After a fantastic two months in Vanuatu, on 26th October we set sail for Australia. I felt excited about this ocean passage and felt it was time for us to go. We intended to visit two mid ocean reefs on the way across the Coral Sea, but as always, the current winds and weather forecasts would be our guide as to what was possible and safe in the big blue. We had first heard positive descriptions of the uninhabited Huon and Chesterfield Reefs from cruising friends we met in Fiji and this had sparked our keen interest to visit them. We envisaged 3 days sailing to Huon, 3 days from Huon to Chesterfield then 4-5 days to Brisbane or Bundaberg, depending on prevailing winds at the time.
We set sail with fellow cruising families on ‘Flour Girl’ (Virgin Islands), with ‘Allure of NZ’ 24hours ahead of us. It felt quite different to have other boats close by when sailing offshore. The vessels handle quite differently due to their shape, size, sail set up and have their particular preferred sailing winds. This meant that whilst sometimes we were in visual contact with each other or could see a navigation light on the horizon, usually we could contact each other over the VHF radio to check how they were going, share weather forecasts (a big thanks David from ‘Flour Girl’) and of course to check GPS positions …that is, to see who was winning the race!
We left Luganville in overcast and rainy conditions. The two night passage to Huon was fairly rough and windy with the wind and swell hitting us on the on the beam. It usually takes us about 3 days to get our bodies into the rhythm of keeping shift watches throughout the day and night. Given this relatively short passage we didn’t have time to get over the 3 day hump. But, it was awesome to sail inside Huon Reef where we were welcomed with brilliant blue water, waves breaking along the huge arch of reef surrounding us and blinding white sand on tiny islands.
We stayed 4 nights at Huon Reef. Each day we snorkelled in beautiful corals, with turtles, reef fish and water so clear it was really easy to see the reef and bigger sharks heading straight for you! This was somewhat disconcerting and a bit cool at the same time. We kept each other close and remained on the lookout. There were huge Green Turtles everywhere who were busy mating, laying eggs or just lolling about. Huge.
We walked the perimeter of the sand islands, said hello to the birds and crabs and collected washed up thongs…is it that all the beaches in the world have washed up thongs?
One night we awoke at midnight and took the dinghies into shore in search of laying turtles. We didn’t see any actually laying but were amazed by the power and gentleness of their digging and it was awesome to sit in the dark and watch these magnificent creatures at work. As careful as we intended to be, with a few of us on shore at the same time and given the usual isolation of the reef, it is difficult to know how much (if at all) disturbance or negative impact we had on the turtles, just be being there.
For more on Huon Reef (see Jarrah’s report on the following blog post ‘Huon Reef’)