Saturday, April 18, 2020

Fitzroy Reef

[Kyle]We were pretty sure the snorkelling at Lady Musgrave was not going to get more interesting, and there was one more reef we wanted to see before returning on to Bundaberg - so we decided to carry on further to Fitroy Reef. Fitzroy is a lagoon with no island and a narrow entrance that looks impassable on our nautical charts. Commercial tour boats also don't go there. We were hoping for a little more solitude and possibly a more diverse ecosystem. The reef is one of the few open to fishing so a lot of locals come here to fish (fishing is still allowed per the current Covid19 pandemic regulations in Queensland) so we were not sure exactly how busy it might be.

An easy sail, and the pass into Fitzroy was straightforward and well marked
We were soon anchored in tempting waters and eager for a swim

We arrived to find just one other sailing catamaran there and picked up one of the two free public mooring balls behind them. They were a local couple from nearby on the mainland who come here all of the time. From what we could tell, they spent from sunup until sundown fishing in their dinghy while we loafed and snorkeled away our time.

Our first day, the snorkeling was pretty much the same as back at Lady Musgrave: Lots of coral, lots of little reef fish, a whole lot of water, not much else. Our big finds of the day were a little yellow box fish and a big, well camouflaged nudibranch.

{Maryanne: Generally we are finding the coral not in the best of ways, certainly not as good as we saw back in Lord Howe. There have been 5 major bleaching events in the last 3 years along the great barrier reef, and even at this southerly tip they have not escaped bleaching events. Things are seriously not looking great given that global warming is expected to continue, and temperatures on the rise for some time to come}

The moon was now in its third quarter, rising at midnight, which left the early evening skies dark and clear. It was perfect for tracing out the constellations of the southern sky while seeing how many satellites we can spot gliding through them.

Much more extensive swimming the following day finally revealed one nervous manta ray and one nervous turtle for me and one curious shark for Maryanne. {Maryanne: We had a beautiful calm day and decided to venture out and swim through the pass and a nice circuit along the outside wall, a false pass and inner reef wall}

Hanging out at Fitzroy Reef

A low pressure trough passed through, briefly reversing the trade winds. Since we were still awaiting mail and news on our visa status, we took the opportunity to race back to Bundaberg under spinnaker to check on things. Most of the day was pretty good, but we weren't quite fast enough and the trough beat us there. Ten miles from the anchorage, we got hit with strong winds, pelting rain and more thunder and lightning than we have seen in years. Apart from worries about frying all of our electronics, it was pretty cool. The moon wasn't up yet and, of course, we had 35,000 feet of cloud above us. That made it really dark between flashes and as bright as a sunny day during the flashes. They were maybe about a third of a second out of every two and from every direction, which made for some pretty jumpy shadows.

When it passed, we had a pretty gentle downwind sail to our old anchoring spot across from the marina. Time to hook back up to the ol' internet and see how the world is doing.

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