Back to the Capricornia Cays

After spending our first two weeks at the Reef inside protected lagoons, Greg and Ann were ready for more exposed reef anchorages. So without further ado, here is your weekly dose of reef images both above and under the surface. We have coral, fish, birds and aerial shots for you!

This satellite map shows where we have been during the past three weeks.

Anchoring next to a reef with the only protection a coral cay just a few meters high above the ocean or sometimes only a reef platform at low tide means more movement, with the current running along the reef. The snorkeling is also a little more active. This week we spent time at a few of these reef anchorages.

First, maintenance on the go

After a couple of days at the Keppels for provisioning and laundry, we decided to head back out to the reef. We had an active sail from Great Keppel Island to Mast Head Island: strongish breeze, lots of waves washing over the boat, then it lightened to near nothing. We had reduced our mainsail during the windier part of the trip but managed to get our single line reefing caught somewhere inside the boom, unable to properly reef or get the mainsail back up again. Sad thing! Single line reefing is great until it gets stuck somewhere inside the boom and you can’t get to the problem area. We made do with a sloppy reduced main and as the breeze eased, crawled our way to Mast Head.

Now able to raise and reef the main!

Wade and Greg spent an afternoon trying to fix the problem. In the end they set up a work around: back to slab reefing! Not as tidy as single line reefing, but a lot simpler and manageable. That system will do until we can figure out how to get to the pulleys inside the boom!

Another week of reef hopping

Every year the Great Barrier Reef faces greater challenges from coral bleaching to coastal pollution. It is easy to lose hope as we witness these problems. However we want to look for beauty and wonder. We also want to inspire others with photographs that highlight what is at risk and where the resilience of the reef is evident. We really hope our seascapes, aerials and underwater images do just that. We will continue sharing stories that celebrate the reef’s magic.

Special time at Mast Head Island

Just picked up the public mooring
Mast Head Island from the air

It is quite special being the only boat at a reef. We had Mast Head to ourselves for a couple of days. Mast Head Island is a lenticular cay with vegetation of sheoaks on the outer edge and Pisonia trees in the center. The island is surrounded by reef flats which gently slope into gutters, but there is no defined reef wall. The water was clear, the visibility good for snorkeling, even if the weather was very chilly.

  • Pied Oystercatchers
  • Reef Egrets
  • Cowtail Rays
  • Green sea turtle
  • Soft coral
  • Rainford Butterflyfish
  • Harlequin Tuskfish
  • Brain coral
  • Roundface Batfish
  • Roundface Batfish
  • Acropora and red algae
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Christmas Tree Worm
  • Eagle Ray

Other Reefs and Cays

From Mast Head, we hopped to a few different spots, spending a day at each: Erskine Island, Wistari Reef, Heron Reef, Wilson Island and finally North West Island. We were the only boat there at all of these anchorages. At some we just walked around the coral cay, enjoying the birdlife, at others we also snorkeled. In general we found the reef was not in a good state, with evidence of bleaching, crown of thorn attack, and very degraded coral, particularly at Heron and Wistari Reefs, although the fish life was abundant. But in our usual fashion we made the most of our hops, had fun and stopped at a couple of places we had never been to before. We also tried to give our friends a variety of experiences. The highlight for them was a drift dive along the western edge of the Heron Reef. We all jumped in the water and drifted with the current over shallow fields of mainly Acropora corals with the dinghy tied to Wade’s ankle, and ended up at the wreck of HMS Protector, a really enjoyable spot where the marine life is totally unafraid and lets you come close.

Here is a slide show of some of the highlights.

  • Anui anchored at Erskine Island
  • Heron Island and the channel between it and Wistari Reef
  • Anui at Wistari Reef
  • Giant Clam
  • Damaged coral at Wistari
  • The wreck of HMS Protector
  • Wilson Island from the public mooring
  • Wilson Island at low tide
  • White bellied sea eagle at Wilson Island
  • White Reef Egret at Wilson Island
  • Dark Reef Egret at Wilson Island
  • White Egret at Wilson Island
  • North West Island mooring overview
  • Aerial of North West Island at low tide
  • North West Island and Reef

With the wind strengthening, it is time to sail back to the Keppels for a few days, re-provision then head north. Stay tuned for the next phase of our adventures with Greg and Ann on board.

21 thoughts on “Back to the Capricornia Cays

  1. Looks amazing. Always read your posts and enjoy them. Had to comment this time cos family are onboard. Enjoy

    • Always nice to get comments from readers, thanks for the feedback, Linda. And Ann just told me you are her sister. Hope to see you in Cairns later this year!

  2. Great photos, Chris! These corals reef look much healthier. Enjoy yourself! 🙂

  3. Hi Chris, it looked like Greg had an aluminium pole with him on the drift dive. What is it for?

  4. I enjoyed your photos, such variety. It is such a shame to see the damage. Are you letting the Reef people know about the crown of thorns or is it too late. I like to think they come and kill them. Love the turtles and the rays. I remember when we saw a whole line of them at an island back when. Take care and enjoy the next part of your journey.

    • Hi Sue, the Crown of Thorn damage was done, could see the scars but not the beasts this time. We report when we see a few together but not if isolated. What we are reporting though is the defoliation of pisonia trees at North West Island. I was wandering why the island had a tan colour rather than green in the aerials. We went ashore this morning and found out why! Looks like a scale insects infestation. It does not augur well for the noddies!

  5. Well done Anui! You have certainly covered the southern reefs. So good having guests on board who are right in to reef hopping too. Jumped in for my first snorkel at Tangalooma. Brrrrrrr!

    • Hi Amanda, it is great to have Greg and Ann on board. Fun to watch them develop their confidence with snorkeling and enjoy the sailing. The water has been chilly here too. Looks like you are enjoying your drone at Tangalooma!

  6. I love all the shots of the colorful fish, Chris, but somehow it was the image of the Brain Coral that really grabbed my attention–it was simultaneously cool and creepy. I was also intrigued by the wreck that you showed. As always, your drone shots add wonderful context and have their own special beauty. I really liked the creativity in the over/under shots.

    • I love getting your reactions, Mike and look forward to seeing what grabs your attention. Thank you for commenting.

      The over/under shots are really random. I never quite know what I’ll get. This time the string of bubbles made the shot.

  7. Enjoyed the highlight reel of just about every creature on the reef! Surprising lot of warm clothes being worn?!? Good also to see your aerial shots …. you really get to see the reef structure you’re visiting …. happy sailing guys! (We thought of you while camping in Norfolk last week. We boated in the broads and saw a lot of beautifully restored vintage gaff rigged sail boats …quite the antithesis of your type of sailing)

    • Hi Elgar, yes it has been chilly, here, not quite the tropical weather we would expect at this time of year. We rug up both above and below the surface!

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