Cautious Optimism

Over two weeks have passed since getting back to Cairns from the Coral Sea! Time has flown – a week doing errands and catching up with friends, a week at the Outer Reef which filled us with cautious optimism. So here is what we have been up to.

Cockpit spruce up!

Our original cockpit cushions were getting worn and torn. Salt and sun can be harsh! After looking around for suitable marine canvas, nothing “standard” was to our liking. So a few months back we approached Kerry Alexander, of Kerry Sea Designs. Kerry is an artist and designer based in Mackay who produces Australian made goods inspired by the Great Barrier Reef. We have some of her pieces on board already (saloon scatter cushions and lovely flowy shirts). We asked her whether she would screen print a length of canvas for our cockpit seats and for small cushions, using her signature patterns: Rockpool and Reef Flats. She did this as a special favour and sent the material to Airlie Beach for us. Then when we got to Cairns, we contacted Cairns Upholstery Works and they assembled the seat covers and cushions in just a few days. We were taken aback by how quickly it got done. We are thrilled with the result and really want to acknowledge the responsiveness and skills of these two businesses. Both were prepared to go outside the norm to help and did an awesome job.

Our cockpit décor highlights our love of the reef. Anui totally belongs in the reef seascape – inside and out.

Writing about our Reef experiences

With strong wind and rain most days during our first week in Cairns, the conditions were ideal to get busy writing articles and photo editing. Two articles are now ready and photos selected, the first has been submitted to the magazine Australian Multihull World. It is a story on our Coral Sea voyage which hopefully will get published in November.

The second was a hard one to write about the state of the Reef. Chris is putting the finishing touches to this one. It is particularly laden with emotion. Hours have been spent composing side by side photo comparisons to illustrate examples of healthy Vs damaged coral. These are powerful illustrations to raise awareness. Here are a couple of the side by side images to give you an idea.

Healthy Vs Bleached Coral
80% Vs 10% Coral Cover

On a more positive note, our full cruise story about our Coral Sea Voyage has been uploaded to our website. It serves as a trip log for us and a resource for those interested in oceanic adventures.

Taking it easy with Take It Easy

While in Cairns we caught up with Cécile and Yann who are the owners of our previous boat Take It Easy. It has been particularly nice to spend time together. Since their return to Australia from Europe post COVID, they have been spending months getting TIE spruced up and ready for a forthcoming voyage to Indonesia. They needed a break from all the maintenance chores, and we needed to get out of the Cairns harbour! The two blueys took off to the outer reef together for a week of snorkeling and diving.

Take It Easy as we head out – looking good!
Anui from the deck of Take It Easy

We started at Milln Reef on the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. We were very pleasantly surprised by the state of the coral and fish life and so relieved. It was significantly better than we had seen for a long time, which gave us solace. There was so much to enjoy at Milln Reef that we stayed there for several days rather than moving to neighbouring Flynn Reef. We had a lot of fun.

Anui and Take It Easy at Milln Reef

You could see that there has been some bleaching in places, but overall the coral cover was over 70%, and in some spots close to 100% with gardens of soft coral as well as hard varieties and an abundance of fish. Being so close to the edge of the Continental Shelf probably helps as does being in a Special Management Zone.

  • Hard and soft coral garden
  • Sarcophyton
  • Paddletail school ushered by Grey Reef Shark
  • Titan Triggerfish
  • Pink Steephead Parrotfish
  • Oblique banded Sweetlips
  • Oblique banded Sweetlip
  • Steephead Parrotfish
  • Christmas Tree Worm
  • Giant Clam
  • Anui and Take It Easy at Milln
  • Hard and soft coral mix
  • Giant Clam

Next spot was Arlington Reef a little closer inshore for a fish out of the Green zone! We moved there in very light conditions. Take It Easy was flying Big O, the spinnaker, and giving us a good run for our money as we were on main and screecher barely keeping ahead of them!

Take It Easy hot on our tail!
Our two boats at Arlington Reef

Although the water clarity was not good at Arlington Reef, there were some lovely soft coral gardens just in front of the boats which were recolonising a damaged reef. If you slowed down, explored the shallows and really looked, there were many treasures to enjoy.

  • Soft Coral Garden
  • Giant Clam surrounded by soft corals
  • Crinoid and Sinularia Coral
  • Sarcophyton
  • Sarcophyton
  • Gorgonian Fan under Sinularia Coral
  • Tridacna gigas
  • Nudibranch - Phyllidia Varicosa
  • Juvenile Black Damsel
  • Sea Cucumber - Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish)
  • Soft Coral Garden
  • Eastern Clownfish
  • Eastern Clownfish

Our escape to the reefs offshore of Cairns has brought us so much joy. We can’t underplay the damage affecting the Great Barrier Reef, but discovering soft and hard coral in better condition than we have seen in ages has really made us feel a little more positive. Where there is life there is hope.

We are now back in Cairns for a few days running around like headless chooks before Murray and Maree (Wade’s family) join us for the next exciting part of our adventures. We are hoping to go to Lizard Island via the Ribbon Reefs… new territory for us all.

12 thoughts on “Cautious Optimism

  1. Lovely photos as always, I can see a huge difference in the coral conditions thanks to your photos. I hope the entire reef returns to normal soon. Safe travels!

  2. Anui looking very spiffy with her new upholstery. Hope the reef condition continues to delight as you go further north.

  3. Great cushions. You would almost be too afraid to sit on them! Good to see there are patches of colour amongst the gloom. Have been distracted so now need to go back and catch up on all your news.

  4. It is so nice to see Take it Easy. Good to see coral in a better condition than what you have seen lately, Enjoy your trip to Lizard with Murray and Maree. Glad to see them back on board.

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