Monday, April 13, 2020

Lady Elliot Island (Finally we sail to the Great Barrier Reef)

[Kyle]Our first attempt at escape to the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef was a big flop. We left with a forecast for moderate crosswinds, which left the Burnett River receding smartly over the horizon. After a few hours, our wind died and turned into direct headwinds. Our only choices were to either use a lot of fuel to motor the rest of the way, or give up and go back the way we came. Since we were trying to save our fuel for any contingencies, we decided to turn around and let the wind take us back to Bundaberg.

We started our second attempt fifteen hours later in the dark. This time, the headwinds were slightly to one side and strong enough to allow us to do the whole trip on one tack. When we arrived at Lady Elliot Island, the only other boat there was one used by the resort for taking out guests. The resort was closed, of course (due to the Covid 19 pandemic), but we had a nice chat on the radio with one of the caretakers. He apologized for not being able to welcome us ashore, but told us we were welcome to one of the available moorings. He then gave us lots of tips on where the best snorkeling was, etc.


Lady Elliot Island - Sunsets and Easter Chocolates helped keep us very happy

Our mooring was on what was usually the protected, leeward side of the island, but today was one of the one in ten where the wind blows the other way. Our evening was spent bracing ourselves and catching things before they fell off of the table.

Despite this, we tried snorkeling anyway. We were so happy to be out of the murk of the Burnett River. We did see a few nice things, but the aerated water and churned up silt made the visibility too poor to see what we were doing. Still, it felt nice to go for a swim.

The wind slowly backed through the night. It was still rough when we awoke, but it was just then going behind the island. By the time we got into the water, swimming conditions were much improved. There was lots of good, healthy coral and plenty of schools of different fishes. We also spotted three different types of rays, including big mantas who circled back around to see us as we went by. We also saw several very docile turtles, including one who was quite happy to let me brush the sand off of his shell.



Snorkelling the reef - LOVELY! - And with Manta Rays too!

Addition: It turned out that our sail to the Great Barrier Reef was also a milestone #500 trip in our log book. Not a bad place to be sailing to! I wonder where we'll be at #1,000?

Thinking of going yourself? We found the following useful to research and download beforehand (no internet/cell phone signal at the island)

  • Coordinates and details regarding the public mooring balls are available at GBRMPA - note - Note Lady Elliot is part of the Capricorn/Bunker Group of islands)
  • Dive site maps and info available at LadyElliot.com.au
  • Maps and information on the snorkel trails and best spots are available at LadyElliot.com.au
  • Maps and information on the island walking trails are available at LadyElliot.com.au

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