It is always a bit up and down when you reef hop. Weather conditions and reef health are the big variables and rarely perfect.
Why do we go in less than ideal conditions to find less than ideal reefs? Because there is always something positive to experience: a lovely sail, a breathtaking view, an unusual creature. More than anything we want to capture aspects on the GBR that are exquisite but also give a visual plea to areas that are suffering.
This certainly is the case for the two reefs we are taking you to this week: Otter and Eddy Reefs. We have updated our last satellite image so you can orientate yourselves.
Otter is made up of what can best be described as patches of reefs in a dotted line about 12 nm long. There is not a well defined reef wall. We targetted one of the patches with a large expanse of clear sand near a tiny cay for stress free anchoring. The cay is more akin to a sand bank and only gets uncovered at low tide.
While the breeze was light we sent the drone up for an overview. You can see how compact our little patch is, how clear the ocean floor is right till you get to the reef platform and where best to go for a snorkel. We find the drone very handy to survey our surroundings. Most of the time we realise we could have got closer in! And of course we get some spectacular images too!
Although the reef is showing storm damage, Otter was interesting to snorkel at with a varied mix of soft and hard corals, a network of gutters where fish patrolled and plenty of marine critters to look at. We could see signs of both cyclone effects and recovery.
The anchorage became too rowdy in 18-20 knots, but we did not have far to go to reach Dunk Island where we stayed for two nights and met up with our cruising buddies and a few other boats we knew.
We could not resist going out again during a brief break in the weather before another blow! We initially aimed for Beaver Reef where we had been to before, but we were struggling into wind. Not wanting to motor, we adjusted our course to a new to us spot: Eddy Reef, a little further NW. The satellite map overlay guided our arrival and we anchored easily over clear sand.
Some reefs look promising from the air; this one even had a lagoon! Unfortunately it was very disappointing under the surface. Just as well we had a nice sail! The storm damage was extensive, with much rubble and algae covering the sea floor. The saving grace was the giant clams Tridacna Giga. You can get an idea of their size when you see Wade next to the behemoth. You can also see the very poor state of the surrounding reef.
With a few days of strong wind forecast, we had an easy sail back to the coast to shelter at Mourilyan Harbour, a well protected but very shallow spot with not a lot to do other than admiring the view!
We will resume our zig zagging northward between the coast and the reef as the weather improves. It has been interesting to see the trade winds slowly calming down along this part of the coast, but still strong further north around Cairns and Cooktown. So we are deliberately slowing down and staying where the conditions are moderate.