Cruising life is just one long waltz with the weather. Get your timing right and simple movements can create harmonious beauty. Get it wrong and you will soon have a stiletto through your toe.
Bobbing at anchor in the Burnett River, we had been waiting for the music to begin for over a week. Our itchy toes, impatiently tapping, ready to navigate the open floor. If only we had control of the stereo. The cyclone festivities should now be over, making way for the more mellow tunes of the consistent trade winds. Instead the only music we hear is the wind howling through the rigging; creating an erratic rhythm, impossible to follow.
The weather dictates not only where we go and when, but how much we enjoy a place when we get there. Beautifully wild places require beautifully, un-wild weather. With only a fringing reef for protection from the waves and no shelter from the relentless trade winds, Lady Musgrave Island, the destination we were waiting for is certainly beautifully wild. Yet how long do we wait? Every day spent waiting is a day we will have to miss on the islands further north and a day more in the Burnett River. The rhythm of the weather is not always to our liking. Often we have to go slowly when we would like to pass through a place quickly or rush through somewhere we would love to slow down and take our time.
Tired of our surroundings, each morning had us pouring over the weather forecast, longing for an improvement. Yet the forecast was constantly changing. Predicted calm periods were immediately filled with more relentless high winds on the following forecast.
The hint of a lull in the wind had us making a spur of the moment decision at 9pm on a Saturday night. Luckily our life easily allows for wild abandon and spur of the moment decisions. No need to tell anyone of our plans or organise much, just pull up the anchor and leave. A 1am departure would have us arriving in good daylight and at slack tide in the pass.
The relief at having made it onto the floor was immense. We were finally leaving Bunderburg behind and heading for the unexplored (for us) horizon once more. The last few months had been spent re-tracing our steps back up the coast from Sydney. It’s hard to express how much we have missed the excitement of new, unknown places, despite the uncertainty and trepidation they can bring.
A fast sail through the night and our timing at the pass to the lagoon was perfect. Good light and slack tide gave us a smooth, easy approach. But now the question, were we in or out of sync with the weather? Would the predicted lull in the weather actually materialise?
Anchored within the lagoon, life aboard soon became more uncomfortable. Nothing dangerous, just uncomfortable. As Florence pitched on the waves, we retreated to sleep in the saloon (the middle of the boat), where the motion is reduced. Daylight was best spent off of the boat, either ashore on the small island, or in the water, below the chop.
Time ashore was worth the wet dingy ride in, as the other side of the island held a beautiful sheltered beach. The island itself was teeming with bird life. Black Noddy Terns nesting in the trees, so close you could touch them. Shearwater chicks hiding in the burrows built by their parents. Sea Eagles soaring above the lagoon and countless other birds competing to make them selves heard over the wind.
Usually frequented by tourist trip boats, the island was empty other than the birds and a few hardy campers. The windy weather had caused the tour boats to cancel their trips on all but one of the days we were there.
The real reason we had been so keen to visit Lady Musgrave was to see the reef. Many people had told us that the coral here was in much better shape than the Barrier Reef further North. We moved Florence over to some big coral heads by the lagoon entrance and swam straight off the boat to some of the best coral we have seen. Ever. Huge, bright, healthy coral heads of such variety, swarming with reef fish and the occasional turtle. It was such a treat to back in clear, turquoise waters.We would have loved to explore the outer reef in the hope of finding bigger fish, sharks and rays but we didn’t feel comfortable doing so in the windy conditions we had.
The crackly weather forecast over the VHF radio reminded us we must remain light on our feet. The rhythm is changing. It would be a dream to slow down here but we must move quickly. Onward we promenade to The Kepple Islands, 94 miles up the coast…