With an initial forecast of five days of calm weather and the prospect of checking out a few reefs we had not been to offshore of the Whitsundays, we started on a high. We left Hayman Island in glass out conditions.
We met up with our friends on Bossa Nova (a Fusion catamaran), together with Easy Tiger (another Fusion) and Alice (a monohull) at Bait Reef where we had been multiple times. Snorkeling was okay, although we must be turning into reef snobs after spending so much time up north where the coral and visibility are far superior. Here are the best images of the day.
Sundowners were on Anui with the 9 of us on board. It was a fun affair full of laughter and stories. We had missed having company at an anchorage and this get together was good for the soul.
The next day, the plan was to follow Bossa Nova to Hardy’s Reef, a new destination for the other three vessels.
Each boat in our little flotilla had the coordinates to get in to Hardy’s lagoon through a thin entrance. You have to wait for the tide to stabilise between the lagoon and the outside channel, so you can proceed through a super narrow passage called the Waterfall because at the wrong time, it looks like a waterfall with water rushing out. Since the time to get in on the right tide condition was early in the morning at 7.30 am and we were heading into the sun, we could not see the gap… Bad, bad plan!
We were all following Bossa Nova’s waypoints like little ducklings, except that Anui, second in line, was a much plumper duckling than anybody else, with its 8.5 m beam. It is a very tight passage, deep, but oh so narrow… and Anui did not fit! We scraped the edges of the reef with the dagger board and rudder on one side, which got us off track and we hit the other side. We got stuck, had to back out, scraping even more. It goes without saying that by that stage we had a major case of the jimjams and had no desire to have a second go. We high tailed it to nearby Hook Reef, where we have been many times, anchored there and checked the damage: scrapes at the bottom of the dagger boards and rudders, but no major drama. In the end we got off lightly but it could have been much, much worse. We should have known better!
The moral of the story: don’t attempt to enter a lagoon with a very narrow entrance when the sun is not high in the sky, even if you have got waypoints. If you can’t see where you are going, give it a miss. Oh, and it is never a good idea to try and widen the passage! Had we waited till we could see, we might have been able to get through, but then again, we might not and by then the waterfall would have been going!
One positive out of the ordeal, Bossa Nova caught a blue fin tuna on the way. Having a freezer already full of fish, we scored the beast as a consolation prize.
Little Black Reef
Knowing the bottom of the boat was fine, we then motored 20 miles further east to Little Black Reef where we had not been before. The satellite image looked inviting, with an entrance to a large lagoon between Black and Little Black Reefs. As you can imagine, we were a bit anxious getting in there but it was a much easier process and a spectacular sight. There were quite a number of boats anchored in there, so we were guided in and laid a track for another time! Thanks go to Chances and Vivacious, two catamaran friends of Bossa Nova who had heard about our dramas on the radio!
We snorkeled in two or three spots in the afternoon. Some parts were colourful with lots of small fish, other were barren and damaged. We found an area with lots of little pullers, some coral and shallow patches of sand so I experimented with split shots, but need a lot more practice. It is really hard to get the right environment for these: totally still conditions, a shallow area where you can set up the shot either standing or kneeling on the sandy bottom, and then get an image that is in focus both below and above the surface. Still, it was fun to try. What do you think?
Going South again
We left the reef the next day, but not before meeting up with Argonaut of Melbourne, a 60 ft mono who follow our adventures. It is always great to meet couples who share our passion.
We would have liked to stay a little longer and do more reef hopping, but would not you know it, there was an updated forecast with a brief SE change arriving on Thursday night, so we felt it would be best to go back to the Whitsundays for the night rather than stay out on the reef in 20 knot wind. As we post this, although calmer conditions have returned, we are heading south.