November 22, 2010
We spent a week at Low Isles, had some beautiful weather and some not so beautiful weather. We spent the good days having a dive, snorkeling, people watching the day trippers on the several tour boats that came out every day or just walking around the island looking for interesting things.
During the week we were there we caught up with some friends that we had met at other destinations and made some new friends, Bob and Jan on Charisma. They allowed the boys to play around in their tender and so the boys towed each other around in the kayak when it was calm enough. (see video)
Everyone had finished school for the year except Mahnie who was on her final days of assignments and exams so we thought this would be a comfortable place to sit while she finished up
The rangers at the Research Station helped us out by giving the boys jobs like raking the paths, recording and reporting the weather to Cairns Bureau of Meteorology, rescuing sick or injured animals and whatever else they could find for them to do.
Towards the end of the week, the reports were for another big blow coming and so we thought it best to leave as food supplies were running low again and we had exhausted every avenue of things to do here.
So on Monday 22nd November we pulled up the anchor one last time for this journey and set sails towards Port Douglas.
We left at dawn and after 1 ½ hours we entered the Dickson Inlet at the entrance to the Port Douglas Marina. We started this journey on the 15th January and after 10 months of sailing south to the Whitsundays and then briefly calling in to Port Douglas for more supplies we then continued on north to Lizard Island where we spent nearly 3 months.
We have had many amazing experiences, some a little scary for me, met so many interesting people that have made an impact on our lives and seen some parts of the coastline and offshore islands and reef that we had been to before or even heard of.
We are now destined to life on the land for a few years while the kids finish high school. Sadly we will put Auspray on the market as we have outgrown her and the next time we get the freedom to do something like this again, the kids probably won’t be with us.
To all our readers who have shared this journey with us we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Auspray Crew signing off for the last time….
P.S. There are a few videos that I wasn’t able to download while I was at sea so I will attach them ramdomly in the video link
November 15, 2010
After a very calm night we left early for Low Isles about 3 ½ hours south. The seas remained clam but the skies were dark and storming looking characteristic for this time of year with the build up to the wet season.
There were fishing vessels everywhere making the most of the calm conditions. The Marlin Tournament was still on and so the radio was monopolised by their commentary.
As we were passing Batt Reef the reel started screaming again and this time Dylan landed a nice 6-7kg Spanish mackerel in about 40m of water. Minutes later the other reel went off and Toby landed a 9-10kg Spanish mackerel, nothing like the monster he caught at Mackay Cay but still a very nice fish. Our freezer was starting to fill up which was what we were hoping for before the trip was over.
By the time the fish had been dealt with and the back deck had been cleaned, Low Isles was not far away. We were back in familiar territory and it felt great.
We dropped the anchor around midday in 4m of water with Tic Tac right behind us. It was pretty still, hot and stormy looking so we put the covers up to get a bit of relief from the oppressive heat. There were a few other private vessels anchored here and a few other larger tour operators from nearby Port Douglas.
After some fresh Mackerel barbequed for lunch, we cooled off in the water and relaxed under the shade of the covers. This was nearly the end of the journey for us and tomorrow we would part ways with Carl and Bev as they would continue on to Blue Water where they would leave Tic Tac and then fly off to their home in New South Wales.
Lucky we made the brake for Low Isles when we did, by mid afternoon the seas had whipped up and 25 knots was gusting passed Low Isles. You could see all the game and tour boats returning from the reef, taking waves over their bow and it would not have been a very comfortable trip for many of the passengers.
We were tucked up safely and towards the end of the day, we could hear the thunder on the mainland and see the occasional lightening strike. The showers sent us inside the cabin to watch a DVD while the rain washed the decks and cooled down the atmosphere.
November 14, 2010
The weather was still great but it was going to pick up in the next couple of days, so rather than have to sit out the blow on the outer reef, we decided to make tracks and head for Low Isles which was over eight hours away.
Rather than spend a long boring day getting there we broke the trip half way at Tongue Reef. We dropped anchor in about 10m in a sandy patch on the edge of the reef. If it blew up unexpectedly that night we wouldn’t have much protection so we hoped the forecast was going to be accurate.
The hunters went off with their spears again for the afternoon, while the gatherers lazed around the decks. After a few hours, they came back with a few fish and crayfish to keep us going on seafood and we finished the day off with sundowners on Tic Tac once again.
November 13, 2010
Carl and Bev left mid morning for St Crispin Reef but we took a little longer to get organised. We got away about 12.30 after some lunch and as we were pulling away from the Cay one of the rods that we had out for trolling went off. All you could hear was ZZZZZ!!! Over the engine. Toby grabbed the rod and next thing he was in for the fight of his fishing life. (see video)
After one heck of a battle Toby with a little help landed the biggest Spanish mackerel we had seen yet. Toby 144.5cm tall, weighing around 35kg, landed this 144cm, approximately 28kg Spanish mackerel. It was so big we couldn’t fit it on the fish bench, it wouldn’t fit in the freezer and so we ended up with fillets over a metre long. I think Toby has won the Angler’s Award for this year.
After the commotion, it took around an hour to clean up the back deck and put the boat back into order. We then only had about another 1 ½ hours to St Crispin Reef where Carl and Bev in Tic Tac where already there waiting for us.
Not long after that we had a lone dolphin riding our bow wave for a while. (see video)
It wasn’t as exiting as the encounter we had at Ribbon 5 with the pod but still a thrill to watch.
We arrived at St Crispin Reef around 3.30pm and with plenty of lookouts, we made our way through the bommies towards Tic Tac and anchored in 5m just on the edge of the lagoon. It was very calm here and looked like a good spot to spend a few days.
After a very still night we woke up to find a total glass out. The water was stunning, the only setback was because there was little wind it was stinker of a day with the water temperature already 28 degrees in the morning.
We set up some covers on the front of the boat to offer a little shade and wasted no time in gearing up to get in the water. Taking the tender north along the reef, there were a few exposed rocks that we checked for crayfish. We then went to a drop off on the inner edge of St Crispin Reef and dived overboard.
It was a great location dropping off to about 12-15m to a sandy bottom. Separate from the wall, there were pinnacles of coral starting from the sandy bottom reaching almost to the surface and along the wall many caves and swim throughs. The fish life was abundant in all varieties and sizes from tiny damsels to a couple of Maori Wrasse, one looking to be bigger than Bj and maybe 80kg.
As well followed the ledge around, we saw a large Barracuda over a metre long in a wrasse cleaning station. He just looked up as us as we passed content in having his beauty treatment without any interruption. The two Maori Wrasse followed us along obviously curious about these strange looking creatures in their world.
It took nearly an hour to follow the ledge around to the shallows and here we had two sharks, a White Tip and a Black Tip reef shark show a little too much interest in us and so it was time to get out.
Bev and I were dropped back at our boats and the guys went of spearing for the afternoon. It was so calm you could see every ripple in the sand. There was a fair bit of boat activity going on around us as there was another Marlin Tournament based from Port Douglas operating in the area and so all afternoon all you could hear was the radio chit chat from all the contenders.
Later on that afternoon the boys went over to Tic Tac to play poker with Carl and Bev. It had become a bit of a ritual whenever time allowed. Carl and Bev taught the boys how to play when we were at Lizard Island and now they were always keen for a game. They were gradually improving and Dylan had won the last few games.
By the time the game had finished it was time for a few sundowners and so we adjourned to the back deck of Tic Tac. The boys usually always have a fish while we were there on this particular afternoon a Giant Trevally took the bait. Bj grabbed the rod first and held on for his dear life. The fish ran with the line way off into the distance to some nearby coral where he tried to shake lo ose.(see video) Bj unable to hold on any longer passed it on to Dylan. Dylan then spent the next half hour moving around Tic Tac trying to turn the fish back towards the boat.
Finally after one almighty battle Dylan with a little help was able to bring the Giant Trevally back where Carl unhooked it and set it free, after a quick photo, where it did the bolt back into the safety of the deep water.
That brought to an end our stay at St Crispin Reef, our journey was to continue the following day to Tongue Reef about 3 hours south east closer to Port Douglas.
November 11, 2010
After a windy wet night we awake to find weather had improved and so with a forecast of 10/15 knots for the next few days, we thought it was time to continue on.
It was still very stormy looking on the mainland but hopefully we wouldn’t get much of it at sea. Leaving around 8.30-9.00 we passed through the channel that separated the two islands of Hope and hugged the coast near the Bloomfield River and Cedar Bay. The landscape was stunning with lush rainforest right to the waters edge and no sign of any human existence to be seen.
The further south we went, the calmer the seas got and it turned into a very comfortable but long journey. It took about 7 hours to travel the distance between Hope Isles and Mackay Cay.
As we made our way into the shallows around 3.30, it seemed ridiculous that we had come all this way and taken all this time to come to a little spot of sand in the middle of the ocean. Once we were had gone ashore though it seemed all worth it as this little spot of sand was surrounded by a shallow lagoon, clusters of reef and was the perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down over the Cape Tribulation.
The boys went for an afternoon spear while Mahnie and I read and relaxed on the Cay. Brett had a bit of maintenance to do so he stayed on board. As the evening approached we all went back to Auspray and the boys continued to fish with their rods. There was plenty of action with some nice sized Spangled Emperor caught.
We all had a peaceful night sleep and after one heavy downfall just after dawn, the day turned out to be a nice one. Brett and Carl had an early morning spear with Dylan manning the tender. Toby and Bj fished off the back of Auspray with still plenty of action going on.
A few shouts led me to investigate only to find a commotion going on as Toby had hooked a big Golden Trevally that was putting up a fight. With Bj’s help he was able to land it. (see video)
By midday everyone was back onboard and it was time to continue on to St Crispin Reef where we hoped to spend a few days.
November 09, 2010
Hope Isles consisted of two islands, one thick with lush jungle, fringing reef and golden sandy beaches. The other island was low and flat also surrounded by reef but with the added extra of mangroves that may be hiding some juicy mud crabs.
The main island was a National Park and allowed camping in several spots that were well shaded with the lush vegetation. There was a constant coo from the hundreds of Torres Strait Pigeons that were nesting in them and from the distance you could see them in the trees like white Christmas decorations.
The surrounding reef was alive with all varieties of fish and there was always plenty of rod action any time of day. Carl from Tic Tac managed to bring back some big crayfish from one of the spear fishing trips they did around the island.
The thick vegetation on the island was clustered with Torres Strait pigeon nests. The parents would fly off early morning and return in the evening to feed their chicks. The boys were exploring the great tree climbing that was on offer when they came across some chicks that had been displaced from the nests. Fearing they would not last the day, the boys made some new nests and placed them back in. When they returned the next day, they found the chicks alive and well and obviously being cared for again by their parents.
When the seas had calmed a bit we took the tender to the other island to put some crab pots in. We found the island to be nothing like we expected. It was surrounded by reef which was crystal clear, and then there was a fringing growth of mangrove trees encasing the island. Through the trees there was a sandy beach that was loaded with interesting things that had been washed up into mounds. The Torres Strait Pigeons were nesting here too. The most interesting aspect of this island was an inland saltwater lagoon that was tidal. The water was again crystal clear with a sandy bottom with many tall trees growing straight up to form a canopy that nearly completely blocked out the sunshine. Here we found enormous mud crabs swimming about freely until they saw us and then they retreated deep into their holes.
We spent a few hours here but had to be careful of the outgoing tide as there was no way to cross the reef when it had gone out. There was also the ever present croc factor to be aware of as we were only a few kms off the coast and large reptiles had been spotted regularly resting on the beaches of both islands. Wading waist deep was probably a bit risky but we kept our eyes peeled.(see video)
A walk around the island was always interesting. There were so many turtles here in the shallows, I counted 12 right in front of me while I was standing on the beach. You could even see the shadows of Giant Trevaly cruising the shallows for bait.
One night when the wind had dropped we collected all the driftwood and made a fire on the beach. We wrapped sweet potato in foil and cooked them on the coals and also put a big pot of prawns cooked in sea water on the coals. The sunset was amazing and we sat around the fire until the embers died.
It had been easy to spend a week here but now the seas and wind had died down and it was time to pull the anchor up and head on a bit further south.
November 09, 2010
After a very unpleasant night at Ruby with howling winds and rain we were eager to get going the following morning. The choices were either continue south and take shelter in another reef or west to Hope Isles located 9km off the coast north of the Bloomfield River.
Because we had been at sea for about 6 days and it looked like this next blow was going to be around for a while, we decided on Hope Isles where we could at least get off the boat and explore the islands which we had never been to before.
Tic Tac lead the way and we left around 9am when there was just enough reef to make our way through the coral bommies and back in the deep water. The angle of the sail was not the best and we had large waves hitting us side on, some breaking over the rails and hitting the wheelhouse. The sea water would fill the decks and then drain off through the scuppers until the next soaking. At times both ours and Tic Tic’s keel was visible when we heeled over with the force of the waves.
After about 40km or hanging on with white knuckles, we gladly turned into the relatively calm bay at Hope Isle. There were 3 other vessels there, some anchored, some on the moorings. Luckily there was a mooring available in 6m just off the beach and so we took that one and breathed a sigh of relief glad for that leg of the journey to be over.
There was a prawn trawler anchored in the bay and so we wasted no time in buying some fresh prawns caught the night before. There was another island nearby that was covered in mangroves and so we had visions of munching on juicy mud crabs while we sat out the bad weather.
November 07, 2010
We got an early start again, leaving Ribbon 5 to travel another four hours south along the outer reef to Ruby Reef. There were some great dive sights along the way which we thought about breaking the journey for a dive but when we arrived there they were in 30m and this was too deep for Toby and Dylan.
The weather was still on our side, a gentle 15 knot SE blowing us along with calm seas and blue skies. We had the rods out rolling for pelagic and Toby and Dylan had a double hook-up which ended in a couple of Mack Tuna who put up a good fight. (See video)
By midday we were dropping anchor in about 6m. We didn’t waste any time and so after a quick lunch Brett took Mahnie, Bev and I for a snorkel along a coral ridge not far away from where we were anchored.
The reef had a few small walls, shallow patches surrounded by sand and abundant variety of coral in the shallows but very little fish life. The reef patch dropped off to about 16m channel leading to the outer reef but we decided to keep to the shallows where the colours were better. We had been spoilt by the quality of the Ribbon Reef so this was a little disappointing but still good to swim around and stretch the limbs.
The hunting party went out after us for the afternoon. After a few hours they came back with a crayfish, the fist for this trip. By late afternoon there was an obvious change coming with storm clouds brewing and the seas starting to stir up. Then came the rain and winds gusts increasing, so we knew tomorrow we would have to find somewhere to tuck in to sit out the next blow that was on its way.
November 06, 2010
We managed to get away around 7.30 am, had another big day of travel ahead to Ribbon Reef #5 and so we wanted to get there as early as possible so we could navigate our way through the coral bommies and anchor in the shallows.
After a very comfortable trip, we dropped the anchor around 3pm and wasted no time in going for an afternoon snorkel with Mahnie and Dylan while the rest went off spearing.
The water was still crystal clear with clean white patches of sand in between coral bommies. There was plenty of fish life to see and lots of varieties of hard and soft coral. As well as all the tropical fish life, a couple of large tuna cruised by and checked us out, most likely coming in from the outer edge of the reef looking for a meal.
We stayed in the water for a very long time, but daylight was fading on us and so we thought it best to get our tasty little bodies out of the water and back on the safety of the boats.
The day came to an end with sundowners on the back of Tic Tac and planning what we would do the following day.
The weather was so pleasant that Brett and I slept on the back deck under the stars. We awoke to find two other game boats had joined us for the night. It was still Marlin season and so there were plenty of keen punters around hoping to hook up and tag one of the sea giants.
The next morning we awoke to find blue skies and calm seas. We started the day with an early morning swim. We took the tender a few hundred metres away, closer to the outer reef. I was content to snorkel nearby the tender with Toby while the others went on another hunting exercise.
After a couple of hours and moving around to a few different spots we were thinking about going back for lunch. Suddenly the tender was surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins, maybe 30 or more. It seemed to be a large family with a few young ones amongst them. They were playing around, jumping out and doing mid air acrobatics. Toby and Dylan jumped in the water with them and came face to face with 6-7feet long Bottlenose Dolphins.
We then started racing around in the tender with them. The faster the tender went the more excited the dolphins got trying to surf the bow waves and covering us with water from their blowholes when they broke the surface. A few of them would ride the waves, drop under the tender and then leap into the air behind us doing somersaults. Mahnie and I reached out from the tender as they were racing beside us and tried to touch them. Mahnie was managed to and said they felt firm and slimey.
This went on for over an hour and it was us that eventually ran out of energy, not the dolphins. What an amazing experience it was for all of us. I tried to capture it on film but the photos didn’t portray the feeling of excitement in the air from both the dolphins and us. How lucky we were to be in that particular spot at that particular time and for the dolphins to interact with us in such a way.(see video)
We couldn’t stop talking about it over lunch and for a long while afterwards we could still see the pod lingering nearby, maybe waiting for us to join them in another session of play.
The hunters went back out after lunch to do some more spearing and Mahnie and I chose to laze around the deck reading and relaxing. We had sundowners once again on Tic Tac and then retired for another early night. Tomorrow would bring another leg in the slow journey south.
November 05, 2010
The day had finally come to tear ourselves away from Lizard Island and start the southerly sail back to Port Douglas where our journey would finally come to an end.
We left early on Saturday 30th October with friends Carl and Bev on Tic Tac. We were heading straight for the Cod Hole on Ribbon Reef #10 for a dive with a large family of potato cod that were so tame you could pat and then continue on to Ribbon Reef #9 to anchor up for the night. Tic Tac were going to bypass the Cod Hole and head straight to Ribbon #9 where we would meet up at later on that day.
We had a pleasant sail out in 20-25knot SE winds. When we arrived at the Cod Hole there were already 3 or 4 dive boats there taking up the moorings and as you were not allowed to anchor there, we had no choice but to continue on south. A bit disappointing as this would have been one of the dive highlights of the area.
We continued on south hugging the Ribbon Reefs and caught sight of Tic Tac in the distance. After about 6 hours of travel, we arrived at Ribbon
Reef #9 and dropped anchor in about 10m. The water was so clear you could see the patterns on the white sand below us.
It was too late in the day to venture into the water because of munching time for the marine predators and so the boys were content to throw a line for a few hours. We were all pretty tired from the day of travel and after witnessing an amazing sunset, we were happy to crawl into bed not too long afterwards.
The next day brought blue skies, a gentle breeze of 10-15knots and a colourful reef surrounding us waiting to be explored. We had forgotten how much of an impact this reef made on us when we first put our heads underwater 3 months ago. The clarity and visibility of the water up to 30m the water loaded with marine life of every kind.
We had a great snorkel in the morning and then went back to Auspray where I was replaced with spear guns and Carl. The all male crew than went back in to the reef for a session of hunting and gathering.
After 3 hours they returned with a big catch mainly consisting of Coral Trout but also a few other varieties, 15 fish in all, enough to feed both crews for a few days.
Having a delicious fresh fish dinner, we were content to crawl into bed again early and ready ourselves for continuing the journey south the following morning.