August 2020: Australia: Coral Sea to the Great Barrier Reef


Sailing to mainland Australia from the Coral Sea. Winter goodness in the Whitsunday Islands and on the Great Barrier Reef.

LIVING THE DREAM Our last day in the Coral Sea was miserable. Rain. Howling winds. We stayed onboard.

Last pear and orange. 19 days after visiting a store. Please don’t whinge to me about the size of your fridge.

PASSAGE We sailed west – 332nm (615 km) from Frederick Reef to Airlie Beach.

The first two days were great sailing. Bumpy. Swift.

MESSAGES IN BOTTLES While we were in the Coral Sea – as remote as most sailors get – the girls wrote messages and popped them in bottles.

They launched the bottles, less than 20 seconds apart…

Both bottles were found! Hazel’s bottle was found at Woody Head near Iluka/Yamba in New South Wales, around 500nm (900km) and five weeks from where she launched it. Willow’s bottle was found at Pancake Creek near Agnes Waters in Queensland, around 220nm (400km) and eight weeks from where she launched it. Thank you Sylvia and Robyn for what you do to keep our beaches clean, and for messaging Hazel and Willow when you found their messages as rubbish on the beach. You have changed their lives by taking our humble science experiment seriously.

BEWARE THE COMPLACENT SAILOR. We left the Coral Sea and passed through the Great Barrier Reef. At sunset. Unprepared. Gosh. We have lived this blue-water sailing thing for over seven years now, but with new technology and recently sailing in cruisy and connected NZ, Fiji, and Vanuatu we have become accustomed to internet access and ‘googling’ on the fly (often in the middle of nowhere) instead of thorough pre-planning. FAIL. We had forgotten Australia has the crappiest rural internet access in the world. We passed through ‘Deliverance Bank‘ (aptly named) at 13+ knots speed-over-ground, sails down, both engines at cruising revs, with current but against 20 knots of wind. It took each and every skill we have to pull it off. Phew.


Big tides. Mud socks.

PROTEST MARCH. The girls want a BBQ. We have a BBQ, but it’s in storage because our super-sized dinghy and surfboards use the space, and generally we don’t eat meat. The girls seemed passionate. I joined the (unsuccessful) march.


The Land of Bareboat Charters‘ is gorgeous. Dale saved one, usually two, yachts a day. He set anchors, retrieved anchors, released hulls from reefs and sandbanks, released tender painter ropes from props, and roused on captains who dragged boats 200m through anchorages at night. Meanwhile, I bickered with old men who tried to anchor near us. They would insist they knew how to anchor. I would watch and insist they did not. It would become awkward. Happily, they would get cranky at me and move elsewhere; often to drag anchor onto another boat during the night. This is us, sharing how it is Whitsunday-style. Clearly, ‘Superhero Dale’ points to where he saved his last yacht.

BOAT KIDS. It is serious business being a boat kid AND the daughter of a superhero.

WHITSUNDAY WALKS. Willow and I tramped 60km around the islands.

Whitsunday Peak, Whitsunday Island (5km)

Whitsunday Cairn, Whitsunday Island (4km)

Tongue Point, Whitsunday Island (3km)

Whitehaven Beach to Chance Bay, Whitsunday Island (7km)

Solway Circuit, Whitehaven Lookout & Headland, Whitsunday Island (4km)

Haselwood Island (1km)

Happy Bay to Sandy Bay, Long Island (9km)

Sandy Bay to Mt Jeffreys, South Molle Island (8km)

Sandy Bay to Spion Kop and Balancing Rock circuit, South Molle Island (11km)

Honeyeater Lookout, Airlie Beach (8km)

GREAT BARRIER REEF. We followed friends to Little Black Reef.

Other friends joined us.

It is always bizarre to anchor with no land (or sand) in sight.

BENCHMARK. I am certain our girls will never again be picked up for a spin in a cooler vessel/vehicle by a more capable captain/driver. What a great friend and captain to swing by and take the girls for a sail.

FREEDIVING PARTIES. Most boat kids are above average in the water. Unsurprisingly, some boat kids are water rockstars, seriously next level. It is always a pleasure to meet these families.

Dale encouraged the kids to freedive to new limits.

And of course I found a ‘cave’ and made everyone swim through it!

AIRLIE BEACH. Virtual “crazy hair day”.



What if Hillary didn’t marry Bill? This is the premise of Rodham. It is a gem. Intriguing, the sliding doors. In Bring Up the Bodies, the second Hilary Mantel, Anne Boleyn loses her head, but Cromwell finds his groove. I love the pace of this trilogy and cannot wait to start the third. I definitely needed the reread refresh. Disappearing Earth is disturbing. In a small country town, young sisters go missing after a day swimming. This book haunts me. And Dreyer’s English. All the good stuff you should know about English, but – if you are like me – alway forget.


Willow said she loved Pollyanna because it was set in the olden days and was different and interesting, and Pollyanna is an inspiring character and jolly soul. “She could be Santa Claus!” Apparently Mary Poppins was boring, not like the movie, which was wonderful. The Bindi book was about a smuggler trying to smuggle lemurs and Bindi stopped it. Willow thought this was a worthwhile adventure. Trixie was an ok mystery story – not too good, not too bad. Letty was an another Australian girl story and one of Willow’s favourites. It is about a free settler following her sister on a ship to start a new life in Australia from England. And Wolf Girl 3 is another adventure, in a different setting, a cave this time.


Ruby is a great Australian girl. Read these books.” says Hazel.