Prepare to embark on an unforgettable dive into the awe-inspiring world of humpback whales that migrate past Magnetic Island. Nestled off the coast of Queensland, Australia, our island paradise sets the stage for a breathtaking spectacle as these gentle giants make their annual journey. Get ready to be enthralled by the exhilarating sights, discover the ecological significance, and learn how to responsibly witness their majestic migration in this special feature.
A pit-stop at Magnetic Island
A humpback’s migration is the longest on the planet, covering thousands of kilometres from the icy waters of Antarctica to the tropical paradise of the Great Barrier Reef. And guess what? Magnetic Island lies right in their path! Between June and August, these incredible creatures grace the waters with their presence, often with their newborn calves, providing lucky onlookers with front-row seats to an epic show. Every encounter is unique, just like their underwater songs!
Brace yourself for an adrenaline rush! Picture this: a colossal, 40 tonne humpback whale breaches the surface, soaring high above the waves before crashing back with an earth-shaking splash. Their jaw-dropping displays of power and grace will leave you in awe. But that is not all! These playful giants are known for tail slapping, spy hopping, and even waving hello with their massive fins. Each encounter is a reminder of just how extraordinary nature can be.
Guardians of the reef
As we marvel at the splendour of these magnificent creatures, it is important to recognize their vital role in the marine ecosystem, with approximately 7000 Humpback whales migrating through the tropical waters of North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. Humpback whales protect the delicate balance of the oceanic world. Their nutrient-rich faecal matter serves as a natural fertiliser, nurturing the growth of phytoplankton, which in turn sustains the entire food chain. Their majestic presence is a clear indicator of a thriving and healthy ecosystem.
Protect and Preserve
There's something magical about the bond between humans and whales. For centuries, these gentle giants have captured our hearts and imagination. Amazingly, the humpback whale can reach a cruising speed of 10kts (18.5km/hour) - we must respect their space! Remember, watercraft must give at least 100 metres of space, and ensure that no more than three watercraft are within 300 metres of a whale’s path. By respecting their space, we can ensure an unforgettable experience while minimising any disruption to their natural behaviours. Their presence awakens a sense of wonder and connection that transcends language and culture. It reminds us of our responsibility to protect and cherish the natural world that sustains us all.
Sails Magazine showcases the Townsville region in a fantastic article by Scott Alle (Apr/May 2019).
The article explores the region from Townsville (including Magnetic Island) to Cairns and gives cruising sailors a great insight into what to expect from the region. It's well worth a read but more importantly the regions is definitely worth a visit!!
There are so many reasons to come here. It provides the perfect climate to escape the cold from the southern states winter, the sailing is excellent, there are heaps of islands to visit and of course we have the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep!
If you're visiting the region in late August/early September and are keen on sailing, do yourself a favour and jump on board one of the racing yachts at Magnetic Island Race Week hosted by the Townsville Yacht Club. In our humble opinion it's the best of the Queensland regattas offering a very relaxed vibe where crews mingle and socialise both on and off the water.
Time for a visit!!
How do you provision a boat for Cruising?
Provisioning (i.e. shopping) for several weeks cruising offshore is a very different from your weekly shop at the local supermarket, when you can pop back if you forget the butter.
After over six months of living on board we learnt a little bit about the dos and don'ts of provisioning. Often the hard way. So when we were asked by our friends from Pilgrim's bestie "Wine-Dark Sea" to give a talk at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron to their cruising members about provisioning for cruising, we welcomed the opportunity to share what our tips.
You can see all recommendations in the link to the presentation below.
Time to head south to Sydney for the summer season.
On 25th September 2015 - Pete and Sarah joined us at Keppel Bay Marina, Rosslyn Bay for the journey south to Sydney. A trip to Rosslyn Bay is not complete without a trip to the Fishermans Market or the Capricornia Cruising Yacht Club
First stop, when the wind eased, was Great Keppel Island where we showed Sa & Pete the cruising way with sundowners on the beach with all the other cruising sailors.
After that we were heading for the reef - after lots of local advice we settled on North West Island for our first reef experience (on this leg of the trip) and it didn't let us down. On the sail from Great Keppel to North West Island we were blessed with heaps of sea-pets to keep us company - whales, dolphins and a shark. With the recent siting of the shark our senses were heightened and when we arrived at North West Island desperate for a swim in the clear blue waters we paused to identify some unknown creatures in the water which looked scarely close to the fins of sharks, but they weren't moving in quite the right way. We paused for lunch to assess the situation and finally figured out they were manta rays. Suddenly everyone wanted to jump in again!
We went for a budgie ride to get to the reef and then went for a snorkel in. Pete was lucky enough to swim with the manta rays a little bit later. All very special.
We settled in for the night enjoying celebratory champagne for arriving in paradise with a spectacular sunset followed by a full moon rise. Perfection - with very few boats around us.
The next day we left for Fitzroy Reef and went via Heron Island and Wistari Reef. There was a nice wide channel between the two with incredible green waters showing us where the reef was. Again dolphins and whales to great our arrival at Fitzroy Reef.
The channel to get into the lagoon was terrifyingly narrow with a strong current but very deep so we were all stationed to a position - bow and at the shrouds - to assist Paul in the navigation of the channel. We could all breathe again once we'd anchored clear of bommies and could see the anchor on the bottom in 9m of water. Incredible.
Lunch then a snorkel was the plan, which wasn't as successful as we'd hoped - suffice to say our trip to Fitzroy Reef was cut short with a little accident which required Paul to get medical assistance. Crew stepped into action promptly and in text book fashion with the medical kit followed by a pan pan.
Thankfully we were assisted by an incredible boat called "Hooked on Two" from Hooked on 1770 Fishing Charters who came to our assistance and took Paul to 1770 for onward transfer to Bundaberg Hospital.
Pete, Sarah and I sailed the boat overnight to Bundaberg where we caught up with Paul - who seemed very happy to be surrounded by attentive nurses!
After 24 hours and safe in the knowledge that Paul was being looked after in hospital we continue the journey south to make the tide window to go through the Great Sandy Strait. The plan was for Paul to meet us in Southport of Tin Can Bay.
We stopped the night at Kingfisher Resort before embarking on the 3.5 hour trip through the shallow and very shallow waters of the inside passage. A nerve-wracking experience but after 3 touches we were safely through and quickly made the call that we were NOT crossing Wide Bay Bar without Paul, especially as on the outside strong winds were forecast for 24 hours.
Tin Can Bay was a little piece of heaven and the yacht club seemed the right place for dinner!
The next day Paul returned to the boat with 28 stitches in this knee for day late birthday celebrations.
Thankfully the rest of the trip was less eventful - crossing Wide Bay Bar was still hair-raising but with the co-ordinates from VMR Tin Can Bay and watchful eyes on the leads, chart and the breaking waves we crossed it with no issues.
We were on a deadline to get to Coffs to avoid a strong southerly that was forecast to come in at 1pm in two days time. We smoked down the coast, surrounded by heaps of whales (one breached so close to the boat much to Sarah's delight & fright!) and arrived at 7am - right on cue at 1pm with tripled up mooring lines we watched Pilgrim tack in the berth as 55 knots howled around us. Glad we weren't outside!!
On 9th October it was time for the penultimate trip south to Pittwater for a few days refuge before the final sail through Sydney Heads on 15th October.
What a trip!!!!
For more details on this trip you can read it on Wine Dark Sea's blog (Sarah & Pete's blog).
Sailing from Townsville to Orpheus Island.
Our next guests arrived for a long weekend on Pilgrim, sailing from Townsville Yacht Club to Orpheus Island Resort. We spotted our first whale of the season, discovered some beautiful new anchor spots off the beaten track, snorkelled, sailed, explored and relaxed!
With a commitment to meet the Magnetic Island Race Week organisers and the local press we had no time to waste on our trip up to Townsville. With stops only at Woodwark Bay (again), Gloucester Island, Cape Upstart we arrived with a couple of days up our sleeve to explore Magnetic Island. What a heavenly place it is. More photos when we have more time here....maybe next winter...stay tuned?!?!
A great little spot 6 miles north of Airlie Beach is the exclusive resort of Woodwark Bay. It has a lovely little beach with a creek which treated us with our second mud crab. A little nerve-wracking when we find out after exploring in the creek that it's home to a croc!
During June we've been exploring the Whitsundays - unfortunately a bit of rain and strong winds means we've been staying mainly on the western side of Whitsunday and Hook Islands - with our favourite anchorage being Sawmill Bay with great sunsets and rainbows.
Another glorious spot - can't believe the resort isn't in operation. It's a beautiful island with great opportunities but seems it has been closed for several years. Well worth a visit if it ever re-opens or if you're sailing by!
Another new anchorage for us and again well worth checking out and "respectfully ignoring" the charts depth of 1.1m!!
The second fishing success....a 1 metre spotted mackerel. All a bit exciting as it was caught in Budgie (the dinghy) - not much room for us once the fish had made an appearance!
With a strong wind warning - there's nowhere else we'd like to anchor than Scawfell. An old faithful for us. Weather was a bit sketchy with winds and rain but nothing to stop a bit of exploring on the beach.
Trying to break from the Middle Percy mould we tried South Percy initially but at the tide change around 4pm the rolling became unbearable so we headed straight to the "comfort" of Middle Percy. A very social anchorage (as usual) - drinks in the A-frame with plenty of other yachties and some delicious nibbles - fresh coconut marinated in honey and lime juice was very memorable.
Crab pot was set in the boat harbour finally with success (after some tips from the locals) - a lovely large mud crab. Yum yum - Singapore Chilli Mud Crab for dinner! Hmmm slight problem - no crab cracking utensils..pliers will do!
A late arrival into Gladstone was spectacular - Methane Heather Sally (270m long and 44m wide) welcomed us as we first entered the channel. AIS status - "DANGEROUS". First time we'd seen this and quite such a large ship heading for us!
The marina is a LONG LONG way in (2 hours motoring). Lucky there was so much to keep us entertained - ships going everywhere, sun setting and more lights than you can imagine.
There is something fascinating and intriguing about the port. Time to explore!
After hopping up the coast doing various overnighters it was time for a bit of down time and exploring. Tin Can Bay is a perfect place to do just that!