For those sailing the Australian Coral Coast, it’s a permanent contrast of reef and mangroves. Each has its perks, and of course, it’s inevitable pitfalls.
On the reef and the islands, you’re at the mercy of the never-still sea. You’re met with perpetual rocking, rolling and creaking. On the contrary, the mangroves provide repose as tranquil as that on land. That is, if you don’t mind sandfly stings and crocodiles neighbours watching from the banks.
As far removed life at sea is from the conventional comforts of land, these last few months of sailing the Australian Coral Coast has got me itching for more.
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
From the Rainforest to the Reef – The Final Week of Sailing on Malaika
Again, we departed Port Douglas at first light, heavy with the thought of the trip coming to a close, but enthusiastic about finally reaching the outer Great Barrier Reef.
The course was set on the plotter for Cairns harbour again, which would put us in a good spot for anchor before heading to Green Island.
South Against the Trades
The plotter told us that the trip back south would take 10 hours at a reasonable 4-knot pace. However, the wind and chop had other plans.
I wouldn’t wish a trip beating into the trades on my worst enemy. Winds were dead ahead at 20 knots, which whipped up the already established swell. We were forced to motor the entire way, each big wave stopping us near dead in our tracks and forcing us to rebuild momentum.
As a result, it took us nearly 10 hours to reach Double Island. So, instead of continuing forward to Cairns, we decided to stop in at Yorkey’s Nob Marina for a well-needed rest.
Fast forward through the remaining trip to Cairns and we were on our way back out to Green Island. By now, the winds and swell had calmed to a near stand-still. While we couldn’t get much sailing done, it proved to be perfect conditions to explore Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef.
Exploring Green Island
We spent a full day and night at Green Island, which I rank as my favorite Great Barrier Reef Island so far.
We snorkeled at the Pinnacle, saw several turtles, kayaked over tropical reef and explored the interior of the island.
Green Island Anchorage Information
There are three blue buoys at Green Island which accommodate monohull vessels up to 20 M and multihulls up to 18 in 34-knot winds.
The first buoy seemed a little tricky to get to, and was located close to the ferry entrance channel on the pier side of the island.
We chose to pick up one of the other two courtesy buoys. To reach them, you’ll need to circle the perimeter of the reef, marked by white buoys until you reach the entrance point. Definitely have a lookout who can shout out for bommies and make sure to take your time, especially on low tide
We had to slowly maneuver Malaika through the mine-field of shallow reef and had to make some quick diversions as we came in on a pretty low tide.
If there aren’t any buoys available, it’s possible to anchor in the pit of sand just forward from the courtesy buoys. There’s plenty of swinging room here and the sand is said to be pretty decent holding.
The Outer Reef: Michaelmas Cay
Green Island was certainly a highlight of the Islands. Nevertheless, we were all excited to finally reach the outer cays of the world’s largest living organism.
From Green Island, we decided to head North through the reef channel to Michaelmas Cay, a small sand cay at the end of a huge stretch of shallow reef. We had perfect weather on the approach, with light breeze and completely flat seas.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: MICHAELMAS CAY – EXPLORING THE BEST OF THE OUTER GREAT BARRIER REEF
Exploring the Reef
Michaelmas Cay is a bird nesting area, which was immediately clear upon the approach. Thousands of birds circle the small stretch of white sand, and organise themselves into military-like squadrons on the beach.
There are a few buoys on Michaelmas Reef, however, they were all taken when we arrived. To avoid navigating through bommies and squeezing into an already packed anchorage field, we laid anchor in 16 M of water, just outside the reef. I’ve read other blogs who have mentioned that their boats get completely covered in bird shit from staying the night. So this was another motivator for us anchoring on the outiside.
Once we laid anchor, we spent the rest of the day in the water checking out the pristine reef and marine life. We explored a couple of different bommies and sand patches on the outside of the cay, each as impressive as the next.
Returning to Cairns
And so, with the last epic week aboard Malaika, out trip was drawing to an end.
We saw it fitting that the final few days of the trip were a highlight as outstanding as the Great Barrier Reef. While it was hard to move back to the mainland, we had an incredible sail back, being wished farewell by whales and dolphines, and cruising through in perfect conditions.
To make things even better, we were able to land another Spanish Mackerel on the way past the reef channel.
Saying Our See Ya Laters
The closing of any adventure is an emotional time. This one for me and the crew were especially so. For us, this great experience was a testament to hard work and a reward for man-hours spent building Malaika from the ground up.
We took time to reflect on the amazing memories that we’ve been able to forge. We thanked Malaika for taking us through the journey and looked toward the future for more sailing adventures.
This trip has definitely taught me a lot about sailing and life on the sea. It might not always be the easiest, but it’s certainly the most epic way to explore the coast. Nothing quite beats waking up every morning to the warm glow of the Aussie sun reflecting on the sea and being able to jump out of your bedroom into warm tropical waters.
But, for now, the travel bug is back to its old tricks and itching us to get back on the road.
This will be my last “weekly” blog post highlighting my general day to day activities, for the meantime anyway. As we fly back to Indo for the rest of the year, I’m super excited to keep exploring and creating content that I hope will inspire like-minded travelers to go further and live their lives to the absolute fullest.