As we hinted in an earlier post, we have been plotting a big adventure with buddy boat Windsong II, crewed by Simon and Amanda. We are going beyond the Great Barrier Reef, to explore some of the atolls, reefs and cays which are part of the Coral Sea Islands Territory. And we left a few days ago!
This chart shows the Queensland coast with the Great Barrier Reef in faint pink, and the Coral Sea Islands well offshore.
The appeal is to explore the vast and pristine wilderness out there and experience a thriving marine environment protected from direct human impacts by isolation. This expedition is sure to reignite a sense of wonder and awe we have not felt for a while.
A buddy boat, not a rally
We have never been interested in boat rallies, much preferring to do our own thing away from crowds. However because of the remoteness of this trip and the distances involved, we wanted a buddy boat to go with for safety and company. It is tricky to find another couple well matched in terms of experience, interests and boat capability, as well as the readiness to go. Simon and Amanda on their 47ft Leopard catamaran fitted the bill! We had met two years ago and had fun together at the Percy Isles. We reconnected recently and had similar adventures in mind.
Where to leave from?
The next challenge was deciding where to leave the coast from. Should we go from the Whitsundays or head further north? We researched information about the islands that most appealed to us, considered the wind angle if we departed from Airlie Beach Vs Townsville. It became obvious that the further north up the coast we left from, the more we would need to sail east to get to where we wanted, and this would mean a hard run windward. Our preference was to sail NE with moderate trade winds for a more comfortable passage. So Airlie Beach was it!
When to go?
Both crews had to be free of social commitments. With all of us hosting guests on board during July and wanting to catch up with cruising friends, we aimed for an August expedition. This is why we have been at the Whitsundays longer than originally intended. As soon as our respective guests left us, we readied the boats, provisioned well and were ready to go.
We were looking for several days of 15 to 20 knot south east or less to embark on a 30 hour ocean passage. The Coral Sea Islands provide reasonable shelter from trade winds and ocean swells, so once there, we can hide from stronger conditions if needed and not have to scurry back to the mainland. But we did not want to beat into wind for hours on end to get there. We did not have to wait for long to get a favourable forecast.
Which islands and reefs?
On our target list this time are East Diamond Islet, Coringa Islets, Herald Cays, the Flinders Group, Flora Reef… There are many more we would like to visit, but that might be on the wish list for another trip as the Coral Sea Islands Territory is so vast. We have no set timeframes nor itinerary. We will just have to see how we feel and what the weather allows us to do.
And now we are off!
We left Airlie Beach on Tuesday 2nd of August for the Southern end the Whitsundays at Windy Bay, Hazelwood Island for a good wind angle. Then early Wednesday morning, full of excitement, we headed towards the Circular Quay Reef, got through the Great Barrier Reef and out to the Coral Sea, bound for East Diamond Islet, a big overnight leg of about 256nm. Chris got to spend her birthday at the jewel of the Coral Sea!
We have no internet, phone or email coverage while out in the wilderness. We will therefore not be posting our usual weekly blogs until we get back inshore. The weather will dictate how long we are out of contact for, which could be a couple of weeks or up to a month. So we ask you to be patient and bear with us. There will be lots to share when we get back.
You will be able to track where we are via our satellite link on PredictWind. Either go to our website and follow the link or copy this address into your browser:
This hopefully will be much easier to follow than the spider web of the past few weeks around the Whitsunday Islands. We are now adding short descriptions of our anchorages on the satellite link so you will get more information on what we are up to than just a dot on the map, but no photos while we are far offshore.