Monday, December 26, 2011

Lady Musgrave

We set off early, after repairs, with Lady Musgrave Island in our sights. She is a coral cay with a lagoon that supports an anchorage with a recommendation of about 10 spaces amongst the coral. The reef extends way out south, so we were very careful in our approach.
The lagoon entrance is well marked and quite narrow. AK stood on the wheelhouse roof to look for the coral bits that weren't marked. Some extend above the waterline but there are numerous bits just below the surface.
Lagoon entrance top left
It took a few attempts to get the anchor set, it was lobbed onto patches of sand, carefully avoiding the coral. And then it rained, so we enjoyed our first evening in the wheelhouse, looking longingly at the island!
Clear lagoon water
Next morning it appeared that reef sharks had made our hull their home, these creatures were rapidly dashing around Manatee. Some were up to half a metre in length, so we waited until another yacht expelled it's inhabitants into the lagoon before we were brave enough to go in!
With masks donned the reef sharks morphed into ramora's or sucker fish-known to live in the vicinity of large sharks or turtles- not so reassuring until we saw huge turtles. The ramoras happily adopted Manatee's large bum for our lagoon stay.
We had fluked our visit with turtle mating season so we felt extremely blessed.
A couple checking each other out.....
....nah, flippers too small
It was an amazing scene, turtles mate for hours and they drifted around the lagoon knocking into each other, tenders and boats without breaking apart. We drifted around the lagoon in our inflatable trying to stay out of their way but an enormous pair swept into us, jolting the inflatable and startling us...but not them. The inimitable lovers pushed off with their flippers without any interruption. The marine life was amazing, lots of beautiful fish and we were lucky enough to see a graceful manta ray. Patches of coral were spectacular but it was so disappointing to see the number of people who walked across it without thinking.
Sea creatures
beach near camping ground
We went for long walks on the island which is beautiful, the coral has been pounded into amazing fine sand which supports a pistonia forest. It is possible to camp on the island, all very
basic to keep disturbances low. It's a carry on everything, take everything back with you national park.
Noddies are the prominent birdlife, they nest in the pistonia forest and some come to a sticky end.
node of noddies
sucessful noddie nest
After glorious days of lazing about, swimming, snorkeling, walking and telling the girls "you can get off the boat soon, you wouldn't like the island at all' we had a night of pure hell. Weather checks had not alerted us to this event. A storm set in around 2100hrs that was scary,terrifying, horrifying and a little bit frightening. We encounted 50kt winds and the lagoon became a hot surf spot with breakers crashing over the reef. Thunder was deafening and the lightening was zapping around the anchorage in circles. We practiced extreme yoga, keeping watch while holding all body parts off our steel boat! The yacht anchored closest to us dragged and just missed us. Our anchor chain which had become a little tangled over the days suddenly straightened plummeting us back toward the reef. Needless to say we were up all night with the engine on ready to move.
anchorage on a calm day
The next morning was calm and clear with a "what storm?" feel about it. The lagoon was deserted as BOM (better late than never!) predicted more of the same. We exited the lagoon a little stressed, helming between the turtles into a very rolly sea. Destination Pancake Creek.