2 miles (or about 4km) off the islands you can only just start to make out the small fishing shacks that identify The Abrolhos Islands which lay less than a 1m above sea level.
We avoid an unknown reef pass and sail around the top of the southern island group – The Pelsaert Group. We know this island group is poorly charted, so we carefully make our way to our first anchorage, keeping an eye out for uncharted reef. Middle Island is where we grabbed out first mooring in Abrolhos Islands. Being 60km off of Geraldton Western Australia, it’s pretty remote here. It is famous for the historic Dutch Shipwreck The Batavia in 1629… if you don’t know this story it is an intense and gruesome one, which eventually a movie will be made of.
The crystal clear water was so enticing when we arrived and with no one around for miles, I stripped off and dove in. Base wasn’t so quick to get in. I convinced him and he dives in, but just as quickly gets back out. Lucky, I get out too, because 20 mins later a 6-7 foot Tiger Shark swims pass the boat. The still water means we get to really see him (or her) and what a beautiful creature it is.
Of course this makes us weary and we don’t plunge over the side of the boat as quickly. We save our swims for areas where we can keep watch from the boat, or behind protected shallow reefs. Once was enough to make us think twice about just diving in anywhere. We got to realise soon after arriving that around each mooring sharks were common, and we think this might have to do with boats cleaning their fish at the mooring and Sharks getting familiar with that.
Meeting some crew on a boat up for a Fishing Trip was a nice change… having just each other to talk to means we welcome new conversations with new people! We got to hear about their diving and spear fishing experiences and even get a Baldchin Grouper for dinner. Thanks Back in Black! It was much appreciated.
We decided after a couple cloudy days to sail further South into the Pelsaert Group. I spent the two hour sail on the bow looking for coral reefs that weren’t charted. With my polarised sun glasses I helped us avoid a few reefs that came out of nowhere (from 30m to less than 2m). It was the most magical day and the wind dropped out so we had to motor a bit, but the still water made it feel like we were sailing over an aquarium with the reefs so vivid and clear to sea.
We got to the south end of Pelsaert Island and anchored up. The beautiful white sandy beach and turquoise waters were breathtaking. We met another boat – Monkey Me. Sue and Tarci are cruisers making their way around Australia. Their boat is a beautiful 38 foot Tiki Wharram catamaran, which they built. The best part about meeting Sue and Tarci was that they have put effort into how to reduce their sailing footprint in a way that Base and I dream of doing!
They have electric Torquedo motors (charged by solar and wind power). A composting toilet so they break down their waste on board and they grow their own veggies with a hydroponic set up using grey water that they make.
That is just some of the amazing things that they are doing. We shared a spectacular evening with them without a breath of wind. We joined them on their Wharram with a wood fire going in a little stove and we made wood fired pizzas. We talked about their many sailing adventures and it was inspiring to say the least. A night like that with mirror glass ocean and bright vivid stars even reflecting in the water, is one we will never forget.
We spent two nights at Pelsart Island. We gently cleaned the hull of the boat. I was on deck for shark watch and Base was in the water. I only had to call him out once when a 4-5 foot shark approached.
We did a beach marine debris survey and found a bunch of plastics and fishing gear from cray pots. You can find more about that here ( coming soon!)
After a morning of yoga on the beach with a couple sea lions lounging nearby, we did a Micro plastics survey of a 1 m square transect covering the high tide line. Surprisingly we didn’t find any micro plastics here. Not even 1 bit of identifiable plastic! YAY!
But it was obvious to us that the marine debris we did find was very degraded, some crumbling apart when you touched it. So unless regular island cleans ups are done, micro plastics will become more of a problem in the area.
We had one of the most amazing dolphin experiences of our lives with the pod lingering and hanging out near the boat for a while in crystal clear still water. So far we felt like Abrolhos is an amazing place to explore and we still had two more island groups to go and visit.
We planned our sail up to the Easter Group and had a beautiful wind to take us there. We finally started to slip into the cruising boat life quite nicely.