When we first started cruising, we weren’t sure that we were rally kind of people. We’re both fiercely independent and the idea of being caught up in someone else’s schedule didn’t really appeal. On top of that, I’m a performing introvert. That means I love people dearly, but I get tired of them quickly. My perception of rallies included too much hoo-ha for my liking.

Thankfully we listened to some good advice from friends, we let go of our pre-conceived assumptions and we joined up with the Down Under Go West Rally. Not only did they provide great information and support for arrival in Australia, our rally fee (AUD$499) covered the cost of the bio-security inspection. Given we had a rat onboard, we got our money’s worth from that alone!

But a smooth arrival wasn’t the only perk of joining the rally. One of the biggest benefits has been the seminars offered throughout Welcome Week. These seminars have covered all you need to know about cruising up and down the east coast of Australia. Divided into different sections, there was a seminar held on most days and we were able to buy the complete set of slides on a USB stick for AUD$30. Well worth the investment.

Welcome Week was also a great chance to meet other cruisers and swap stories and advice. The rally included events from Crab Racing to Yoga, Music Sessions to Melbourne Cup celebrations. There was even a chance to swap unwanted boat treasures with fellow cruisers. Prize draws and rally discounts were a plenty and we were lucky enough to win a Coastal Cruising Handbook for the Queensland Coast. Score!

What we loved most about the rally was the option to come and go as you liked. We didn’t have to leave at a set time, and we weren’t obliged to attend any events unless we wanted to. Of course, the more engaged you are, the more you will get out of it. We have met cruisers from all over the world, many of whom we will meet again in Vanuatu next season.

John and Leanne from Down Under Rally are amazing hosts and John’s jokes aren’t too bad either.

The Down Under team run several rallies each year – Go East (Australia to New Caledonia), NC2V (New Caledonia to Vanuatu) and Go West (New Caledonia/Vanuatu to Australia). They also run a Loyalty Islands rally for people wanting to sail to New Caledonia directly from Vanuatu or Fiji.

For more information visit www.downunderrally.com or check them out on Facebook.