Tropical Cruising 2023

The ocean sustains all life and exploring is like oxygen to us. If we don’t sail, explore, discover, we feel stifled and starved. It is time to engage with the wilderness again after too many uninspiring months. So today, let’s look at Anui’s tropical cruising plans for 2023.

The ocean is calling and we must go. However nothing is firm: not the itinerary, not the timing, not the company. We write our cruising plans in sand at low tide as the saying goes, and the weather will dictate what we end up doing. But let us share with you what we envisage.

East Diamond Islet anchorage

During the tropical winter season, we hope to be sailing to places that will appeal to our adventurous selves: remote, less travelled locations, isolated cays, atolls, wreck sites, distant reefs brimming with marine life. Once we start, the move north is inexorable, pushed along by the SE trade winds. Curiosity will hopefully lead us to many “new to us” sites over the next six months. We revel in exploration, uplifting sailing, alluring photography, exciting diving and spearing, so we will make sure there is plenty of that wherever we end up.

First on our wish list are several of the Coral Sea Atolls, probably over a few trips. We really enjoyed this last year and are keen on more. As a reference we have included a map from our Bible: Australia’s Coral Sea Islands and Marine Park, by Peter Sayre, so you can see where these islands are in relation to the coast. We have also annotated it to show where the Swains and Capricorn & Bunker Group are.

Coral Sea Atolls are offshore within the yellow lines, Great Barrier Reef is next to the mainland.

We will start with the ones at the southern end of the Coral Sea Marine Park: in particular the Saumarez, Kenn and Frederick Reefs. Then at a later stage we may revisit the central atolls we saw last year (Diamond Islets, Herald Cays, Coringa Islets) and explore a few extra ones like Lihou, Magdelaine, Willis. We will see how we go with the the ones further north like Boungainville, Shark and Osprey Reefs, but if we get there it will be towards the end of the season.

Also on our target list but back down south are the Swain Reefs, the most remote and easterly reefs of the Great Barrier Reef located 120nm North East of Gladstone and due West of the Saumarez Reefs. We have been wanting to go there for a few years. Hopefully this is the year.

It would make sense to meander through these intricate reef mosaics on the way back from the southern Coral Sea atolls, but whether this will happen is another thing! It is all highly weather dependent. If we don’t manage this on the way up, we might have to tackle the Swains trip on the way back south.

One thing we learnt over the last few years is that we can comfortably shelter behind an island or in a lagoon when the wind is up to 20-25 knots and wait for things to abate. So this guides our choice of atolls and reefs to visit both in the Coral Sea and at the Swains.

We anticipate there will be a series of small expeditions gradually edging north. We will zig zag our way slowly, making dashes far offshore for a couple of weeks at a time, then return to the coast to take shelter from strong weather, replenish the supplies, catch our breath, pick up or drop off guests. Mackay, the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns are obvious return points along the coast. We don’t want to let ourselves go far north too early as the trade winds get markedly stronger as we go past Townsville and Cairns.

In between offshore trips, we will also visit the more accessible central and outer reefs along the Great Barrier Reef. There is much to see along the reefs off the coast.

Of course it is all entirely weather driven, but if you don’t dream, you don’t plan, and you don’t do! Our motto has always been “dream it, plan it, live it”. Part of the planning has been peering over charts and satellite maps, talking to other adventurous yachties, applying for permits to access certain areas, dive on wrecks, fly the drone in Marine Parks. All authorizations are in our hot little hands.

Cast Off Time

We are hoping to start our odyssey and leave the Gold Coast at the end of April – next week weather allowing. We will have finished the maintenance of both boat and bodies by then.

We will be making our way towards Bundaberg via Cape Moreton, Double Island Point, the Sandy Straits and Fraser Island. We intend to provision up at Bundaberg, then sail to the Lady Musgrave or Fitzroy Lagoon in the Capricorn & Bunker Group and base ourselves there for a little while. From there we hope to launch towards the Southern Coral Sea Atolls, some 145nm NE when a suitable weather window appears and the ocean temperature is right.

We would like to do this with a buddy boat. We have a couple of tentative “possibles”, but nothing firmed up yet. Hopefully something will pan out.

A dash out to the Coral Sea is dependent on the temperature of the water. Although the cyclone season officially ends at the end of April, cyclones can develop when the sea surface temperature exceeds 26.5 °C. The ocean temperature is cooling down but is still currently too hot at 28 or 29 °C where we aim to go. So we may need to be patient and sit at the Capricorn & Bunker Group before we venture out further offshore.

Ocean Temperature from the Bureau of Meteorology

New adventures are about to begin and we can’t wait. You will be able to follow our movements via Predict Wind and we will of course continue our weekly posts while we have internet coverage.

20 thoughts on “Tropical Cruising 2023

  1. First childish selfish thought > Oh how exciting this winter’s Friday posts promise to be ! Good luck! Fair weather! May all the problems have easy solutions! ENJOY!!!

  2. Wow!!! That plan sounds amazing. We definitely will watch with interest your posts Chris & enjoy your photos & stories along the way. Thinking often of you three & best of luck with the weather. Have a wonderful winter sojourn north. Lindy Phil & a very chatty & happy, Ella Bleu

    • Hi Lindy, Phil & pussycat. We’ll see how much we manage to do. We have just had a week of 30 knot SE, and more to come which might put a spanner in the works. We would love to share an anchorage with you three! What are your general plans?

      • Sadly we will be too far south I think Chris. We are heading to Newcastle to slip Wahoo on the 11th July for antifouling & a few other minor fixes. If all goes to plan we will sail to Mooloolaba & explore the coastal areas north from there, perhaps only as far north as Supply Bay & head back to Pittwater by end of October. We hope to head up to Hamilton Is race week again next year & may head further north then. I say all this with a little trepidation as last years weather was a challenge often. The good days were truely amazing & I’m glad to have experienced the bad so at least I can be more mentally prepared next trip. We took our time sailing back, just with Phil & myself & Wahoo behaved beautifully even in the challenging conditions. We would love to catch up & will keep a close watch on your trip & let you know if we are ever close by. Safe travels & hope the winds & seas treat you kindly

      • Enjoy your trip and we hope our paths cross. Otherwise we might see you on the way south. We are intending to head to Tassie for summer so sure to stop in Pittwater.

  3. Exciting times ahead. ENJOY. I hope Anui sails fast and strong as you explore new territories. Getting stronger day by day. Just took Pepa for a walk. Off lead. Did that dog gooooo!

  4. Plan in the sand and reach for the skies! Looks like some excellent adventures coming your way!

  5. Looking forward to following your reef adventures. Not sure how far north we’ll get this winter but good chance we’ll see you in Tassie.
    C&S on DII

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