Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
From Dunk Island to Cairns - Zenitude Goes Exploring
Eddy Reef - A day in a coral reef - 17 to 18 August 2015
With settled weather we left Dunk Island early in the morning in a north easterly direction towards Eddy Reef with the idea to explore the area and choose a suitable place to spend a day or two at anchor.
A dive operator on Dunk Island recommended Eddy, saying it was easy, great snorkelling and quite safe to stay.
Oscar quickly checked the Marine Parks zoning map to confirm spearfishing is allowed.
There are many reefs in the area so we know we have more than one option to explore, but I have to admit that unlike Oscar, I don’t have the explorer’s mind.
Actually I like to have at least one or two waypoints to show the way into a suitable anchorage, one that hopefully many people have tried before.
The next best thing is Google Earth pictures overlayed on the chart. We had looked and overlayed Google Earth on our OpenCPN charts but this isn't as helpful as we like because we couldn’t get good quality pictures. Oscar studied the chart and he knew where he wanted to go.
We go exploring, this time we have no waypoints, no cruising guide information, it is our adventure in the reef.
The trip from Dunk Island took about three and half hours, it was all motoring with no wind and some clouds shadowing the waters but when we arrived at mid morning all clouds had dissipated and visibility was perfect. We approached shallower waters, the reef ahead was easy to make out and soon the depth was down to 10 meters and the bottom clearly visible as well.
We knew our timing was the worst possible for the tides, the high tide had just passed which meant we had to make sure we didn’t run aground, a scary scenario when you know there is not going to be more water to float you back until next high tide in about 12 hours later. The chart showed some sand banks but we never saw less than 6 meters under the keel. We could see some coral heads, but they all seemed deep enough for us.
Soon we arrived in the area where Oscar would like to anchor and Zenitude goes sliding slowly alongside the reef in calm waters. Ahead we could see clear turquoise water indicating sand in that bottom which was also clear of coral bommies.
Depth was around 8 meters, Oscar was not quite happy yet. He kept going further ahead ever so slowly, while I kept carefully watching the bottom to make sure we didn't run over a coral patch.
I always get anxious in these situations and wish to find the right spot quickly, but Oscar says patience is the key to find the right place, and a bit further down he found a very nice sandy area at 6 meters depth. We dropped anchor, patience paid and we had found a nice spot. Then, I could relax.
All this sentiment of adventure was somehow broken as we were not alone.
There were plenty of little fishing boats all around, some seemed to me no bigger than a dinghy and I realized this is not such a wild adventure after all.
Not long after our arrival another sailboat approached the reef and found anchorage quite far away from the coral in the sand bank.
Gone to check the anchor
We enjoyed lunch and then got ready for our snorkeling tours. Visibility was outstanding, the coral so pretty we called it the Octopus Garden, reminding of the Beatles song. Colorful fish was all around, we saw the biggest clam we had ever seen, so big it appeared to be a rock at first sight, with coral trees growing out of it, but then, looking closer we could see the colors and realized it was indeed a clam, and very much alive. I wondered how old it was.
A terrible upset was my underwater camera had just stop working. This was the second underwater Olympus to fail us, this was just one and a half years old. So there are no pictures of this amazing underwater world.
Russel Island - Amazing Frankland Islands Group - 18 to 19 August 2015
The Frankland Island Group consists of five continental islands surrounded by fringing reefs, located about 30 miles south of Cairns. The islands are High, Normanby, Russell, Round and Mabel. They are a popular destination for local boats and fishermen and a popular camping destination. The islands are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with superb diving and snorkelling.
Marine Park maintains several courtesy moorings in the islands and we were hoping to arrive early at Russell Island with enough time to explore the reef and then spend a quiet night at one of the moorings. We were also hoping that being the middle of the week in August we would find the place empty for ourselves.
We got up early and decided to leave Eddy Reef at 7:00 AM to arrive at Russell Island with enough time to explore. Instead we should have waited until 10 AM to get good visibility of any shallow coral head on our way out. We knew the way and the closer bommies to avoid but still it wasn’t the right thing to do. We got away with it but made a mental note not to try that again.
The islands group has an abundance of plant and wildlife species and colourful rainforests. There are beautiful beaches and brilliant coral gardens which are home to tropical fish, giant clams and lots of turtles
We were hoping to find available the only mooring that suits Zenitude as the place does not look too great for anchoring. We got lucky, nobody was there when we arrived. The alternative would have been to keep going a bit farther up and anchor at High Island, which seems like a good place to spend the night with the forecast prediction of a calm night.
As soon as we hooked the mooring the dinghy went down and off we went for a fantastic snorkel tour. There was almost not current with the low tide slack and we were able to snorkel the south tip of the island as the seas were calm and the wind had died. Visibility was outstanding and so was the reef even with the sun hiding behind some clouds. At a brief moment when the sun came out the reef looked even prettier. This was another time when I really missed my underwater camera. Definitely we’ll have to get a new camera when we are in Cairns.
On the way back from snorkelling we made land on the beach and had a bit of a walk. There is a camping site in the island and the beach is also very beautiful, the sand is covered in many coral pieces that make it hard to walk over.
We could only see two people in the island for the whole time we were there and we were happy to miss the catamaran that visits frequently bringing lots of tourists to spend a day in the island. We were lucky to have this place to ourselves.
Cairns - A lively time and the family reunion - 19 August to 17 September 2015
After spending the night in Russell Island the next morning we were pondering if we should stay for another day. A quick look at the forecast and we decided against it. The day promised to be good but the wind was going to pick up in the evening and make the place very uncomfortable for spending the night.
We made arrangements for a marina in Cairns, left the mooring and motor sailed all the way to Yorkeys Point, where the entrance to Bluewater Marina is located. We were lucky to get a spot in this marina as it seems places for a catamaran at this time of the year in Cairns are at a premium.
Arriving in Cairns
We had a busy time in Cairns. Aside from all the normal chores that one does when staying at a marina we also enjoyed a trip to experience a little of the outback (You can read about this land trip here) and then of course the wonderful time with the visit of our kids and grand kids.
Our daughter and her family came first. They stayed 3 days with us in Zenitude and fortunately the weather was good to go around. We left the marina on a beautiful morning and spent a day and the night at Upolu reef where we were lucky to get the only available mooring.
It was exciting for the kids but jumping from the boat into the vast ocean where fish came to check you out as soon as you have a foot in the water was just too much for a little kid.
So snorkeling was soon out of the question. The kids were happy to jump in the dinghy for a ride to the sandy patch exposed in the reef at low tide where they could run and splash. A much better proposition.
Next day we decided to go to Green Island where kids could spend some time at the beach.
The island was crowded as always with hundreds of people deposited there by many big charter boats but the beach was good and the night pretty quiet.
Then the second part of the family, our son with his family arrived and not wanting to go insane, Zenitude was abandoned at the marina and we all headed to spend a couple of days at the wonderful Coconut Resort where we all enjoyed father’s day and birthday celebrations.
In a week’s time everybody went back to their homes and we were back in Zenitude with hectic preparations to leave Cairns towards Lizard Island. As we were planning to receive several friends while in Lizard it was a time of frenzy shopping to make sure supplies lasted for as long as we wanted to stay there.
Then the weather got in the way and after several days of strong winds and frequent showers a good window opened and we left Cairns on our way farther north.
In the meantime our neighbours at the marina were ready for their springs.
They voiced their disgust when we finally released the dock lines and got out of our berth, they surely disapproved of Zenitude moving around their cozy nest.
We were sorry we missed the babies, the little eggs were very cute.
Surely this is not the best place to have babies but I guess they know better