Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Wow, a pitstop with a difference - nesting seabirds and mating turtles

The view from our anchorage .
Chesterfield Reef has been all that we could have hoped for, and more! If you look at our YIT page, we think that Patricia from Gulf Harbour Radio has posted a Google Earth image of our location.
The wind calmed the day after we arrived so, after a great night's sleep, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine to attack the accursed deck leak. Graham spent most of the day removing the interior of the forward heads locker to allow him to unbolt and remove one of the chain plates (to which the lower shroud is attached at the deck) and then set about cutting out perished caulking in between the teak planks; meanwhile Dianne sorted lockers below (in preparation for the strict biosecurity inspection we'll get on arrival in Australia) and then moved on to sort minor leaks from the ventilation dorade vents. Re-sealing the deck involved miles of masking tape and a two-person team to apply the new sealant, smooth it with a putty knife then removed the tape before the sealant hardened. We had a bit of a worrying moment when the second tube of sealant turned out to have gone off, in spite of its seal being unbroken and it still being (just) within its use-by date; there are no chandleries here but luckily we managed to find enough useable material in a part-used tube to finish the job. So, it was a long, long day in hot sunshine but we kept looking up at the birds circling us and down in to the dazzlingly turquoise water to remember that there could be a lot worse places to do this!
By comparison, yesterday was a delightful day off. We launched Dingy McDingface and motored 3/4 mile to a little island to the south of us. The smell of a thousand nesting seabirds was a little strong but the sight was just incredible. On the grassy higher ground there were Terns sheltering their single, surprisingly large, eggs from the ravages of the sun and predatory Frigate Birds and on the beach Australasian Gannets nested just above the high tide mark, their wings having drawn a perfect circle of brushed sand as they turned on their eggs. In the small, scrubby bushes and trees blue-billed Boobies perched on branches looking too frail for their weight (these are big birds, the size of a pheasant) or sharing messy nests of twigs with huge, white downy chicks, looking almost like baby penguins, who were shouting for more food. As we walked carefully past them the birds just watched us, relatively unperturbed by our presence, so we were able to get some great close-up photos; every now and then, though, a few birds would suddenly rise into the air to act as a catalyst to the others and the sky would be filled with wheeling, squawking birds for a while until they settled back down. The noise was deafening.
We left the birds in relative peace and walked along the pristine white beach to the west end of the island. In the shallows a very large turtle lay resting and we could see some big splashes a hundred metres out into the lagoon – there were turtles mating out there! Returning to the dinghy we paddled out and drifted with the breeze only about 5 metres from a pair locked in the process of making babies; we did feel slightly guilty about intruding on this very private moment but we didn't seem to put them off their stride at all! After ten minutes of taking photos and video we left them to it and returned to Maunie.
So, as you will imagine, this morning we've spent a lot of time editing the hundreds of photos and we'll post a few of them on the blog as soon as we get to Australia. Which, we think, will be on Tuesday. We are just checking the weather – there may be a rain front crossing us tomorrow or Saturday which could possibly delay us a day or two– and hope to leave on Saturday morning; it's 430nm to Bundaberg so that'll take 3 days.

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