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!
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!
We have organised our aerial and underwater photo highlights in a slide show. Breathe slowly, deeply and enjoy:
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.
Here is the Scawfell anchorage before the wind really picked up!
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:
And the views at the top of Brampton Island were spectacular.
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.
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.