November 2, 2003
24° 45’S, 152° 23’E
Bundaberg, Australia
Blatant Bribery
By Lois Joy


What a study in contrasts! In one day we were transported from a serene life at sea to the hustle-bustle of “the tent,” as we call it. It is a huge, white rectangular plastic-and-screens temporary structure that has been erected on the grounds of the Bundaberg Port Marina to house the Port2Port events. The organizers have brought in an old-fashioned jukebox loaded with free tunes going back to the fifties. We haven’t figured out whether the steady rock and roll diet is a function of the typical age of our Port2Port group of 30 yachts?or whether the organizers prefer that type of music. An aging but lively local rock ‘n roll group, replete with swirling circle skirts, danced from 4:00 PM and on yesterday?during the buffet dinner and in between the loud announcements of winning raffle tickets and prizes contributed by the townsfolk of Bundaberg. A classic car display accompanied the event. We reminisced over a 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible and a 1963Volkswagen Bug. There were times during the events when I was flying high and other times that it all became too much and I yearned to escape to the peace of my cabin with ear plugs to drown the raucous sounds. After a few days of this, some gentler cruisers said they’d had enough of the partying Aussies and resolved “No more tent.” But the majority of the Port2Port participants have stuck it out.

Sandwiched in between the events, there are the contests. It appears that these years of cruising haven’t destroyed my competitive drive after all! I’ve entered the Passage Story, the Brain Strain, and the Lethal Bundy Rum Drink competitions. Entering the ETA (estimated time of arrival) competition is automatic. And I just may enter the photo competition if I find time to download my digital photos and unpack the printer. I’m even considering entering the Mad Hatter contest on Melbourne Cup Day.

But the ‘Best Dressed Yacht’ competition is where we went all out to dress up Pacific Bliss. It’s the most team fun I’ve had since decorating the high school homecoming float back in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin in 1959. But back then, I didn‘t understand one could bribe the judge and get away with it.

The blatant bribery theme began innocently enough: I had visited the ships’ chandlery and consulted with Merris, the manager, about purchasing a set of signal flags. Combining the new flags with our courtesy flags from the countries we had visited, I thought, would be a good beginning. As for what we would do after that, I hadn’t a clue. It turned out that not only were the signal flags not in stock, but the only marina in Australia that had them was Melbourne, far across this vast country on its southwest coast.

“If I place the order today, what are the odds of the flags arriving here in time for the best dressed yacht contest?” I asked.

“I’d give it 90% chance of arriving by air parcel to Brisbane, south of here. But here in Bundy, less than 10%,” she frowned.

I turned to leave. “Perhaps you could borrow a set from one of the yachties at the docks here,” Merris called after me. “Or I could loan to you these display flags from the store.”

“I’ll think about it,” I answered as I turned around to face her.

“Well, I’m a judge, and I can be bribed.” Her face lit up with that wide smile of hers.

“Oh, this becomes interesting,” I kidded her. “What kind of wine do you like?”

“Cold and white.”



As I walked back to Gray Dock, slip # 14, I had an idea.

The next morning, our crew took our rental car into the charming town of Bundaberg. We rushed from store to store to get the supplies we needed: a box of chocolates; a bottle of good wine; 25 balloons in red, white, blue, green and gold and one giant helium-filled heart-shaped balloon for good measure; file folders in red, white, blue, green and gold to fold over our lifelines—stiff enough to withstand the heavy winds of the marina; and a zillion streamers in the same colors. But the crowning purchase was an Aussie ‘barbie’ apron with breasts, rather gross but in line with Aussie humor. (See photo of Gunter modeling this treasure).

Phyllis and I transformed the apron into “Miss Bundy Boobs.” She would become the centerpiece of our décor along the port side of Pacific Bliss, where the judges would walk the dock. FREYA was kind enough to loan us their signal flags. Richard carefully hung them high along with all our country flags. The day of the contest, I lettered the red, white and blue file folders to say WE LOVE YOU and the green and gold to say AUSSIES, while Phyllis huffed and puffed to blow up 25 balloons. We unpacked our California Republic bear flag to place on the stern opposite the Old Glory and festooned the stern with red, white, and blue streamers and balloons. An assortment of Aussie rugby tunes would blare from our cockpit speakers.

But our scheme didn’t stop with the USA/Aussie love fest. We were now ready to set up the cockpit table, where the most blatant acts of bribery would be performed—more blatant than the rewards bestowed on the loyal Aussies who fought in the Iraq War right alongside the Brits and the Yanks—more blatant than the bonanza trade agreement that the U.S. had recently bestowed on the Aussies, while blithely ignoring the Kiwis as if they didn’t exist. The Aussies, we’d learned, never got up on their high horses and preached their values to the world; they just joined, and fought, and did their own thing in their laid-back, fun-loving way.

The judging was scheduled for 2:00 PM. By 1:30 PM, Pacific Bliss was ready so Phyllis and I walked the docks to check out our competition. “Tough,” I said, “but I think we have a chance.”

“No contest,” said Phyllis. “We’ll take it.”

Right before 2:00, we saw ‘the judge’ walking the first dock, the farthest from Gray Dock. We rushed to dress Pacific Bliss in her final accouterments.

Then we waited. And waited. A stiff breeze came up. Miss Bundy’s streamers were trying to pull free from her nipples.

Finally, close to 4:00 PM, Richard set out to scout out the situation. He sauntered back. “They forgot that there were any contestants on Gray Dock,” he said.

“What?” I said, alarmed and dismayed.

“Yes, ‘the judge’ had already gone back to work at the chandlery. I found her there. She had to find someone to mind the store, then she’ll be right down here.”

“That doesn’t look too promising,” I mumbled. “She has most likely picked the winner.”

“But before seeing Miss Bliss and Miss Bundy” said Gunter. “That can be corrected.”

“There she is!” We all spotted her at the same time. After greeting us and making explanations and profuse apologies, Merris walked along the dock and spotted Bundy Boobs. She laughed out loud. Then we played Waltzing Matilda and invited her on board.

She was taken aback when she spotted the bribery table. “Oh, this is too much,” she laughed. “The red roses, the heart balloon, the white wine and Wow! Even the candy.”

“There’s a card too. And I can add sufficient Aussie twenties to make sure we win,” kidded Gunter.

“But you’ve already won!” She jumped up. “I have to go get my husband to take a photo of this.”

Merris rushed down the dock and soon returned with her husband who was carrying a large professional looking camera. Gunter helped her back up the steps to the cockpit. She sat at the bribery table holding the wine Gunter had poured with a flourish, and posed prettily for a photo.

Then she moved over on the cockpit bench to sit next to her husband as she read the gushy card with the big red heart. She turned to him accusingly: “I haven’t gotten that much at one time from YOU in the ten years we’ve been married.”

We all laughed.

After the couple left, we turned to each other, wondering whether we really did win. At the next event in ‘the tent’ they called out winners of a few more contests. And yes, they called out Pacific Bliss as the Best Dressed Yacht. I walked forward to collect a $100 gift certificate. Merris and I hugged each other.

I had learned a lesson. Bribery will get you everywhere. And blatant bribery is best.


Log and Journal