There is always a bit of excitement when you sail to a spot you have never been to before, even more so when it happens to involve snorkeling! This week we are taking you for a wander around Flinders Reef, as well as to Yellow Patch and Bulwer.
Now, there are two Flinders Reefs in Queensland, one is a large and remote group of atolls in the Coral Sea, the other, much smaller is just north of Moreton Island. There are also two Yellow Patches! One up the coast near Cape Capricorn, the other at the top end of Moreton Island. You can guess which ones we are visiting this time!
Firstly, we had to get to the top of Moreton Island. From Tangalooma, we headed to Yellow Patch at the Northern end of the island and dropped the pick in front of the group of tall colourful dunes. This is a scenic anchorage normally frequented by fishing boats rather than yachts and cruisers, great for beach walks, sometimes good for surfing on the point, and although the ocean is rarely totally flat up there, we were comfortable enough. We often use this anchorage when sailing north from the Gold Coast on the ocean side rather than the Moreton Bay side. This is what it looks like from the air. There is a kind of shallow lagoon which makes it interesting and attracts many birds.
As is often the case there, the sunset was to die for.
The anchorage is also an ideal launching point to head out to Flinders Reef, a marine sanctuary just 4nm NE of Cape Moreton. It is quite exposed, so we had been watching the weather forecast for a while and finally the next morning, it was light enough to give it a go.
Flinders Reef is a dive site we had never been to before. It is renowned among dive charters for its coral and marine life. You are not allowed to anchor there, so we were hoping to get one of several public moorings on the eastern and western sides of the reef, but there are only a few for boats of Anui’s size so we wanted to get there early. By 7.30am we were tied up to the least exposed mooring on the lee-side of the reef.
When we first hooked onto the public mooring, it was too early for a snorkel, but good enough for the drone, although there was a fair bit of swell and movement in the water. Flying away was fine, coming back to land was a little more challenging with the boat lurching about. Chris decided to switch off the obstacle avoidance system and Wade caught the beast. Phew! Since then, especially when flying from the boat, the sensors are turned off which makes life a lot easier.
You can see the small isolated reef, Anui, and Cape Moreton in the distance. We are really close to Moreton Island.
By the time the light was good enough for a snorkel, we had run the water maker and topped up our freshwater tanks. The tide was a bit high, but two other boats had arrived. We were ready to go, feeling quite excited about our new discovery; with just our snorkeling gear and quite some swell we were not sure what we would find. Our best hope was close to the reef edge. Strap yourselves in, it’s a bumpy ride!
Our first impression as we jumped in was WOW: clear blue water and we were surrounded by turtles… big ones, and lots of fish. The coral was reminiscent of that at Barren Island in the Keppels, in tones of russet, burgundy and green. The site sits at the meeting point of the tropical north and temperate south and this is reflected in the type of corals and algae you see.
The marine life was excellent. The turtles were the highlights, not in the least bothered by us, and not minding the wave action throwing them off track and bumping them against the rock walls. They were intent on crunching on algae in the tightest of crevices in the rocks, going head down, bottom up, flipped upside down at times, but still focused on their bits of delicacies, while us snorkelers were able to get awfully close! Also spectacular were the schools of Moon Wrasses and Blue Tangs with their vibrant colours, in greater numbers than we had ever seen. We were hoping for grey nurse sharks which breed here, but did not see any, probably not deep enough where we were.
We really liked Flinders Reef. It just goes to show that you don’t have to go very far to have novel experiences.
Back to Yellow Patch
With the SE picking up again, we returned to the relative shelter of Yellow Patch, enjoying a few days of beach walks, swimming, surfing at Cape Moreton, and just lazing around. We are still killing time! Although the waves were not very good for surfing, Wade had some fun. Meanwhile Chris played with the drone.
And as usual, the unsettled weather delivered spectacular sunsets!
After several days at Yellow Patch floating in amplifying swell, it was time to up anchor. We did not go very far, just around the corner to Bulwer on the NW side of Moreton Island. Bulwer is a tiny village with an official population of 49! We were lured ashore to check out the local Castaway Cafe and convenience store for “al fresco” dining as Wade calls it – slightly better than the sausage sizzle as Bunnings!
And we had a look at the wrecks on the beach there too. In the 1930s, three ships were scuttled in the area to form a harbour for small boats, a bit like at Tangalooma, but on a much smaller scale. Sand has now built up around the wrecks which just about dry out at low tide.
As we post this we are back at Flinders Reef. It means pleasant little sails, a couple of snorkels and a play with the turtles while the breeze has eased for just two days… something fun to do! We are making the most of a tedious time, as we count the days to our haul out.