Paradise, then the Mackay Yoyo

I know, I know we said we were at the Reef for a few weeks… well the weather gods did not agree and neither did Yanmar. But we had some fun, first at the Outer Reef, then island hopping in the Southern Whitsundays, before returning to Mackay for more engine work!

This is a longer post with many photos, so grab a cuppa, make yourself comfortable and we hope you enjoy the update!

The allure of aqua

We spent a week in paradise on the Outer Reef, surrounded by aqua waters with our cruising buddies on Oceaneer and Clair de Lune.

We visited three new spots together. The first was on the inner line at Credlin Reef, but with a very deep anchorage amongst lots of bommies, strong current creating bouncy conditions even in a light breeze, and the poor state of the coral, it was not exactly heavenly. And when a couple of runabouts turned up at night to anchor right amongst us cats, it became obvious we were not far enough away from the coast! The best thing about Credlin was the view from the drone and leaving the anchorage without getting our chain caught!

Credlin East Reef

Rather than explore more of the inner reefs, we moved the very next morning to the outer reef line some 40 nm further offshore.

We spent several days at Bugatti Reef, then several more days at Little Bugatti, two of a series of U shaped reefs providing lagoon like conditions.

These were wonderful, protected anchorages and we had the best weather we could hope for. The coral variety, colour, density, the clarity of the water, the quantity of fish of all sizes and all this to ourselves was exactly what we needed to relax and have fun. This was the best coral cover we had seen. We are told by GBR Marine Biologists that in some places the coral regrowth is vigorous and the coral cover between 80 and 100%. It certainly was the case at those reefs. Let’s hope another heat stress event next summer does not play havoc again with coral recovery.

With super calm conditions, the visibility was sensational and intensity of colours both above and under the water surface was unlike anything we had seen before. Sharing this with our cruising companions was special. The fish feast on Oceaneer was not too bad either! We all contributed our catches and salads, but Tam and Dee did the cooking and hosting, no small feat with five hungry kids and six greedy adults!

Another delight was seeing the Milky Way galaxy sparkling brightly every night we were out there. The pristine night sky, unimpeded by artificial lights so far from the coast, made for magnificent stargazing. We wish we could show you what it looked like, but astro photography is not possible when you are floating around on a boat. Instead here is Chris’s all time favourite photo she took of the milky way at Aireys Inlet, down in Victoria a few years ago!

Milky Way at Aireys Inlet – f/4.5, 30 sec, ISO 6400

We have organised our aerial and underwater photo highlights in a slide show. Breathe slowly, deeply and enjoy:

  • Bugatti Reef
  • Corals at Bugatti Reef
  • Little Bugatti Reef
  • Anui at Little Bugatti
  • Rich coral cover at Little Bugatti
  • Dense coral cover at Little Bugatti
  • Coral Gardens at Little Bugatti
  • Blackback Anemonefish
  • Barrier Reef Anemonefish
  • Little Bugatti Reef

We came back for shelter from 25-30 knots SE winds at Scawfell Island, thinking we would go out again, but it was not to be. The forecast showed we had two weeks of very windy weather so best to be safe and retreat.

Island Hop

Here is the Scawfell anchorage before the wind really picked up!

The two bays at Scawfell Island, with Clair de Lune in the smaller cove
Refuge Bay, Scawfell Island

After a few days at Scawfell, we moved to Brampton and Carlisle Islands to get internet and phone coverage and to be able to do a few walks ashore. Between the butterflies and the amazing sunsets, there was no shortage of vibrant colours. Again this is a gallery. Click on the first image to see the details in full screen and arrow right!

The hidden forest at Carlisle Island was a new find:

Paperbark forest

And the views at the top of Brampton Island were spectacular.

Looking back towards Mackay
Looking towards Carlisle Island

While at the islands, we caught up with a few cruising buddies who stopped by on their migration north. It was a nice surprise. Alidale, Waterfront, Bossa Nova, Outback Dreamer…

But by far the most unexpected while at Brampton Island was watching the whales frolicking. One morning a mum and calf came through the back of the anchored boats, practising breaches! We were in the prime position for photos. Mum showed her stuff once, then the little one kept jumping for joy, mouth open, launching high in the air, crashing back in the water, catching his breath then doing it all over again and again! Here are a few of the many images we took. Click on the first to display in full screen, and arrow right!

Back to Mackay

After a few changes of tack due to weather fluctuations and mechanics availability, we made a new plan! Anui returned to Mackay on Thursday for two days. Let us explain!

We had left the marina knowing we would have to come back to have siphon breaks for the engines installed at Yanmar’s request, and new engine controls fitted because one was not working well. But we decided that while we are at it, we should get the mechanics to do the first service on the Yanmars after running them in so that afterwards we would really be all done with the engine saga! And yes, we have been motoring at great speed everywhere to build the hours! Boy, will we be glad when this episode is truly over!

While in Mackay Wade got his second COVID shot so we are both fully vaccinated. We caught up with a few more boat crews: Sengo, Anapa & Zenitude. We have topped up the food supplies and fuel and are out of here tomorrow morning, Saturday.

Next Plan

We are heading north, hopeful for a lot more reef hopping, but by-passing the busy Whitsundays. We just want to sail far away from the pandemic hot spots and the crowds, towards our aquamarine dream.

We will catch up to Oceaneer and Clair de Lune, who headed off a few days before us. There won’t be anything holding us back and we can sail much faster than we can motor, even with the new beasts so it should not take us long to regroup with them! We have great plans of cruising together. Outer Reefs offshore of Townsville and a few of the Coral Sea atolls here we come! Of course the weather gods have to play nice, which is not the case at the moment.

27 thoughts on “Paradise, then the Mackay Yoyo

  1. Wow. That’s what I said aloud when looking at your photos, guys! The reefs are so beautiful, magical! And how nice that you’ve caught up with your sailing buddies too. Congrats on the second vaccine too, great news. I’m glad that your new Yanmar power plants are running nicely too. Be safe, enjoy! 🍻🇦🇺

  2. Hi Chris. Once again you have provided us with some amazing photos. I’m so pleased to hear the outer reefs are in great condition and those whale shots are fabulous! Enjoy 💖

    • Thanks Maree fie commenting! We had a great time and yes the reef on the outer line was amazing. Let’s hope the weather calms down enough for us to go offshore again!

  3. There are so many amazing photos in this posting, Chris. I was really attracted to the shots that showed all of the different types of coral and the abundance of fish. The colorful butterfly shots were a nice bonus too. Your drone shots keep getting better and better–that overhead wide view seems perfect for capturing the beauty of the sea, though I suspect that you have to be careful if the weather is not perfect. You ended the posting with a bang too–those breaching whale shots are perfectly timed–especially the final one. Hopefully your stay at the marina for the engine servicing will be mercifully brief and you will soon be back again with your friends in the other cats. Stay safe–the news on fully vaccination is positive, though the Delta variant seems to be really threatening here in the US right now, even to those of us who are fully vaccinated.

    • Thanks Mike. Nice to hear you appreciated the variety of shots. I am learning with the drone ones. It seems the secret is to go really quite high to get that broader perspective but as you say you have to be careful so you can bring it back on deck safely.

  4. Great outer reefs pics Chris. Certainly vibrant & healthy coral. Catch up again I’m sure. Bossa

  5. Phew and wow! So much beauty on show …. thanks again guys ….enjoying it all. BTW, were the whales leaping in relatively shallow water?

      • So if one was to stand it’s fin on the bottom it would be too deep to have it’s head out 🙂
        By the way, when will we see Chris and Wade the movie? There’s your next filming challenge Chris!

  6. Hi Chris and Wade. Loving your posts and photos! What a spectacular surprise to see mother and baby whale practicing their aqua aerobics great pics. And a hidden forest on Carlisle? Sounds magical. Glad you are getting things sorted with sv-anui.

    • Hi Tess – so nice to get your comment. The baby whale was a treat! We are all sorted and leaving Mackay on Saturday. Phew! Thanks again to you and Ross for your support and the lend of your car. Hope you get back up here soon for some fun on Wet Bar.

  7. Hey! Great pictures, Chris! Fantastic colors all over, that’s so nice. I guess that when you reach your friends at the Outer Reefs they will be in awe of your new pictures. Go get them girl!! 🙂

    • Hi HJ – they have taken awesome pictures too but thanks for the feedback! Oceaneer in particular have similar photographic gear so were getting lots of great images.

  8. Hello
    I enjoyed reading your account and have begun to take some notes!
    Bugatti Reef sounded encouraging!
    And your photos- incredible!

  9. Great post and wonderful that you have been able to island hop and run in the new motors. That’s a great milky way shot for sure and those whales. Hope the next leg all goes smoothly for you.

  10. The coral was lovely to see especially as the dead coral was horrible to see when I was there. Good to know it is recovering. You know me I loved the sunsets, fish coral and of course the whalies. well captured Chris. Enjoy the next leg. Still in lockdown but can have a picnic with 5 people as long as all are double vaxed and only for 2 hours in designated LGAs. It is still a struggle getting the numbers down but the Premier is hopeful the end of Oct will mean a bit more freedom. Vax will be mandatory. Oh well

    • Glad you enjoyed the post – you haven’t been to these reefs I am afraid… it was a first for us! But yes, in much better condition given their remoteness. Hang in there with the lockdown. We are thinking of you and hope you can soon join us.

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