Hiding at Lady Musgrave

We have been hiding at the Lady Musgrave lagoon for the past four days. The weather is not ideal for the reef, but we wanted to be here for the few finer days and position ourselves for the Swains adventure. And the good thing: not many boats around – most are hugging the coast or hiding in marinas!

Burnett Head – gateway to the Reef

We sailed from Kingfisher Bay at Fraser Island to the heads of the Burnett River (which runs through Bundaberg) and had a lively sail. With the wind dead on our stern, the main and screecher goose winged, we were getting some good speed; it was so exhilarating thundering along and catching waves!

One of the wakes at 12 knots speed

We anchored in the river mouth. The idea was to stock up on fresh food and be ready to leave for the Southern Reefs on Monday with a promise of two days of 10-15 knots SE, then two days of 20-25 and a return to calmer conditions for the weekend. We also wanted to be ready to go from there to the Swain Reefs at the first opportunity.

Our friend Mikey from Noosa was keen to catch up with us ever since we sailed past his hometown. So we hatched a plan for him to join us at Burnett Heads, sail with us to Lady Musgrave and catch a ride back to Bundaberg on the local Musgrave Explorer tourist boat. But in the end, the iffy weather scared him, and he pulled out. This illustrates the difficulty of planning anything when your activities are totally dictated by the weather, something often difficult for land-based friends to come to grips with. We appear uncooperative, when in fact we are hamstrung. The conversation went and often does go like this:

  • “Where will you be on Friday?” “Don’t know, depends on the weather.”
  • “How long will you be at Lady Musgrave?” Don’t know, depends on the weather.”
  • “When will you come back to the coast?” “Don’t know, depends on the weather.”
  • “Where on the coast will you come to?” All together now… “DON’T KNOW, DEPENDS ON THE WEATHER!”

Moored at Lady Musgrave

We left Burnett Heads as planned on Monday morning, after some slightly obsessive consulting of the weather forecasts which did not look very good.

Leaving Burnett Heads at sunrise

We had a very boisterous sail across. We started reasonably gently with a land breeze, but then the wind switched to the ESE, quickly picked up and we were getting gusts over 30 knots with a beam sea and the odd breaking wave pouring into the cockpit from the side. But eight hours later we made it in. Not our fastest passage, but our roughest one on record!

Why did we go? Because we wanted to be there when the fleeting lighter conditions came, because we were aiming for lagoons which offer some protection, because we wanted to be ready for a dash to the Swain Reefs if the opportunity arose. It is important to note that there was not a strong wind warning, it was not going to be a dangerous passage, just an uncomfortable one with the swell and apparent wind on the beam or just forward. Anui is a big ocean-going boat. It could have gone much faster, but we slowed her down to make it bearable for the crew!

With only a research vessel and a motor cruiser in the lagoon when we arrived, we had the pick of the public moorings. We had a brilliant time the next day: sunny, 10-15 knots, no one around. We are so glad we trusted our instinct and our interpretation of the forecasts.

Early in the week, while it was not too windy, we sent the drone up for a quick fly over. It is such a spectacular place!

Only two of us in the Lady Musgrave Lagoon

If you would like to see more aerials of Lady Musgrave, go to a previous post – Reef Magic – from two years ago when we experienced a rare glass out. Here is the link: https://sv-anui.com/2021/05/14/reef-magic/

The next days, although a little windier, were also very enjoyable. We shared the anchorage with another catamaran, Antidote, crewed by the Bolton family who follow our adventures. It was a delight when they dropped in bearing gifts in appreciation for this blog and the snorkeling tips: a bottle of wine that went beautifully with our freshly caught coral trout and a couple of origami hearts! It is so nice to get the feedback and it is greatly appreciated! Thank you team Antidote!

Snorkeling time!

We had fun getting reacquainted with our dive gear and the gorgeous marine life. We were impressed by the quantity and variety of sea creatures. The highlights were the turtles, both the Green Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles, a first for us. Our favourite Anemonefish and Domino Damsels in their vibrant hosts were endearing too. It felt unbelievably good to be in the water, enjoying the sights and spending a couple of hours snorkeling each day.

We both took photos which is always interesting as we spot different creatures and choose individual angles. Here is a gallery of our favourite shots this week. As usual, do click on the first to view in full screen and arrow right. Enjoy!

We now have a weekend of milder conditions coming up and suspect we will see a few yachts venturing this way. But the wind picks up again next week, so we are staying put. And as luck would have it, our friend Mikey has managed to get a tour boat from Burnett Heads and is joining us for the weekend! Perfect!

Looking ahead

Although we try to stay focused on the here and now – Lady Musgrave – we do have an eye on what might come next – the Swains! The first one is a very familiar site we have visited dozens of times, the other is new reef territory for us and seldom frequented by cruising yachts, being quite remote.

The temptation of being at the bottom of the Bunker Group is that you can easily reef hop north. However we do not want to let ourselves drift that way, as this would put us at the wrong angle to sail to the Swains and the Southern Coral Sea Atolls. We want to go there with the wind behind us, not on our nose!

The weather is still playing hard to get and we can’t see a suitable window to head further offshore in the next week. We figure we can wait and see from the relative comfort of a lagoon – Lady Musgrave or Fitzroy Reef. It is the beauty of Anui, she is stable in conditions when many other boats would find it uncomfortable. We have plenty of food, fuel, can top up the freshwater whenever we want with our water maker. Our satellite maps are organized, we have marked the reefs we think offer reasonable shelter, the drone permit is confirmed if we get a chance for the Coral Sea Atolls… we are ready!

So as you might have guessed, we are focused on being patient; we wait, enjoy where we are… and we try not to look too far ahead! The only thing that will bring us back to the coast is really bad weather or running out of food and we have enough to last us for another six weeks at least.

22 thoughts on “Hiding at Lady Musgrave

  1. Sounds like all the new bits and pieces on Anui have had a good test with the lively conditions. And it must be lovely for the crew to be out there again getting amongst all the wonderful sea life , especially those fabulous turtles. Enjoy.

    • Hi Ann, it is so good! We did not expect to be able to snorkel each day but have… lucky lightening of the conditions and the magic of lagoons!

  2. Oh my gosh, you took so many beautiful photos! The sea looks a bit angry, I’m glad that Anui can handle some big water. 😎😊

    • Hi Leanne, it has been fantastic to get back to this and quite hard to keep the number of shots in the post down! Not good at being very selective!

  3. Look forward to read your adventures & prepping plans each week. Keeping us focused while we tend to our boat maintenance. Enjoy your time out there.
    Cheers Mick & Lyn SV Medina .

    • Hi guys, glad to hear you are progressing with Medina’s maintenance. It would be so good to share an anchorage with you. Keep at it, we know it is hard but it is worth it.

  4. Looks beautiful as always, our favourite spot too. Is the new sleeping pontoon that they towed in still there? It doesn’t look like it is from your drone shots. I think the family you met were the one we saw at Manly who follow you, rock stars 😉 Looking forward to following your adventures, enjoy those gorgeous snorkels at Wallaginji, hope you see the Manta Rays ♥️

    • Hi Wendy, the pontoon was there… a bit of an eye sore, but not in the drone shots from two years ago. The family we met were the Boltons on Antidote, a Seawind 11.8.
      It has been fun snorkeling daily. No mantas yet… Someone else who was intent on spotting them went there every day without success. We were so lucky to see them together in such a big group!

  5. Also, it has been freezing cold winds down here brrrrr not loving staying here till September 🥲

  6. i really love the turtles. great shots. Pepa just jumped up on my lap, wants to go for a little walk I think. I can see you are enjoying and have adjusted to the slower pace very quickly. Enjoy the sea and its inhabitants, I do through your photos.

  7. Really enjoying your blog and photos. What reefs are you planning to visit in the southern Swains?

    • Hi Marks, thanks for the feedback. Re the Swains, we have a few on our list including Sweetlip, Sandshoe, Sanctuary, Horseshoe… we’ll see what the weather lets us do. For now we will miss the forthcoming weather window as we have to go back to Burnett Heads for some electrical issues!

  8. Surfing waves on Anui can be a bit exciting… you get that rush of speed to 14 or 16 with the stern lifting and the bow going down, but it does not feel lack it tracks all that well. It would be easy to broach!
    The turtles were fun from all angles and not bothered by people so we could get close!

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