As we embark on our next big journey with Wade’s brother Murray and his wife Maree on board, we want to enjoy something new together. Moving north beyond latitude 14oS to discover the renowned Ribbon Reefs and iconic Lizard Island seems the perfect adventure.
Lizard Island and the Ribbon Reefs have long been on our “must see” list. It is easy to sail north pushed along by the strong southeast wind, but the problem is getting back. Ideally you get there at the very end of the trade wind season when they become lighter, just before the northerlies settle in, so you can then ride these back south. Timing your trip right so you don’t get stuck at Lizard Island for weeks on end is key. The arrival of the northerlies has been getting later and later in the season over the past years so there is a lot of guess work.
We could get to Lizard Island quickly as it is not that far from Cairns: 140nm, but we are doing it the slow way, enjoying reef hops and intending to stop at many locations we haven’t been to before. So we left Cairns on 15 September and are taking advantage of a week of very light conditions. Our first four stops were familiar to us, but not to our guests. It allowed Murray and Maree to acclimatize, having come to the tropics from wintery Melbourne, get their sea legs and get their confidence snorkeling. These first hops were short and relaxed: sail, snorkel, shoot photos, soak up the scenery, enjoy lovely meals, snooze, repeat!
We will publish a full cruise story on this adventure, but our blog posts will give you a taste of what we are experiencing. We may not be able to have internet coverage for the duration of our trip, so as we did with our Coral Sea Voyage, we will put short updates on our PredictWind satellite system as a minimum so you can track where we are.
But for now, while we still have internet, here are a few highlights of each of our anchorages to date.
Flynn is on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, in a public appreciation zone (no spearing). The water was clear and warm, we were on a public mooring, right against the reef. There was hardly any breeze. We had two snorkels and enjoyed the great visibility and abundance of fish. We even tested the AxisGO Over Under kit for the IPhone 12, a new acquisition which worked a treat.
The public mooring was taken, so we looked around for a spot to anchor, but it was deep where the bottom was clear of bommies, or way too close to the reef in the sandy spots. We ended up hooking up to a private mooring fore and aft, having enquired with the commercial boat next to us. It was such a fiddle to get organized with long enough ropes.
We stayed overnight, had a snorkel, but then left soon after, uncomfortable about being there.
We motorsailed to Opal Reef in hardly any wind. We had been there last year and had our favourite anchoring spot with our mark and track so it was a stress-free exercise. The graduations of colour were breathtaking in the afternoon, deepening at the end of the day.
We snorkelled in front of the boat on the first day, enjoying beautiful soft coral gardens, although patchy. The next day we had a series of dives around isolated bommies which were excellent. Although the water was not as clear as at Flynn, the bommies were covered with soft and hard coral along their flank. We were impressed by their condition. We discovered different critters, beautiful and bright soft corals, a mass of crinoids and gorgonian fans deeper down. We were all amazed at how each coral pinnacle had its own personality and dwellers. Anemonefish were plentiful which is always endearing. We took lots of photos so have put these into a slide show.
Undine Reef and Cay
With a tiny bit more wind dead on our tail, we were able to enjoy a slow spinnaker sail to our next destination: Undine Reef and Cay. First things first as soon as we were settled we put the dinghy in the water, walked right around our little coral cay and sent the drone up! Here is Undine from 100m up!
Meanwhile, Bengie was snoozing on the chart. We have been a bit worried about her as she has had a relapse after her visit to the vet. She is on a second dose of anti inflammatory drugs and we hope she gets better soon. She also does not like the heat. As we post this, we are taking her to the cay for a leg stretch and a scratch in the sand in the early morning while it is not too hot.
Then it is the usual routine for us: breakfast, swim, snorkel, relax! Life is easy on the good ship Anui.
We may be able to post next Friday, but as we get further away from civilization, the internet will disappear. So remember, check our satellite link for updates on where we are.