Australia participated in the 2016 "Go West" rally with the majority of the participants arriving in the Port of Bundaberg at the Bundaberg Port Marina between late October & early November 2016.
Prior to arriving “down under” the majority of the fleet had been cruising the islands of Tonga, Fiji , Vanuatu & New Caledonia with some having crossed the pacific ocean since departing Panama and Mexico earlier in the year .
The goal of the participants of whom the majority are self funded retirees is to spend the 2016-‐2017 Cyclone Season exploring Australia.
Some will then continue their world circumnavigations and head off into SE Asia later in 2017.
Others have already realised that to experience all that Australia has to offer they will need to spend a lot more time here and as such many will now call Australia home for up to 3 years.
This form of Nautical Tourism brings with it significant benifits for both the marine and tourism industries here in Australia, The average spend per vessel is reported to be in excess of $50,000 per annum. Multiply that by 40 vessels and we are talking about a contribution to the economy of more than $2,000,000.00 !
The Down Under "Go West" Rally , in addition to providing participants with assistance and information prior to their arrival in Australia, also holds "Welcome Week".
Below is a summary of the 2016 Welcome Week event calendar.
Welcome Week is designed to introduce these visitors to Australia and ensure that they not only are made to feel welcome but to also ensure that they are provided with valuable information getting the most out of their time in Australia.
Seminars are held during Welcome Week about cruising both on land and along the east coast of Australia and Tasmania.
This year Welcome Week kicked off on the 6th of November.
In the week or so leading up to Welcome Week , the area know as "Cruisers Cove" at the Bundaberg Port Marina proved to be very popular as the participants arrived in port.
Several impromptu BBQ nights took place with locals and rally participants joining together and entertaining everyone present .
Participants in the rally received their Welcome packs on Sunday morning and with the help of Sandra from Grotty Yachty clothing who supply the rally T-Shirts assisting us to hand them out.
The poem I wrote for our "I sailed the pacific " Down Under Rally souvenir shirts put a smile on a few faces too ;
The first event of Welcome Week was the "Fair dinkum Aussie BBQ" which was held at the Bundaberg Sailing Club . It was a great evening and a great way to welcome these folks, most of whom were visiting Australia for the first time.
There are plenty of social , & fun events that are included on the Welcome Week programme such as the "Aussie 101" seminar that provides participants with a lighthearted look into the Australian culture and our unique version of the english language.
No introduction to the Aussie way of life would be complete without having tasted a vegemite sandwich !
The seminars on Cruising Queensland & Cruising NSW & Tasmania were also well attended and received.
The content we shared has resulted in the majority of the participants having visited Fraser Island, Mooloolaba , Moreton Island , The Redcliffe Peninsular , Brisbane & The Gold Coast as they sailed south via the inland waterways of The Great Sandy Straits & Moreton Bay .
In the past the majority of visiting international yachts have chosen not to travel south via these inland waterways as they simply were not confident enough to do so without first having been provided with detailed and accurate local knowledge.
The "Down Under Experience" tour saw participants visit the Ohana winery & the Bundaberg Rum Factory. The highlight for many though were the events & tours that involved getting to meet some locals!
Mudcrab Races & a Beer`n Prawn night were hosted by the Bundaberg Port Marina and were a whole lot of fun as was the Backyard Cricket & International Bocce Ball Tournament with over $1500 being raised for both VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue ) Bundaberg & Sailability Bundaberg.
Those who were able to rise early enjoyed free Yoga classes thanks to Yoga4Yachties throughout the week.
Welcome week ended with the Done & Dusted Party at the Lighthouse Hotel which was also the venue for several of the Welcome Week seminars & events . The management & staff of the Lighthouse hotel did an excellent job of providing us with not only a comfortable venue but also great value meals.
Welcome Week once again proved to be a highlight for our participants and a great way to begin their stay in Australia
Our gratitude goes out to our rally partners & sponsors without whom the Down Under Rally would simply not exist and who also made it possible for us to give away over $5000 worth of prizes during the 7 days of the 2016 Down Under Rally Welcome Week !
Special thanks also go to the officers of the Australian Border Force (aka Customs) & The Australian Department of Agriculture & Water Resources ( aka Quarantine) who conducted themselves in a professional & personal manner and who were at all times friendly and who on occasion went beyond the call of duty.
Over the past weeks we have been receiving some emails from participants of the rally and we are very pleased to be able to report that many who have written to us have expressed that they have found the rally to have been both an enjoyable and informative experiance . Many have also commented that they feel that the reputation that Australia has for being a difficult country to enter and spend time cruising is undeserved .
To this we say WOOHOO and we hope that with continued co-operation with the relevant authorities that the Down Under "Go West" Rally can continue to attract more and more international cruisers to our shores
To read the feedback we have received from our participants in regard to the Rally, Bundaberg Port Marina & The Customs & Quarantine please go to our testimonials page.
Lastly we would like to acknowledge the participants themselves, the vast majority of whom were patient , considerate and well received by all with whom they came in contact.
We would like to say thank you for joining us and being both adventurous and trusting enough to come and have your own experience rather than relying on what others , many of whom who have not been here, have to say.
We wish you all a happy and safe festive season and hope that your time in Australia provides you with some of the most memorable times of your cruising adventures.