Episode 18: Elise Currey Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi Elise, it’s David Hows here, how are you doing?

Elise Currey: Good, how are you?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Good, I spoke to you last week but you were in the middle of moving into your temporary office.

Elise Currey: New office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It wasn’t a good time. Is now a good time to catch up?

Elise Currey: Sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great. Thanks for agreeing to have a chat on the Ocean Sailing Podcast, I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a chat to you given so many of our listeners sail up and down the east coast and some of them do the Pittwater to Coffs race, and more recently some did the Coffs to Paradise race and I thought I’d have a chat given all the changes that have happened and all the setbacks you’ve have to deal with as a result of the storm about five or six weeks ago.

Elise Currey: Correct.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so I’ve kicked it in to gear recording wise, is there anything you want to ask me before we start? I’ve got a basic dozen questions but the idea is you can just chat about whatever you like really, and I’m sure that it will be really interesting for our listeners.

Elise Currey: Oh, I hope so.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ll just kick off. So do you want to just explain what your role is at Coffs Harbour Marina and how long you’ve been there?

Elise Currey: I’m the marina manager, I’m the only full time employee. We have a maintenance manager and a casual admin assistance. I’ve been you’ve coming up to 10 years. Yeah, I started off as an admin assistant and I was the “last person standing” so to speak. Yeah, we’ve had lots of Ease Cost lows over the years and the marina has sustained damage. It really is an aging facilities, about 25 years old. This one in particular was, yeah, quite a different creature all together and we’ve faced a few challenges as a result.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so how many vessels, just explained for people listening from outside of Australia, how many vessels do you have normally berthed at the marina?

Elise Currey: The marina is at 145 berths and we usually are around 95% occupancy at anytime. Between 90-95. It’s a busy little spot. We have a lot of casuals that come and go, which is fantastic, you know, we’re half way between Sydney and Brisbane. It’s a very popular halfway point, you know? So yeah, we’re a busy little spot definitely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so do you want to go back to the storm that hit you around the sixth of June. Was that an extremely unusual storm in your experience, based on what you’ve seen previously with these types of East Coast lows?

Elise Currey: It’s wasn’t anything unseen really, I think the thing that made the big difference was just the amount of water with the height and the volume of water coming over that northern break wall. I mean the worst damage was to our actual boardwalk. So as the swell breaks, well you have the concrete hand bars that make up the face of the break walls and when all that starts to get dislodged and it starts to [inaudible] in the marina. So by all accounts, it’s pretty hard to tell, but it looks like one of those has knocked over the boardwalk. So the marina is disconnected from the boardwalk at few points.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: Which makes it difficult. So we faced a whole new set of challenges with access and getting equipment down there, getting services down there. But we’re getting there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. I saw a photo, which almost looked, with the marina and the break wall in the foreground and what looked like a 10 or 20 meter wave in the background. What sort of height swell of wave did you have to deal with?

Elise Currey: We have a wave forecast alert system that was [inaudible], directly 14 meter waves were reported.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow.

Elise Currey: So yeah, that’s pretty impressive and we have a wave forecast alert system with wave riders that alert us with the data through all the different agencies here, which is [inaudible], water police data, water rescue data. RNS, and we all talk and as the waves increase, we get more or these alerts, which is what we send out to our clients saying, “It’s coming, brace yourself, get ready, get all the ducks in a row so to speak.” So that recorded 14 metres.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s huge, that really is huge.

Elise Currey: It’s really hard to describe and it’s hard to imagine. I mean it’s a beautiful day here today. I mean it’s a bit overcast and it’s freezing, but it’s a lovely calm, all the fishing boats are nosing around on the [inaudible], everyone’s going about their business, and it’s hard to forget just what it’s like. When those swells come over that break wall, everything shakes and you can hear it before you see it, you know? And then suddenly there’s just this black mass. To think that it knocked over our office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s unreal because its right at the back of the marina, isn’t it? It’s sort of two thirds the way down. The water’s got to come a long way.

Elise Currey: Yeah, it’s usually used as the sort of base where everybody, you know, we keep all our ropes and chain and everything there so when we have a weather event, everybody knows that’s where we are and that’s where we operate from. And of course this time, all those sort of systems were tested and we had to relocate, and communicating with people when there’s 60 knot winds and horizontal [inaudible] and the water and the volume of it all, communicating with people to relocate dour space and all that sort of stuff. It was certainly a challenge.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well t’s certainly state emergency material when you’ve got that kind of stuff going on and I know they mentioned people ended up and trying to secure boats.

Elise Currey: Yeah, and it’s been an interesting conversation that we’ve had this in different agencies down here, because we all work hand in hand. I mean the marinas, say there’s 145 boats here and there’s us to start. We have to work really closely with [inaudible] and RMS and Marina Rescue to get things done in a situation like that.

We’ve all done it for so many years and we all just go through the motions. We all know what to do, and can’t do it. So it’s hard sometimes when you’re having these conversations with outside agencies that understand how that all operates and it can look chaotic, it can look disorganized but it’s not on any level. The amount of people that refuse to leave their vessels and the water police are evacuating. That’s just mind boggling.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. 

Elise Currey: Yeah. I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from work safety and I said to him, “You know, a lot of people abandoning around this duty of care,” and I said, “I’ve always been taught that duty of care is assist yourself first because then you can then go on and help other people.” If you’re compromised then that just snowballs. You have a domino effect.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: And he says, “That’s exactly right.” So it’s been a really, you know where are the lines? Do you force people to leave vessels? Do you put yourself at risk to do that? Well no, of course you don’t. Yeah, it’s been really interesting actually, dissecting the whole situation post-storm.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So question for you, how high is the wall that has to hold back 14 meter waves?

Elise Currey: It’s not a height issue. Coincidentally, the Monday that the storm basis was the day that they were supposed to start work on the break wall, rebuilding the break wall. So that is actually all on the go now but, it’s the design issues, planning, and expanding hydraulics, putting together models and testing different models and we went down and were party to the whole process. 

It’s not a matter of height, it’s a matter of [inaudible] and design. So the break wall is twice as wide but it has a burns at the toe of the north facing access, which takes the energy out of the water, out of the wave. So that design is more, better than just throwing up a massive straight wall, it doesn’t work. So yeah, this new design will hopefully do the trick. I can’t wait.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well after what you’ve been through, I mean it’s the force of nature when you’re on the back foot where it’s just incredible, isn’t it?

Elise Currey: Yes, yes it is. It’s hard to impress upon people what it can be like, and how frightening. And you don’t realise it’s building and building and it’s incrementally getting worse and the people are sifting on, doing things that they really don’t need to doing and like the gentleman from work safety said, “I’ve never had to go in the coroners cooler for a sunken vessel.” You go there because somebody has died.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: And I said, “Yeah, yeah.” I said, “Boats can sink. You don’t want people sinking.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, exactly. Exactly. So at what stage did you realize that the marina was going to take quite a brunt from this? Were you left with just a short amount of time or was it inevitable that it was going to build to that and obviously you knew people had plenty of time to prepare? Like what was the sort of timeframes you were working with?

Elise Currey: It’s, on the Saturday, it was building but the whole storm arrived about 12 hours early. Maybe it was about nine hours early? So when I came into work on the Saturday morning, we had planned, we have storm gates here that we close and their closure is tipped by the forecast alert. So we were going to have a relatively normal day at work and the closure was going to happen, we were going to close those gates in the afternoon, before we left to go home. 

But of course I was woken up on Saturday morning, and it was already pear shaped. And it was almost too late for us to go up on the boat before it closed the gate, it was almost too dangerous. But we did and then it was just all hands on deck, and we have a lot of locals that volunteered to help out, water police was here at night, and they were trying to evacuate and that’s all you can do, is just get people out of harm’s way and hang on. Just rope things down and hand on. So it was the Saturday night when evacuations began.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Then in terms of the end result, what was the damage to pontoons or to vessels? Did you have vessels that actually sunk or did you have damage to vessels? What happened?

Elise Currey: We had a trimaran that was moored up next to the boardwalk. With any incoming weather, anybody who has vessels moored up against the boardwalk we will relocate, away from the break wall and that was one gentleman who thought he had the Saturday to come down and do it, and of course by the time he came down it was all too late. His vessel was a multi hull. So it had holes in two of the hulls but it was still afloat. 

A lot of vessels got scrapes and dings and all that sort of thing. There was one vessel on the southern break wall that just out of the blue on the very calm Monday, the weather was perfectly calm and I had a phone call saying a vessel in Siberia is looking a bit heavy in the bow, as I walked down the boardwalk to go and take a look, it just sank. Right in front of my eyes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh wow.

Elise Currey: It sank within, it must have been between my receiving the phone call and walking around there would have been 15 minutes, and it just went down so quickly. It’s getting [inaudible] tomorrow, so we’ll find out what that actually was. That was post storm. No idea what happened there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Slowly been filling up and then just reached an industry, it’s your tipping point.

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. So it’ll be interesting to see what happened to the hull and what’s going on underneath it, but yeah. But considering, we’ve been pretty lucky, very lucky.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that is very fortunate because some of the photos and some of the descriptions of the storm hitting the marina, I thought, “Gosh, there must have been half a dozen or dozen boats lost with this force of that water sweeping through there.” So you’ve done well for that not to be the case.

Elise Currey: Yeah, well there’s lots of running around and relocating vessels. We’ve still got a couple of vessels sitting up on the main wall, but they’re happy to stay there for the minute. Yeah, and the marina’s looks pretty bad because when those pontoons start disconnecting, they’re top heavy, they start to slip and they look pretty bad, but it’s very quickly to rectify that. So the marina is all completely straight and back in order. But it’s still disconnected if the boardwalk hadn’t been compromised, if the boardwalk was working, we’d be up and running. 

So essentially it’s just the boardwalk and most of the arms have got power and water back again. I take my hat off to the electricians, I called the guys out, now I have no idea how they get the power working. When it looks like the entire infrastructure has been destroyed, they’re like, “Ah now, we’ll just do this, that, and the other.” It just fascinates me. Yeah, it’s good to go here, but we need more people to leave so the contractors will be coming in the next week or so to rebuild and we still don’t who that is yet. The insurers are working that out. Yeah, so there will be a lot of changes in the next few weeks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and what’s the nature of what needs rebuilding and how long do you expect it to take?

Elise Currey: Whoever gets the contract, they have all estimated at the end of September. What’s written into our insurance is our obligations and what they will pay for is to repair and secure. So that’s what will happen. The issue of us having a brand new marina is that project is still reliant on the waiting for an outcome regarding our lease extension. Not our lease extension, sorry our new lease, which is the tenure has informally been agreed upon but we’re still waiting for that. The complete rebuild is a different project for what this is.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: Our obligation with our insurance and all of that. It’s a shame but we’ll still have a fantastic, relatively new facility. It’s just not going to be the end product that we want to do and what we have said we have committee ourselves to doing since 2006. So yeah, hopefully the need for a new marina will become more urgent having seen what can happen. So that’s what. We’ve been holding pattern waiting for the tenure on a low spirit. The importance is it’s completely rebuilt.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so this is the marina renewing the lease as the local council.

Elise Currey: Crown land

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Crown land, right. Just to give an idea, what sort of period of renewal do you have a lease like that? What is it, 50 year lease or hundred year lease? Or what sort of terms do you deal on?

Elise Currey: It will be a 50 year lease. A financial model won’t back up anything less than 50 years.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Not if you’re going to build something new, no.

Elise Currey: No, that’s exactly right. I was at a workshop that was run in Brisbane this week about fire safety systems and all that sort of thing. All the marinas that were there are inland marinas on rivers and they have their own set of challenges with flooding and all that. We don’t have issues with flooding, we have issues with between tides and over toping and all that. It’s very interesting to talking to them about how they manage themselves. It’s a completely different creatures and you forget sometimes but where we are, right on the ocean, it gets pretty hairy at times as we’ve seen. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: Yeah, marina that are in rivers and stuff don’t have that, but the surge and just that sense that you are right there, on the ocean.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s the Tasman Sea, right? Big systems can come from hundreds of miles away in the sea. The sea state can be quite large by the time it gets to you, as you know better than I do. It’s not, like you say, it’s not just the height, it’s the sheer force of what’s behind that. The depth of it.

Elise Currey: Yeah and strangely enough, this east coast low was relatively short in duration. We’ve had three-four days and we’ve slept. Asked if we slept in the office? Yeah, and had extra things, the 24 hours three-four days in a row. It was quite interesting. There was no chance in the beginning that you could have [inaudible] in that office.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it was spread, it was as high as kind of central Queensland as low as Tasmania. It covered thousands of kilometres at storm, didn’t it? I mean it was a big storm and we had, I’m in the Gold Coast in Queensland and we had a huge amount of rain in the space of eight or 10 hours.

Elise Currey: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Then the sun came out a day later and you wouldn’t have known there’s been a storm, it came and went that quickly, it was unreal.

Elise Currey: That’s like the Monday here. I’m standing there, and you’re just looking at this total devastation in front of you and it’s a beautiful sunny day. It was that sort of weather. It was really quite surreal yeah, and it was funny because that storm was so widespread, normally people that would ring me and say, “Hey darling, how’s it all going there?” Weren’t, because they were all busy too.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: That was a sure indicator that it was not good.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and has it had any effect on the commercial boats that are based there in terms of their ability to carry on going out fishing and stuff like that? Is it just business as usual for them?

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. Well the fisherman’s [inaudible], there was only one vessel that had some issues with the mooring. But they were all still up and running and that. Commercial guys were up and running within a couple of days. So all that has been unaffected. There was only one commercial vessel damaged, so he’s getting repaired. But the [inaudible] fishing and all that stuff, is still on and was.

The arm that they were on was one that was relatively unaffected. We managed to get them all up and running. It was all about making access to those vessels secure and safe for general public, so that was our priority from pretty much from day one for those guys and yeah, for any people that were staying on their vessels, getting them sorted.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Elise Currey: The commercial side is okay. They’re all okay.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And they’re got big tough steel boats too so they probably stand out for a little bit. A little bit better than the fibreglass boats.

Elise Currey: Well the club was quite protected because they’re sort of around the corner a little bit so to speak. Yeah, they were okay. We actually had some commercial vessels that relocating like the fishing commercial vessels were relocated into the marina because of the works that are happening at the slipway.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right.

Elise Currey: As the storm sort of intensified they just went, “Stop this,” and went back to their regular berths that they were in in the [inaudible]. And so they all go, “No, this is too hairy for us,” which was good because the less vessels the better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and with your new marina plans, sorry to just sort of jump sideways, but your new marina plans, when they come to fruition, does that mean an increase in berth numbers? Does that mean a change to the layout of the marina, does it mean there’s any other new commercial or retail spaces being created? Like what’s the sort of big picture?

Elise Currey: We would like to, we have a commercial block here. It has 10 tenancies in it. Restaurants and [inaudible] and all that sort of stuff. We would love to redo that building. There are plans for that, sort of loose plans. Their priority is the marina because of the age of the facility. It will be pretty much similar berths. Because of the shape of the inner harbour, we’re really restricted with what we can do. So the water ways will be increased. They will be wider. 

So the whole marine will move westwards a bit, and we’ll get rid of the moorings that are on the southern break wall and extend the arms a bit. It will be more user friendly for the modern style of boats, you’ve got multihulls, you got a lot of people living on big cruisers like Flemings and travelling around on big vessels like that. This marina, things like access to power. The needs that modern boats have are completely different to what they were when this marina was build. So just tweaking all those sorts of utilities and the design of the actual fingers and arms is, it’s not going to be anything out of the bag but it’s going to be more user friendly for the modern boat user.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. And there’s no plans to move the yacht club any closer to the marina so we don’t have to walk so far?

Elise Currey: Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It would be. 

Elise Currey: My argument has always been, I think they should but the yacht club where the slipway is, and incorporate the slipway into the yacht club to you’ve got them all as one unit and have it all at one. So you have a yacht club that’s actually on the water and closer to the marina. But yeah, interesting. We need someone that’s clever to come up with a plan and with lots of money to do it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, that’s right, that’s like they say, you have got some restrictions graphically with how it’s laid out and with the break waters and stuff. So I guess it’s the cost equation is one of these things. It’s nothing’s, especially when it comes to marinas, nothing is easy or cheap to build that’s for sure. Okay.

So the Pittwater to Coffs race is run I think for 35 years now and then Southport Yacht Club resurrected the Coffs to Paradise race in January this year, which I competed in as well which is a lot of fun. So I got to experience your marina for the first time in January. It’s a great stop off place for sure, on the way north or south. 

So those races are now bypassing Coffs in January next year, is that out of concerns that you have about being really being sure you can be back to where you need to be? Is that sort of the primary driver? 

Elise Currey: Well most definitely by January. Yeah, most definitely by January. End of September is our start up date.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah.

Elise Currey: To be up and running again. Yeah, I’m not too sure why that has happens but yeah, it’s a shame to end the whole relationship on a race like last year where there was loss of life and loss of vessels and all of that. Yeah, very sad.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and that, just to clarify, that in those two vessels that were leaving Coffs and returning to Sydney in quite nasty weather.

Elise Currey: Yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. Okay, so then you expect that those races will just resume in 2018 as per normal and you’ll be able to pick up where you left of? 

Elise Currey: Oh, I’m not sure. That’s a decision for the yacht club to make.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Elise Currey: I know they are looking at options for this year. We’ve found another club, so whether they forge a whole new series.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Temporarily for January this year, the Pittwater to Coffs and Coffs to Paradise, the Gold Coast races, have essentially been combined and just made a Pittwater to paradise, twice as long single race because obviously Coffs is the ideal starting point but with that not available, there’s no other now the ideal point. So that’s what they’ve got planned for January as a couple of weeks ago.

So I guess in terms of being able to plan, logistics and crews and accommodations, sponsors and all that stuff, I guess they have to put a stake in the ground if they’re unsure of anything around this, I guess for whatever reason they’ve done that.

Elise Currey: I’m not sure. Our commodores had all those conversations with our [inaudible], so yeah.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just means you have a few extra available berths for other visiting boats at that time of the year.

Elise Currey: It’s just such a nice change in the year and everything just goes perfect. There’s nothing better, I just love it when there’s, you know, you got boats on sky hooks almost. It’s so much fun.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. It creates a real festive atmosphere?

Elise Currey: Yeah, yeah. When I first started working here, that was close to a hundred yachts coming. It was massive. We had boats tied down all along all the walls along the boardwalk. But now it gets, the numbers are so huge, you're fitting into all the berths and you don't quite get that abundance you know? There’s people and boats and festivities, it’s almost like it’s just a busy day. But we’d love to get back to all the chaos.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Do you know, have you got any ideas to why the numbers have declined? Because it’s a shame that they have.

Elise Currey: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not okay with all the racing regulations. I would assume that we’re only getting nearer to being part of lots of races. A lot of the boats we get here, their average size is 12 meters and I would assume that those sorts of mom and dad teams and all that sort of stuff. I guess it gets to a point where you’re thinking, “Jeez, is it Christmas time?” All that, having to fork out and prepare for all those sorts of things, those expenses. But I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ve sort of, the two clubs sort of knock everything out but the feedback I get is, generally comes down to expense.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I think you’re right. I spoke to a guy last week who does marine training all over the country, Jerry Geraldson and he said there’s been a decline over the last 20 years and partly it’s the rising safety standards and then the cost of compliance with those. It’s a big time cost and big financial cost, so the bar gets higher and higher and the average cruising boat doesn’t comply with all those extra regulations now. That does start to rule, some of those people out, that’s for sure.

Elise Currey: Yeah, you could imagine that kind of our twilight sailors here, they have to be a certain category and affording all that stuff it just takes years.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s one thing to buy it, it’s another thing to keep it all certified each year and inspected and checked, and it’s not just a one off cost for these things unfortunately.

Elise Currey: No, no, no. It’s an annual thing. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to say, did you get some good photos or video footage of what was happening in the middle of all that chaos with those big 14 meter surges?

Elise Currey: I’ve got a couple of shots, there’s one of the office being sort of enveloped in a massive surge. It’s a great little full frame shot and there’s one that is a great shot of the swell. Somebody must have taken it from the hill up high in the marina rescue, looking down at the harbour and you can see the swell coming up behind the break wall and you’re looking at it, and you sort of see, “Ah it’s a cloud. Oh no, no, that’s water.” Then when you look into the foreground to the boats and the boats are so tiny, and it takes you a few seconds to actually absorb what you’re looking at, and you go, “Oh, dear lord, that’s not good.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like looking at the movie clip and with special effects and thinking, “This isn’t real, it can’t be real.”

Elise Currey: “That can’t be right. They’ve done something to that.” But the other one is a gentleman whose a coastal engineer for [inaudible] and he’s got this new drone, and he took a heap of aerial shots post the storm, looking down at everything, and that is just amazing.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. So what I’ll do with the podcast interview, I get it typed up as well and posted dedicated podcast show notes page on the Oceansailingpodcast.com website. So what I’ll do is I’ll email you a drop box link if that’s okay, and any photos or videos you have to share, I’ll post those because people who listen to this think, “Well that’s really fascinating, it would be amazing to see it.” And then the fact that they can see that by photo or video.

Elise Currey: They can see it. Yeah for sure.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, they love it.

Elise Currey: There’s actually a woman who is a photographer in the marina and she took a heap of photos. So I can talk to her first. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well as many as you’ve got will be fantastic because what we’ve, you know, with some of our episodes we’ve published even 50 or 60 photos to go with the story and the interview. So we’ve had thousands of views of the pages. So people really get to see and feel. And if you haven’t been to Coffs before, it will give them a, obviously a good appreciation of the lay of the land and how open it is to the coastline there as well.

Elise Currey: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that will be good. I guess a couple of final questions. I guess, in these types of situations, as tough as it is, it always seems to bring out the best in people and particularly community spirit and people working together and I guess what are some of the memories or example you have of that, of just people mucking in and working together to make the best of the situation?

Elise Currey: We have always had a great community down here that just gets the job done. You know, people who are getting their own boats in the water, we’ve got a local guy who uses the marina on a casual basis for his fishing boat, he’s president of the fishing club, a he just got the yacht club [inaudible] in the water and just, I think he’s had three days off. He just goes. He just keeps going and helping to get the marina back in order and we’ve got other people that through the night are just, they just don’t stop. They just do not stop doing things and they just become, you all just become one team. 

It’s like I say, I’m the only full time staff member, but I fee like I’ve got this whole crew of people that I think it’s really quiet unique. I’ve never worked in an environment like it where everybody feels a sense of ownership for the marina and works accordingly and it’s non-stop. People turning up and giving us gifts. We’ve been getting cases of wine, people ringing us saying, “Are you okay?” Not only do they care about the marina and what’s happening down here, I think our shed, we had a fridge, a bar fridge that we had to close our temporary office, that was full with bottles of champagne and everything. 

The guy had just been giving gifts, constantly and it’s just the spirit down here is really quite remarkable and it’s something that we’re just everyday blown away by what people will do and the lengths they go to fix and offer, and local businesses as well. Plus, I’ve had guys like The Boat Shed up in Brisbane, Gold Coast Marine, they’re all ringing and saying, “What do you need? We’ll be down there. We’ll bring boats, we’ll bring men, whatever you need.” So I say, “Ah, thanks,” you know? It’s a really nice environment to be part of and to see that people can be really nice. They can be pretty ordinary as well, but we’re lucky here.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it’s pretty special and it’s quite amazing. Instead of people saying, “When you going to fix it, and what about me?” When they say, “Are you okay and how can we help?” It’s just such a different environment to live in and work in. It’s so much more typical of smaller regional locations as opposed to the cities that we live in, where nobody even talks to their neighbours sometimes. So it’s something special to be valued, that’s for sure. Coffs Barbour, is a magic stopping off point for cruising sailors and for racing sailors. So it’s nice to hear you’ve got people contributing like that to help you get back on your feet and get back to full working order as soon as possible.

Elise Currey: Oh absolutely. People say to me, when you sort of run through what it was like in the storm and everything, and I’ll say, “You know, the one thing,” because we’ve been doing a lot of talking about procedures and manuals and all that sort of thing and what we can do better, why weren’t some people informed? Maybe they don’t get emails, they’re not email readers. Maybe people don’t open their mail and doing different ways of communicating with that different, that really diverse demographic we have here.

But this human elements post storm, people are in shock and dealing with that, and I had a woman from my RMS yesterday asking me that what it was like, and I said, “Well the reality of the situation is it’s nothing that comes in a manual or a “how to” book, and having to manage people, people in distress, has been a really steep learning curve.” But the thing, the events down here, and this is what I say, “My job’s all about births, deaths, and marriages.” We’ve been through everything with everyone down here and it has been all of those things, and it’s almost like, you hate to say it but it’s just like we’re one big family and that’s how people operate, which is fantastic.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well and in times like this, it’s worth it tenfold isn’t it? When you’ve got people working together like that, instead of like you say, sometimes it brings out people who don’t work well together anyway, it usually brings out the worst in them as opposed to the best in them. So it’s nice when you’ve got that tight knit community foundation. So that’s really, really good. Other than making sure that our cruising and racing sailors continue to visit your marina and sort of keep occupancy levels up, is there anything else that our listeners can do to help in any way?

Elise Currey: Oh no, but definitely keep in touch. Because our timelines might change if you’re coming up and down the coast. Our website will have information, we’ll have updates. Don’t hesitate to ring. If you’re driving past, by all means pop in. Happy to show you what’s happened. Yeah, just keep in touch and everybody that rings up and wants to come in hasn’t realized that we’re not actually open, the first thing I say to them is just, “Don’t feel like you’re harassing us, just keep ringing, keep in touch, look at the website,” because, you know, things might happen a lot more quickly than what they’ve anticipated. We’ll be up and running sooner rather than later. So that’s the best way you can help is to get people coming back.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, yeah absolutely. Okay, so officially right now, other than people you’ve already got on berths, you are now taking new bookings, locations at the moment? So that September timeframe somewhere there, really that’s the likely earliest stage once that’s completed that you’ll be able to start doing that? Is it at the end of that process?

Elise Currey: Yes. Absolutely. They give me those time frames and they’re sort of taking into that you might have a couple of weeks of bad weather. That’s worst case scenario. So potentially, we could be earlier than that. So I keep saying to everybody, “Keep in touch, happy to chat, happy to have you pop in the office, chat about what’s happening.” You know? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and they can continue to just visit the Coffs Harbour Marina website as well for updates.

Elise Currey: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, hopefully we’ll be up and running.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s fantastic Elise. Is there anything else you want to share at all before we wrap up, anything else you wanted to tell me about?

Elise Currey: No, I don’t think so. I think that covers it. If I think of anything I’ll respond in an email.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Well that’s great. I really appreciate that you took 45 minutes out of your busy schedule to have a chat and we’ve got thousands of listeners across Australia and across the world now. So this will be online in the next couple of weeks and I’ll follow you up with an email and some details of how to drop some stuff into Dropbox folder. Because it would be great to be able to share those photos and any videos or anything else you have there, that would be fantastic.

Elise Currey: Absolutely.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: All the best with the great job you’re doing, rallying your volunteer army and getting the marina back in its feet.

Elise Currey: Yeah, no it’s a challenge and it’s a fun one though. It’s better than being stuck in an office somewhere.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, like they say with these things, they’re character building, but you wouldn’t want to do it every year once you’ve got enough character, enough is enough right?

Elise Currey: Yeah, no we’ve ticked that box. We can move onto something else exciting.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, absolutely. Okay well that’s great. Thanks for appearing on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and take care and I’ll drop you a note in the next day or so and then I’ll send you the details when the podcast goes online and the link to the webpage as well so you can check all that out, and we’ll link to your marina as well so our listeners can link straight to your website for updates and stuff too.

Elise Currey: Lovely, thank you so much.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great. Thanks Elise, have a great day.

Elise Currey: Bye.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Bye now.

Elise Currey: You too. 

Interviewer: David Hows