We had spent the previous three weeks anchored in front of various islets, always with a strip of land however small to hide behind. This time we were sheltered behind a reef wall with only tiny little sand cays that disappear at high tide and tend to shift with the seasons, so are not even marked officially on charts!
We had a great spinnaker sail to Holmes Reef, the cruisiest of passages and it felt a little surreal sailing with Bluey in the middle of the Coral Sea.
But then you get to your destination and think, right, now what do we do? It is quite spectacular from the air, but sparse at the same time.
The reef felt quite different. There were no birds to keep us company (although the few that were about stopped for the night on Anui and made a mess), no walks ashore unless you count the tiny disappearing cay. The boat moved a lot more at anchor especially at high tide, there was not a lot of protection, and the wind was forecast to reach 25 knots.
Although the Holmes Reefs have a reputation for spectacular dives in the Division Channel separating East and West Holmes Reefs, we wondered about snorkels, especially in the stronger breeze. But we gave it a go. We found yet again that the reef was in a poor state, grey and barren, except for a few pink and purple patches of Acropora putting up a fight for survival.
We stayed at Holmes Reef West for three days in strengthening conditions. The wind was reaching 25 knots at times and the anchorage alongside the long reef was choppy. PredictWind was showing that it would get even stronger and stay strong for 10 days with possible rain. So we knew the end of our Coral Sea Voyage was near. It felt a little like the end of the holiday, except we are permanently on holidays, but you know what we mean!
On 23 August, after three weeks in the wilderness, we headed back to civilisation, taking advantage of a short 24 hour break in the weather. We crossed the Great Barrier Reef just underneath Milln Reef and kept going to Fitzroy Island for an end of voyage celebration before getting back to Cairns. We had seen no other boat in that time, so we knew it would be a shock to the system. But at the same time, we were ready to get back in touch with our friends and family, read the hundreds of emails that had piled up, update ourselves with world news, replenish the supplies and fall back into a more ‘normal’ life.
We will publish the full cruise story of our Coral Sea Voyage in a forthcoming post. So if you want to get into the nitty gritty of this great adventure and see more photos, stay tuned. Until then, we are still in catch up mode with our posts, so we intend to keep posting twice a week. See you in a few days for some news about what we have been up to while in Cairns.