Anchoring to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea — March 2016
Our anchor is very happy in mud, but there is no dirt in the Coral Sea; this makes anchoring to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea more challenging. Here it’s all about living coral, dead coral, sand and rubble made from crushed and broken coral, plus rocks formed from compacted coral sand.
It’s illegal, and definitely bad form to drop our anchor in coral and risk destroying Nemo’s home, plus we don’t want to foul our anchor. So we look for a patch of sand and a clear path for the chain. Our depth sounder helps give us an indication of what’s down there. It is not necessary to feed out a lot of chain, in the rare event of an anchor dragging the chain or anchor will catch on something.
Occasionally in places like deep walls etc, different anchoring strategies are required…sometimes it’s “adventure anchoring” (a lot more on that another time). But usually, if anchoring close to the dive site is of real concern we simply just anchor nearby , then venture to the dive site in our dinghy . More on diving from our dinghy below.
How we dive from our dinghy.
Our 14m Power Cat with its big back step and strong swim ladder is perfect to dive from, but often it is necessary to dive from our 3.4m RIB. For safety, it’s under seat bag is full of emergency and communications equipment. To secure to the reef, we usually drop our folding anchor onto the sand, plus add a couple of turns of the anchor rope around a solid structure. A lift bag attached to the anchor is ready to be inflated after our dive. When we return to our dingy, we slip our gear off in the water and attach it to clips hanging from the side; so we can clamber on board unimpeded. Sounds awkward, but we have found it to be the easiest and safest way.
Another perfect scenario. We anchored in deep water and dived from a beautiful little sand cay. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Picking up the dingy anchor with the lift bag. Sometimes it’s nice to swim along with the dinghy for a while, especially if it’s drifting along the reefs edge with a convenient current.
How not to dive from a dinghy — the importance of our anchor rope.
Many years ago I was thrilled to have a distinguished American landscape photographer as a guest on my boat. She had almost no diving experience but was super keen to take pictures underwater, so I decided the safest bet was for us to use my hookah diving unit. It’s twin hose set up kept her from wandering off, and a small spare air cylinder attached to her harness gave me confidence that she would not get into any real trouble. We were anchored 95km out from Townsville and had taken the dingy about 1 km from the boat to dive a likely looking bommie. I dropped the anchor next to the bommie onto a sandy bottom. After a pleasant reef circumnavigation, we slowly ascended alongside the anchor rope. Only to find on surfacing the rope had broken and the dingy was but a speck disappearing over the Horizon. It was a difficult situation and I was momently stunned, but she having recently watched Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away” immediately screamed, ” Come back Wilson, don’t leave me”. It’s a crazy moment I enjoy looking back on…two divers stranded in the ocean laughing their sides out. To conclude that Little story; we did make it back to the boat, and by fluke found our dingy right on dusk about 6 km away. I replace the anchor rope yearly since then.
Click on the above image to see full size in my Flikr photo album.
The image shows my American guest enjoying Australia’s Yankee Reef seascape.
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