About Family not Fishing

October – November 2021

After a week inside Little Black reef, we headed back to Airlie Beach to restock and pick up Taylor for some cruising with his parents.  His flights were being rescheduled almost daily (such are the times we are trying to travel in).  He finally arrived, via South Australia, a fourteen-hour layover in Brisbane airport and warnings from his parents that it is very important to stay in transit when travelling between States at the moment (so just bunk down on a ‘comfy’ airport bench).  He finally arrived, tired and smelly, but we were just happy to see him after 2 years.

We had decided it was prudent to take Taylor back out to the places we had already visited, that were a relatively short choogle and close to shelter if needed.  As it turned out, he brought the good weather with him. The winds were beginning to change to the summer pattern more consistently, so we had hot but good weather.  Taylor learned to appreciate his electric fan – moving air is king in the tropics – Neon wasn’t happy as he had thought it was his fan.

The following morning, we were heading back out to Little Black Reef with Taylor on board (admittedly sleeping in the front cabin for most of the trip).  Around Hardy Reef we again had that interesting feeling of aiming at a reef so that we would go around the reef – the current around Hardy Reef was pushing us 23o off course.  Taylor eventually made his way up stairs to face the day only to discover he was in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. 

I got a little over confident going into Little Black this time and Peter went a bit pale, while waving his arms so furiously I thought he was going to take off – we got very, very close to a sneaky but huge bombie on the last turn before entering the lagoon.  Taylor in his usual laconic manner thought it was all hilarious but soon was just taking in the splendour of the reef. It truly is a wonderful place to just chill and enjoy nature.

Parked up inside the reef with ‘Sally Forth’ (we are on the left – Thankyou Mark for the lovely photo).  There was not the crowd in the reef that we had experienced last time – just us and a big tourist boat parked on the outside.  ‘Shebeen’ joined us a little later with their guests.  As you can see in the photo you can literally just swim over to the nearest reef if you want to.

Our family grows good hair.  Only once have I seen Taylor arrive for a holiday without a goodly mop of hair Taylor, with his ‘lovely locks’, found the warmer weather rather hard to deal with, so we did a little hair dressing.

I was concerned when he asked me to stop cutting at the mullet stage (short front, long back), but it was only for a picture to send to his mates. A great relief for his mother, as there are some things that should stay shrouded in the mists of time; 70s hair and 80s shoulder pads for starters.

And what am I trying to get a photo of here?

Clams…
And more clams

And Taylor just floating over the top of the reef

Although there some things that were definitely worth the effort of going a wee bit deeper to see (and this crayfish was definitely not coming up to us to say hello).

Our family has always played Cribbage and Euchre (card games).  Our boys grew up playing cards and it is funny how the sayings that my Father used are now being quoted by my boys (and husband). Peter and I play cards every afternoon and it was nice to have someone else playing. Taylor won at cards (he is something of a card shark), but I got him back at the pool table in Airlie Beach.

We enjoyed four days of relaxing fun; snorkeling, fishing and swimming with ‘Shebeen’ and ‘Sally Forth’, before heading back in to Airlie Beach (there was a big band of thunderstorms due to come through).

Peter decided to do some maintenance work while we waited out a few days of windy weather back at Airlie Beach (and while he had some free, strong labor available).  So, the boom winches got pulled out, restrung with nice new ‘dyneema’ line and cleaned of corrosion.

The next batch of good weather saw us heading out again with Taylor for a look around the Whitsunday Islands.

Peter teaching Taylor to read signs carefully at Cid Harbour.

First off to Cid Harbour for a bit of beach walking. Swimming was out as Cid is notorious for shark attacks over the last few years. This trip we had the entire anchorage to ourselves! Unfortunately, the tourist operators have been hit by another set of border closures due to the ‘you know what’ and private boats have started heading south. [Insurance companies are very antsy about boats that stay north of the 25th parallel after November.  We have negotiated a peaceful agreement with ours involving the payment of higher premiums.] 

We popped around the island to anchor at Tongue Inlet for a walk to view that iconic Whitehaven Beach and then down to the inlet for a most refreshing swim with the numerous stingrays that seem quite friendly. This beach is rated regularly amongst the top beaches in the world and with good reason as it is simply stunning.

Father and Son did lots of evening fishing off the back of the boat at every anchorage to very loud music and quite a few beers, which I was informed were quite necessary.  We really noticed the convenience of having moved the fishing table out the back and having the canopy over the aft of the boat (work that had been completed as part of the refit in Sanctuary Cove).  Taylor got to see lots of turtles – and he loves turtles.  We were treated one evening (although I’m not sure that is the correct term given the goings-on) to a pair of amorous turtles getting all frisky around the boat – they were there for a very long time and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

Taylor got quite a surprise when he pulled in this Remora (or Sucker Fish).  They are usually found attached to a shark, using the large sucker pad on their head.  It was scale-less, incredibly slimy and sprayed brown fecal matter all over the back of the boat while T was trying to get a hold on it.  We just wanted to get rid of it, but have since read that the skinned fillets make for quite good eating; I still maintain they would not be worth the mess.

Sunset from South Molle Island (I have to include a sunset) We cruised south past Whitehaven Beach and then for something different we thought we would try for a mooring at South Molle Island.  We had not been there and Jenni, from Ara Roa, had mentioned that the walk was definitely worth the effort. We timed our arrival so that we picked up a mooring close enough to the cut off time in the afternoon for staying overnight on the mooring. 

There is no anchoring here and the moorings are for short term use (you are either there for the day or overnight, but not both – although it’s an honour system). 

Early next morning we headed in to shore for the 8.8km walk to the lookout.  It was a long, but very picturesque walk.  There were a variety of vegetation types; sandy beach, spinifex savannah, fields of grass trees, shaded tropical trees and rugged rocky outcroppings.  This photo is of us taking a rest under a tree that is hosting a huge yellow orchid.

(No I didn’t pull the stalk out of a Grass Tree – my walking stick was lying on the side of the path and I put it back there when we had finished).

The walk is just one of many clearly marked on the island, along with bicycle paths and good seating.  I fell behind the other two and could hear rather rude references about Hobbits only being fast over short distances. 

The Hobbit finally caught up with the rude Dwarves sitting on a bench admiring the view of The Whitsundays to the south.

Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea) are a uniquely Australian plant. They are as tough as nails (the trunks get black from surviving bushfires), grow really slowly (0.8cm – 6cm height per year, it varies according to where they are growing) and live for a long time (centuries). They have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus at their roots and don’t transplant well because of it, so don’t go digging one up to take home – it’s illegal anyway.

On the northern side of the island is the South Molle Resort which was purchased in 2016 and then a few months later got hit by cyclone Debbie.  It doesn’t look like re-opening soon, especially now the consortium of owners redeveloped Daydream Island instead in 2019.  It looks like South Molle Resort has been left to rot, which is a shame as it has such a lovely harbour.

Once we got back to the boat, Taylor setup for a few hours fishing as he was determined to catch more fish than his Father (we are a moderately competitive family) and fished until well after dark.  He didn’t catch much for eating, but had fun watching the schools of the striking orange and blue garfish playing in the lights. And there were more turtles.

We came back in to Airlie because (you guessed it) there was another front coming though; it’s not always perfect in paradise.  The restaurant we had arranged to dine in was very apologetic about some last-minute table arranging due to the sudden and intense rain and wind.  They had a bar, so none of their waiting customers was particularly worried and it was a good show outside watching the boats anchored and moored in the rather shallow bay all bouncing around.

Afternoons in Airlie Beach were spent swimming at the magnificent public lagoon pool and then crossing the road to the pub for a beer and a game of pool.

There was a lot of smack talk, but not a lot of balls going down. I trounced Taylor and he narrowly missed out to his Father.

For about a week there was a swarm of odd-looking jelly fish come through the marina. They are Blue Button Jellyfish (porpita porpita); 1 inch wide with a central brownish disc surrounded by a fringe of beautiful blue tentacles.  The turquoise tentacles make it look like a jellyfish but it is actually a hydroid colony creature. They don’t sting as such, but can cause irritation to skin.

It was a shame that Taylor couldn’t stay in Queensland longer as he really enjoyed his stay here in the Whitsundays.  It is a truly great cruising area if you take the time to look around. Unfortunately Taylor only had a four week break before he started rehearsals for his next set of plays and two weeks of that had to be spent in the (as yet covid free) Northern Territory, so that he could go straight to work when he returned to WA (without doing 2 weeks quarantine). Getting around Australia during the covid times was not straight forward – not that we should complain given the circumstances others have found themselves in.

Boat works:

Replace boom ropes with new dyneema.

Clean and soft seal boom winch motors.

Pending: the little box that controls the flow of gas to the stove has decided to say NO permanently. We have a saf work around for the moment while we wait for a new little box to arrive (probably via Mars again).

Banner Photo: Opal Lady anchored in Little Black Reef (photo by Mark of ‘Sally Forth’)

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