Thanks to all who responded! Here's what I got from this thread ordered by relevance to our concerns:
1. Some boats do get damaged during the check-in, even if the crew behaves by the rules. Mostly marks, scratches, and some panels
2. Some boats don't get damaged.
3. Not as many boats get fined on a regular basis as TCP gave impression.
4. There is a para-military attitude in Australian Customs
5. However, if I check in/out at a port with a lot of incoming/outgoing traffic during regular working hours, Customs
attitude will like be good.
6. Even better is to check-in at a marina (same as in other countries).
7. Aussies are very protective of their rights.
8. They are even more protective of reputation of their country and are very passionate of its beauty.
9. People from Down Under maintain an amazingly argumentative thread for 13 pages on a sensitive subject without degressing into one-liners.
A smaller summary: our two main concerns
, keeping in mind that we play by the rules and are courteous (we're from Canada
, eh?) had been damage to the boat and fines
for pretty much everything. Looks like if we follow the 96 hour rule
(plus any other Oz might come up with in the meanwhile), show up during office hours at a port with regular traffic, and display our normal polite, respectful, cooperative attitude, the check-in should not result in a damaged boat, and only those fines, if any, that are fair.
For this, we won't only see a very unique continent, but also meet very interesting people.
So Oz shall remain at the top of our List of Must-Sail-To Places... together with NZ.
Thanks all for a wealth of information and a wonderful show of spirit!