Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Swain Reefs

Most people, on hearing the name "Great Barrier Reef" naturally imagine a barrier. Nonetheless, unlike the reefs that surround many tropical islands with often a single navigable pass, the Great Barrier Reef is more like the Great Picket Fence Reef. It is made up of pancakes of coral reef of different sizes and shapes with lots of water between. It does break the ocean swell into reasonably gentle seas but does not impede navigation to the careful mariner.

Our interest in Swain Reefs, the southern-most part of the Great Barrier Reef is all about diving. We expected the waters to be far clearer than those near the mainland and imagined the ocean currents would nourish a healthy collection of tropical life.

After twenty hours of sailing east from Rosslyn Bay as close to the wind as we could manage, we arrived in the shelter of Horseshoe Reef, one of the Swains. Mary Anne lowered the anchor into water so clear she could see it bite into the sandy bottom some 35 feet down.

A day after arriving, we entered the water for the first time in over a week. Sharks have an unmistakable appearance and way of swimming and Mary Anne noted from the swim ladder that twos and threes of tiny ones were patrolling under TRAVERSAY. Our dive plan was to descend to a small patch of coral emerging from the sand directly below the stern of our boat. It was then she noticed a much larger shark lying somnolent next to the very patch we wished to explore and photograph.

Before we could begin the dive, it moved off the bottom and began to display an unwelcome curiosity by circling closer and closer to us. After a few quick photos and a video, we removed our fins and agreed to beat a hasty retreat back up the ladder. Later comparison of our photos with those in a reference book revealed that our shark looked very much like a Tiger Shark ... a species the book identified as dangerous!

Having lost interest in spending time underwater at Horseshoe Reef, we moved to Sandshoe Reef a few hours away and plunged back into the water. There we had a fine dive and encountered no sharks, friendly or dangerous. With visibility underwater of some twenty meters, we saw and photographed many colorful fish and much coral.

* * *

Qh, and if it appears we are having too much fun, on the way from Horseshoe to Sandshoe Reefs, the high-output alternator on our engine abruptly ceased charging the batteries and powering the desalinator.

"No worries" as they say here in Australia. The bits of broken belt in the bilge suggest a probable cause. If those belts are the whole story, we will replace them from spares shortly and then buy new belts when we are next in town. At any rate, we have many ways of making electricity. In addition to that alternator, we have solar, wind and a diesel powered generator separate from the main engine.

The adventure continues.

At 8/11/2016 06:21 (utc) our position was 22°12.59'S 152°45.09'E

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