First Four of the Far North Hops!

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 Reef

Flynn Reef Aerial

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.

Norman Reef

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.

Norman Reef Aerial

We stayed overnight, had a snorkel, but then left soon after, uncomfortable about being there.

Opal Reef

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.

Opal Reef Aerial
Our anchorage with the soft coral gardens on the side

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.

  • Moorish Idol
  • Blue Demoiselle
  • Blue Demoiselle closeup
  • Orangefin Anemonefish
  • Giant Clam
  • Blackback Anemonefish
  • Red Gorgonian Fan
  • Red Gorgonian Fan
  • Black Sun Coral
  • Green crinoid and Tunicate
  • Soft and hard coral at Opal Reef
  • Crinoid and Sarcophyton
  • Orange Basslet
  • Soft Corals

Undine Reef and Cay

Undine Cay from the deck of Anui

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!

Undine Reef & Cay looking East
Panoramic of the Undine Reef and Cay
Looking back towards the boat

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.

26 thoughts on “First Four of the Far North Hops!

    • Thanks John. We have been encouraged by what we have seen underwater. Pleased you like the photos. Bengie is just back from her walk. She trotted happily so let’s hope she is on the mend.

      • Yay Bengie! Your underwater camera does a beautiful job, it’s an entirely different world down there! I watched the funeral procession for HM Queen Elizabeth II this morning on BBC America, very sad. 🙏🏻🇬🇧🇦🇺😭

  1. It looks like you might be heading into some more heartening territory with reef colour and diversity improving.

    • Hi Ann, yes it is encouraging. Although there is obvious damage, there is also a lot of regrowth, particularly soft corals and lots of fish. We are very lucky with the weather too. So really enjoying the adventure.

  2. Amazing photos! Great to see the reef looking healthy up there! What an adventure! Enjoy!

  3. I like the colors of the water! All photographs are outstanding, what a wonderful place. Enjoy your time there, show yourself more often. 🙂

  4. The clarity of the water in the Flynn Reef photos is unbelievable. The colours altogether . Glad you are sharing the experience with people with whom you are comfortable . . . but am sorry for and worried about your four-legged companion . . .

    • Hello Eha. Yes Flynn was particularly clear being right on the edge of the Continental Shelf. Hopefully we will see more of that as we get to the Ribbon Reefs. Bengie is a bit average but we have to accept she is getting old and fragile. She enjoyed her walk on the cay so we will try to give her little outings again.

  5. On your way, great places to see. Glad you are all enjoying it all. Sorry Bengie is poorly, we do worry about our beloved pets.

    • We are doing well, Sue. The state of the coral is encouraging, patchy but some regrowth of soft corals in particular. And we have picked a great weather window.

      Bengie is OK, but knowing we are out of vet reach for several weeks, we do feel a little worried. We have plenty of medicine for her so should be fine.

  6. Enjoying the photos as usual ….. esp the jelly like waves from below the surface, vivid and surreal at the same time!
    Good news/ bad news re a PG mate. Do you remember Rene Sedemeier from Canberra? He’s on a pg holiday with mates (including Bega Bill) in Europe. He hit some power lines after launch on a Mtn in Switzerland. He’s ok though, a few cracked ribs, vertebra. Just chatted with him in hospital …. in good spirits … well aware of his good fortune. 30 years of flying and it’s his first prang.
    Makes you appreciate how much safer 2 dimensional sailing is!

    • I had to go back to check the jelly like waves under the surface! I guess the reflections and marbling is what you meant. You often get that in calm conditions.

      Re the paragliding accident, that is indeed lucky. Don’t recall this guy. We have all had near misses and scares. I gave up when it was no longer fun. Wade is the only person I know from our time who has not crashed and got hurt. As for sailing being two dimensional I am not sure. You are at the mercy of the weather and constantly make decisions to stay safe, but you do this together rather than on your own.

    • We are having fun with the family on board… lucky with the weather. A bit hot for us and for Bengie. Hope Bengie is on the mend, but slow recovery.

  7. The shot of Bengie sleeping was so sweet and the drone shots continue to amaze me. The color of the water is so vibrant that it is hard for me to believe that it is real. Wow. It is really cool to see so many colorful plants and fish in your underwater photos, Chris. As others have pointed out, there is something other-worldly about the environment below the surface.

    • Hello Mike. Most of the underwater creatures are actually animals, including those that look like trees or bushes. But yes, a magical world.

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