Thursday, 20 October 2016

Swimming with sharks at Green Island and heading South

28-29 September 2016

Leaving our idyllic anchorage in the solitude of Batt Reef was difficult, particularly when it marked the beginning of our journey back south down the Queensland coast to Brisbane where we will sit out the cyclone season and attempt to rejuvenate our depleted cruising funds. We plotted a course to Green Island skirting any reef areas along the way in the hope of enticing a fish onto one of our lines as we passed. . In the days before GPS chart plotters an early morning departure would have been rife with danger as the sun needs to be high in the sky to make coral bombies visible under the water but with the advantage of technology we were able to raise the anchor as soon as the sun had risen far enough to provide some light and we carefully re-traced our track through the coral heads that guarded our sheltered lagoon. We hadn’t hit anything on the way in so we shouldn’t hit anything going out retracing our exact path. That’s the theory anyway. Then began the five hour passage to our overnight anchorage.

To exit the lagoon at Batt Reef in the early morning light we retraced our track in exactly.
We visit the outer reef when the weather is nice and calm ensuring a very pleasant experience. The downside is obviously the lack of wind means motoring rather than sailing but that’s just a small price to pay for the delights of the real Great Barrier Reef. Apart from the drone of the engine and the knowledge that four litres of diesel are disappearing out of the tanks each hour, motoring across flat seas is easy miles.

After running along the edge of the channel between Batt and Tongue Reefs we skirted the interestingly named Pixie Reef and discovered it features a nice small sand cay that looked like it would be a great spot to spend a day in calm weather. Unfortunately there are way more places on the Great barrier Reef we’d like spend time at then days to do it. Maybe next time.

This tiny sand cay at Pixie Reef is surrounded by quite a good sized coral reef.
We then ran as close as we dared to the edge of Upolu Reef just outside the conservation zone taking great care to avoid some bombies that rose straight up from the seabed to just below the surface of the clear tropical water. Unfortunately despite trailing three lines no fish were harmed in this entire exercise by the time we had to haul them in before entering the conservation zone at Green Island.

We passed these guys just off Upolu Reef.

Boats anchored around the sand cay at Upolu Reef near Green Island.

Karen on the bow keeping watch for coral bombies as we pass Upolu Reef with Green Island ahead.
Entering the anchorage at Green was so much simpler this time as we just followed out track from last time and avoided all the angst we experienced on that occasion. See the story here- Green Island . We anchored in four and half metres of crystal clear water over good holding sand with more than ample swing room.

Batt Reef to Green Island - 26.7 Nautical Miles - 5 Hours 07 Minutes
Average Speed 5.2 Knots - Max Speed 7.3 Knots

The only two other boats in the anchorage at Green Island were friends on Moonbeam of Geelong and Acupora.
After a light lunch, we loaded the dinghy with our snorkelling gear and headed for a nearby coral patch. What a treat. After anchoring the dinghy in sand a little off the coral we were welcomed into the water by a huge giant trevally that continued to closely circle us for about five minutes. On the reef itself we were again surrounded by schools of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. The mix of soft and hard corals was extremely colourful and looked very healthy. One of the white tip reef sharks patrolling the reef was totally unperturbed by our presence providing plenty of opportunity to get some good photos and video as it glided so gracefully close by us. Unfortunately a turtle we spotted was not as camera friendly and kept a more discreet distance but it was still a thrill to watch it from afar.

This big Giant Trevally was extremely curious circling us for quite a while.
Once more we found no shortage of good sized fish at Green Island.

These are stills from video we shot which we will add to the blog when we have better wifi.

Colourful fish everywhere and lovely plate coral at Green Island.
This shark was near two metres and totally unconcerned by our presence in his world.

We love Green Island. It’s a well sheltered, quiet anchorage surrounded by unbelievable snorkelling. What’s not to like. This was only a short overnight stay for us this time but no doubt we will be back.

Green Island even turned on another great sunset for us.
Next morning we were underway again for a short 14 mile hop over to Fitzroy Island where we’d spent a few days on returning from our sojourn in the Coral Sea.  Fortunately there was enough wind for us to sail this time and we had a very enjoyable downwind run wing on wing.

Our Dreamtime getting along very nicely wing on wing in light winds

Green Island to Fitzroy Island - 14.4 Nautical Miles - 2 Hours 58 Minutes
Average Speed 4.8 Knots - Max Speed 8.0 Knots
The northerly breeze that carried us across from Green Island was also blowing into the bay at Fitzroy but as it was predicted to drop overnight we didn’t expect any worries as we dropped anchor off the resort. A mild swell provided a little bit of rocking through the night but not enough to cause any lost sleep. In fact, after a string of early morning starts, we managed a nice sleep in before heading ashore late morning to do another of the excellent National Park walks on the island.

We loved the National Park walks through the rain forests on Fitzroy Island

Karen on the trail.

Add caption

This vine wasn't sure which way to go.

On returning to the beach we found the wind had turned more nor-west and picked up to 10-15 knots. The swell coming into the bay had also grown considerably. We stripped off to swimmers and put all valuables and clothes in a waterproof bag we carry before launching the dinghy off the fast shelving coral beach into the breaking waves. Lots of fun.

With Our Dreamtime at anchor doing a good impersonation of a rocking horse on steroids in the swells, stepping from the dinghy onto the swim platform rising and falling by a good metre at the stern required a leap of faith with great timing. Sorry but there’s unfortunately no video of either process which is a pity because it would no doubt be entertaining.

After securing the inflatable on its davits we very quickly decided we would need to move elsewhere if a decent night’s sleep was to be had. After a quick look at the charts, we upped anchor and motored a bit under three miles across to Wide Bay on the mainland in the lee of Cape Grafton.
Fitzroy Island to Wide Bay - 2.8 Nautical Miles - 0 Hours 46 Minutes
Average Speed 3.6 Knots Max Speed 5.7 Knots

This proved an inspired move as the anchorage here was beautiful with two great sand beaches separated by spectacular granite boulders. Even better it was well sheltered from the northerly wind with only a small, slow swell rolling around the point into the bay. We rigged a bridle with a long anchor snubber run back to mid ships which kept the bow pointing into it and prevented any roll. See how it works HERE.

Sundowners would not have been this calm if we'd stayed at Fitzroy Island.
Sundowners that afternoon were enjoyed in very contrasting conditions to if we’d stayed at Fitzroy Island and we were again able to get a very good night’s sleep ahead of our early departure for our next jump southwards. We love a plan that works.

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