Zig zagging to Cairns

Since leaving Mourilyan Harbour and heading towards Cairns, we have zig-zagged our way between the continental islands dotted along the coast and the reef. This far up north, the reef runs quite close to the mainland so it is easy to hop out when the weather allows, and come back inshore when the conditions are too strong.

After two nights at the Franklin Islands in very rock and rolly conditions, waiting for the wind to ease, we left for the reefs offshore of Fitzroy Island.

The Franklin Islands

It felt quite sedate out at Scott and Sudbury Reefs, even if the conditions were not ideal: 14-15 knots of breeze, overcast skies at times. We managed a few aerial shots over the next days and Wade was on drone catching duty. We find that when it is a bit breezy it can get buffetted around if you try and land it on a small deck area, and things could end in disaster. So instead it is best to hand catch it.

Anui at Scott Reef
Eastern side of Sudbury Reef with the cay in the distance
Anchored on the Eastern side of Sudbury Reef, looking SW
Graduations at the reef

And of course we snorkeled. Some of the spots were a bit patchy but the highlight was seeing a variety of hard and soft corals. The attractive sarcophytons (soft coral) really caught our attention. Some are small, mushroom like, while others are huge with convoluted lobes and wavy polyps. Yet others look like bare leather. Sarcophytons are hardy warriors. They release chemicals into the water as a way to fend off neighbouring corals so they don’t encroach on their real estate! Here is the pick of our underwater shots:

  • Table Acropora
  • Sarcophyton
  • Sarcophyton
  • Sarcophyton
  • Astreopora
  • Sarcophyton
  • Soft coral garden
  • Soft coral garden
  • Snapper and Blue Green Pullers
  • Crinoid
  • Orange-blotch and Ringtail Surgeonfish

With the breeze picking up again, we left the reef and enjoyed a fast sail to Cairns where we met up with a few cruising friends. It has been a shock to see Cairns empty of people. Once a vibrant, cosmopolitan tourist mecca, the town is very quiet; many shops and restaurants are closed as a result of the pandemic. It is a wonder how businesses here survive. We did our bit to contribute to the local economy: replenish our food, gas and fuel supplies, pick up various parcels at the Post Office, do a ton of laundry, pig out on eat ice cream at Mooz, the best ice cream shop on the east coast! Once all that was done we were ready to go again.

With a forecast of light conditions ahead for five or six days, yesterday we left Cairns for the Agincourt and Ribbon Reefs with Oceaneer and Clair de Lune. Anui will not go as far north as the other two. We have medical appointments back in Cairns at the end of next week, but the opportunity to go and explore this string of reefs on the very edge of the continental shelf is exciting. We won’t have internet or phone coverage out there, so may not be able to reply to those of you kind enough to comment, but if you enjoy our posts do tell us! We’ll catch up when we are back and hopefully share what should be the highlight of our cruising this year!

10 thoughts on “Zig zagging to Cairns

  1. Peaceful but busy at Russell Is, Franklin Group, now. Following in your footsteps, but not to The outer reefs. I am lucky enough to visit them vicariously through you posts.
    Great period of calm winds for us both

    • Hi Graham – we really like Russell Island, quite scenic although rolly when we were there. We found a nautilus on
      the beach there! Now at Opal Reef and going a bit further north before we need to turn back for boring medical stuff in Cairns!

  2. What a wonderful array of corals, good to see them in great condition. Have fun at ribbon Reef, stay safe

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