Going south, fast!

We spent a week at Mackay waiting for our engine controls to be fixed, which as usual took five days rather than one, but with strong SE blowing, we could not have moved earlier anyway! We took off as soon as the work was completed, and left the marina first thing Saturday, which coincided with the return of ENE winds.

Here is the satellite map of our trip south, in orange from Mackay to Fraser Island, in green for the rest to the Gold Coast. We have broken the back of it now!

The big passage south

Mackay to Lady Musgrave

Fast run but bouncy!
Overnight sail coming up!

Anybody tracking us on Marine Traffic would have wondered what we were up to, with a succession of quick changes of declared destination: first the Percy Isles, then the Duke Islands, then the Keppels and finally Lady Musgrave in the Southern GBR! We did not muck about, completing a 260nm passage in 31 hours nonstop. Of course this meant doing an overnighter, something we normally avoid. We arrived at the Lady Musgrave Lagoon on Sunday at 1pm.

Entrance to the lagoon at Lady Musgrave – deep but narrow!

Why the hell run? We had a short window before thunderstorms developed on the coast, plus we have a long way to go to get down to the Gold Coast by the end of the month. The thunderstorms were forecast to be severe along the coast, so we figured being offshore in a lagoon would be safer.

Anui loves the wind. It was a fast passage, sailing all the way during the night at 9 to 11 knots, and spectacular with the Milky Way, but it was far from pleasant. The stretch between Mackay and the Keppels is known for its 7m tides, strong currents and with 20 knot winds, the ocean turns into a washing machine especially when wind and tide fight each other. We cope with the chaotic motion in daytime, but at night it is horrible. Chris got sick. Wade did much, much more than his fair share of the night watches. We were tired when we reached Lady Musgrave, but with friends on Bossa Nova and Argonaut of Melbourne having got there from Gladstone, we could not resist inviting them on Anui for a catch up and celebratory sundowners. We stayed sheltered in the lagoon for the following two days, totally comfortable and happy to have a last stay on the Reef for the season.

Meanwhile, Bengie was exhausted!

Found a good spot for a snooze!

Life at Lady Musgrave

Life is pretty cruisy

Lady Musgrave is buzzing with activity at this time of year. You see turtles mating in the lagoon; the coral cay is a nesting site for them, the shores crisscrossed by their many tracks in the sand and dotted with depressions where they dig a hole overnight and lay their eggs.

Turtle tracks and nesting site

It is also breeding season for birds like Caspian and Bridled Terns as well as the burrowing Shearwaters.

Caspian Terns
Bridled Tern
Ruddy Turnstone in flight

But by far the most numerous birds are the black noddies who build their nests in the Pisonia trees, gluing the leaves they collect with their droppings.

Black Noddies in the pisonia trees

But Pisonia trees can be heaven and hell at the same time. Their seeds covered in sticky resin can coat some noddies’ plumage. The birds become trapped, unable to fly or feed themselves and ultimately die. The bodies fertilize the soil for growing Pisonia and thus benefit future nesting noddies but it is a sad, disturbing sight when you see a large amount of dead birds on the ground, including chicks fallen from the nest. Nature can be so cruel.

We had our last snorkels for the season at Lady Musgrave. The light was not ideal with overcast skies, but we made the best of it. We snorkeled on the southern side of the cay on the first day. The coral was very damaged, the water murky and there was not a lot to see there. But on the second day, we went to the northern edge of the lagoon at mid tide and had the extraordinary experience of being in the water after what looked like mass coral spawning, a once a year event. Marine biologists often say it is like swimming through a snowstorm and it absolutely was. Of course the visibility is poor, but the spawn attracts a huge quantity of fish and lots of turtles, feeding on all that stuff drifting around! You did not know where to look as there was so much happening at once in all different directions. We must admit at times it was a bit icky! We stayed in the water for ages, that is until Chris found herself swimming around with 5 whitetip and blacktip sharks looking a bit frisky and decided to not push her luck too much! Wade was not taken with swimming in coral spawn and had given up earlier, patiently waiting in the dinghy.

We have turtle and fish images to share. You will notice a lot of white spots in the photos. We normally remove any backscatter but this time, being coral spawn rather than just little specs, we wanted you to see the underwater snowstorm as we observed it. What a way to end our 2021 Reef season, seeing the Reef in the first stage of hopeful rebirth.

  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Coral Spawn
  • Coral Spawn
  • Barrier Reef Anemonefish
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Green Sea Turtle

Lady Musgrave to Fraser Island

On Wednesday, Bossa Nova and Anui left Lady Musgrave and sailed to Rooney Point (northern tip of Fraser Island), then right through the Sandy Straits the next day. We are hiding deep inside Pelican Bay, a mainland anchorage across from the southern tip of Fraser Island, only accessible at high tide, as 30 knot north westerlies were forecast. Once the blow passes, we will continue south to Double Island Point, Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast.

18 thoughts on “Going south, fast!

  1. Wow, so many beautiful photos as always! I’m with Wade, I’ll pass on swimming in the spawn too. How sad for these beautiful birds, I wonder why they don’t choose a different species of tree? The Terns are very beautiful birds, and poor Bengie, she needs a deep kitty nap! Looking at the map, you guys covered a very large distance in a very short time, yay Anui! She’s a speedy girl! 😂 Stay safe, guys. 🇦🇺

    • Hiya John, we had some serious sailing of late… great fun!
      The Pisonia and noddies have a symbiotic relationship in a way; they need each other to survive but it is a delicate balance! The pisonias are the dominant tree species on coral cays.

  2. Ahh turtles. Love them! Again you are way ahead of us! This time south. We havent got one snorkel in tbis season. Hopefully in the next fortnight before we leave the reef!

    • Hi Trish, you have had a strange cruising year… Now is the time to be at Lady Musgrave… lots happening so we hope you two get a chance.

      • Definately working on it! Booked at GM for next couple of days. Good weather to escape after that but only for a couple of days. Hoping after next Wed there is a nice week forecast for the Bunker Group.

  3. Saturday morning northerlies building Lyn & I said that you would be on your way south as you predicted. You sure have covered some ground. Great photos especially Bengie.

  4. Awesome wildlife pics Chris ….. they continue to put a smile on our faces ….I can imagine your epic overnight sail! 11 knots, makes such a difference covering that distance in a cat rather than a mono! Here’s hoping you beat those storm fronts as you whizz south!

    • Hi Elgar, overnighters do mean you cover big distances quickly but when it is just the two of us they are hard on our poor old bodies! We managed to dodge the storms, just a bit of rain for a couple of days. Heading off again tomorrow.

  5. A 31 hr run. It’s been a while since that has happened I know how you dislike it. Glad you saw some birds, nature is hard at times. All the best in Brisi. It is like winter here, I am not impressed.

    • Hi Sue, yes you cover a lot of distance when you do overnighters but they are not a lot of fun… but we stayed away from thunderstorms and had fun at Lady Musgrave. We can’t wait for cooler weather… we are over the heat and humidity!

  6. What a treat it was to see your photos of so many different bird species, Chris. I was particularly drawn to your shot of the Ruddy Turnstones in flight. The sea turtle images were amazing and you captured their wonderful colors and patterns so beautifully. I had never heard of coral spawning, so it was quite educational to see the process through your images, particularly since you have devoted some recent postings to the state of the different reefs you have visited. Finally, and certainly not least, I loved the image of Bengie snoozing. Since I have retired, I have rediscovered the joy of occasional afternoon naps. From your description of your overnight run, chances to rest seem to be at a premium for you. I marvel when I think back to my college days when I could stay up all night without any ill effects–those days are well behind me now.

    • Hello Mike. Coral spawning is Reef regrow the and the sight of this gives us hope.
      As Bengie gets older she sleeps more and also loves cuddles on our lap. We relish every moment of closeness, knowing they are increasingly precious.

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