Preparations for the Reef

We are still floating around in South East Queensland, exploring new to us anchorages along the Broadwater and engaging in activities that will get us ready for the Reef.

Storms building at Dux Anchorage

Walks, swims, drone fun

We have discovered a nice spot along the mainland side of South Stradbroke Island: The Dux Anchorage. Although busy on weekends, during the week it is quiet and very protected. We have spent over a week there, keeping ourselves physically active: daily walks through the bush and along the ocean beach, body surfing in the warm sea, fun playing with the drone… all good practice for what will come later when we head off. Here are a few aerial shots of our surroundings:

A spacy Little Planet shot taken with the drone
South Stradbroke Island – the Tipplers Passage on one side of the dunes and the ocean beach on the other.
Dux Anchorage along the Tipplers Passage – can you spot Anui?
The ocean – Wade is going for a body surf
Looking south toward the Gold Coast

We were finding that some of the drone images were a bit blown out on bright sunny days so got some Neutral Density Filters (a set of three: 4 stop, 8 stop and 16 stop) from PolarPro. The photos above were all taken with the ND8.

You are probably wondering why we have not headed further north yet! It is not maintenance nor the weather holding us here now. This time, it is something much more exciting! Let us explain.

Learning new tricks

As you know, we have been readying ourselves for what promises to be a mega season at the Reef. For a while now, we have been debating whether to get scuba gear on Anui. We both have scuba diving certification, but have been reluctant to get the equipment and compressor because they are bulky, heavy, expensive and a bit of a hassle to store on board and maintain. This is why to date we have stuck to snorkeling – simple, convenient and easy. And yet it would be nice to be able to go deeper and stay longer underwater: Wade for spearfishing, Chris for underwater photography and for either of us to clear the anchor chain from entanglements around coral outcrops beyond a 10 meter depth, which could be necessary! Well we have found a solution: learning to free dive.

At the suggestion of one of our followers, Bill Gardyne, we contacted Freediving Gold Coast who run a range of programs and decided to stay back and enrol on the next available Ocean Freediving course! The 3 day training over a couple of weekends will enable us to learn techniques to hold our breath longer and dive down much deeper without the need for the full scuba gear so we are very excited… and a wee bit scared!

Wade being a reasonably fit and healthy specimen did not need a medical prior to starting, but Chris with Type 1 Diabetes had to get the all clear from a medico to enrol. Unfortunately the local GP was not happy to do so. Telling her what she can and can’t do is like waving a red flag in front of a bull…. Not to be beaten, she contacted her specialist to take advice and he gave the okay – should have gone straight to him in the first place!

To gain free-diving certification there are some demanding requirements to meet (depth, time, distance under water on one breath) but the most important thing is the ability to relax, focus and use good technique. It is a mental game as well as a physical challenge. We don’t know whether we will be able to achieve everything the course requires as we are not exactly spring chickens, but as far as we are concerned any improvement on our current abilities will be a plus so we are focused on that rather than the numbers. We start our Ocean Freediver training tonight in Southport – wish us luck! More on what’s involved in the next post!

Underwater camera gear

The other preparation for the reef relates to underwater photography. There are instances when photographing marine critters and seascapes would yield better results if strobes were attached to the existing Ikelite Housing for the Olympus TG6.

The existing kit: camera in Ikelite housing with dome lens on a tray

And with the opportunity to get down deeper, lights will certainly be required. So Chris ordered two Olympus strobes and their attachments from Digital Diver in Cairns who had supplied the housing and dome lens in the first place. The gear was posted to us. This is what the full kit looks like. Now we’ve just got to learn how to use it!

Addition of strobe, flexible arms and fibre optics leads

With photographic equipment and dive skills improved, hopefully two eager beavers will soon be certified as well (some people think we already are) and be able to head north afterwards – six weeks later than we thought, but worth the delay. Don’t you love it when everything works together for good?!

24 thoughts on “Preparations for the Reef

  1. You’ll be free diving for crayfish before too long!! And Wade, still got the taste for Abalone!?
    Great option to free dive. Now you can make docos like My Octopus Teacher

    • Hi Waz – yes one of the good things about freediving is that you don’t scare the critters quite as much as with scuba, not to mention you are not allowed to spearfish or catch anything with scuba gear on!

  2. Nice pictures! I’m sure that you two will get the certification for free diving! 🙂

  3. It’s worth the wait! Great photos both above and below the waves. How can you attach an ND filter to a drone? 😍🇦🇺

  4. Your new kit looks like something from the space industry. Love the pics. Good luck with your lessons, stay safe and relax

    • Hi Sue – not exactly streamlined- looks like a big spider! Intending to use the lights when we explore deeper down, but on bright days in shallow water I will do without. Quite nervous about the freediving course, we’ll see how we go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  5. Looks like a fun body surf for Wade there. And apparently warm enough for no wetsuit! (bonus). All the best with the freediving. Rock on.

  6. Evan a slight improvement in knowledge and abilities surely will lead to a broader comfort zone . . . so, however pronounced the outcome – do have fun with your course ! Personally I have to laugh at myself that having heard for years and years about it way back – this is my first opportunity to have a ‘look’ at Tippler’s Passage !

    • Hi Eha, agreed – it would nice if we can get the ticket, but we are trying to not focus on this! Tipplers and Dux are very nice spots mid week.

  7. I like your thinking re scuba, free diving sounds low in tech and high on personal achievement plus the weight saving from not having to cart around all that gear.

    • Hi Leanne – snorkeling is the easy bit… free diving cranks things up a few notches. We don’t know whether we will be able to get through but about to give it a try!

  8. Free diving course, that’s exciting! Had to laugh Chris at how you described your reaction to the Dr having concerns giving you a clearance …… poor bloke is probably still recovering from the fiery glare!
    We’re looking forward to serious pics of the monsters from the deep ….

    • Hiya Elgar, yes a GP that doesn’t know you, does not like the idea of free diving for anyone and thinks a Type I diabetic should not even be driving was a bad combo! Pool work today. Targets:2 minutes breath hold, 40m swim underwater and pass the theory exam. Heart beat going up just thinking about it!

      • Wow 2 mins and 40m underwater swim! Even in my fittest youthful swimming surfing days did I ever quite manage the length of the pool underwater ….. no doubt sheer determination will get you there ….. remember you have a profound 100km paragliding background to take into the pool with you!

  9. The drone photos are amazing, Chris. Did it take long to learn to control it? I would worry about crashing a drone into a tree if overflying land. I am fascinated by your new strobe lights. It will be an interesting challenge practicing with them. The free-diving is the thing that would really scare me. I am not a strong swimmer and am not sure I could learn to hold my breath for as long as you need to do. I guess that controlling the natural urge to panic is an important first step. 🙂

    • Hi Mike, still learning with the drone. You do get information about its altitude so you control how high you take it and can see on your screen what it is flying over. Much easier to play from land than from the boat!
      Having now gone through the first two days of the freediving course We can attest to how difficult and critical it is to learn to control the urge to breathe. If you can’t get past the contractions of your diaphragm you won’t progress. It is a mental game.

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