Learning to be Reef Rats…August 2017
We love to cruise to isolated reef areas of the Australian NE coast: experience nature on pristine islets, dive into clear waters, sip wine at sunset, & enjoy the simple pleasures away from civilization.
Does that sound like idealistic dreaming or a fantasy from a tourist brochure?
Well, of course, it hasn’t always gone perfectly.
Planning and preparation
We have learned to do our most challenging exploring during the calmest and most predictable time of year, and for North Queensland that means from early spring, avoiding the worst of the trade winds and being back home for Christmas before the Cyclone season begins.
Provisioning is the same as would be for an extended ocean voyage. Our boat and its equipment leave in their best possible condition. Our pockets may be empty, but we have laid a good foundation which pays dividends weeks later when we are all alone.
Bouncing on the Reef
Now it’s getting more interesting. When we are facing a splashing reef or a sandy beach with fringing coral and bommies lurking everywhere, it looks perilous, but in reality, we are safer there than squeezing into a pen at a marina.
We have developed our set of rules for avoiding the bottom & for finding safe and comfortable anchorages. That is not to say we never hit bottom. We have been known to push the coral friendship and receive minor abrasions to our keel. These are easily fixed next haul out.
One lesson we learned the hard way is; if we find a convenient mooring rope tied to a reef’s edge— while it may be handy to hang off for a couple of hours during the day,— we don’t stay overnight. A drop in the wind and a change of current once had us beating a nasty tune on the top of a reef.
Flipping our dinghy.
We have fun exploring tiny islets and sand cays. But we have needed to fine-tuned our dinghy landings since we did an ungraceful 180 flip. Waiting for near low tide is a good starting point. Once ashore we take possession of our private beach, then check out the turtle & marine bird situation. They may never have seen a human before.
An extraordinary world opens up each time we look under the surface. It’s easy to forget we are in alien territory. While snorkeling is relatively straight forward, scuba diving without backup can be tricky. Years of traditional supported hookah and scuba diving helped us to come up with our methods. Even so, we have been lost, had to struggle back to the boat against the stream, and had hoses blow out. I am glad we keep a large safety margin, just in case.
Surprisingly the diving safety record for cruisers like us is excellent; we’ll be checking out Nemo for a while yet.
PS. Sorry kids, we have spent your inheritance, but we have had some amazing adventures.
To check out all out boating pics in Fikr click here.
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