An Aquascene Ride Around Magnetic Island
I was ready to get on a small boat again. I’d been avoiding them since my husband Bob died. I was back in Townsville, Australia where Bob and I had chartered a sailboat in 1999. I’m staying on an island just off the coast of Townsville called Magnetic Island. Travel has just opened up in Australia two weeks ago after the covid shut down. In fact no one, except residents was allowed to travel to Magnetic Island until two weeks ago.
I called the tour desk and asked which charter boats were working. They recommended Aquascene Charters. They said I could catch the boat at the marina next to the ferry terminal.
I got up early Saturday morning and packed my beach bag with a swimming suit, towel, sun screen and snacks. I boarded the Sunbus that runs everyday back and forth across the island. Almost the entire island is a national park, and this bus is one of the park’s features. I got to the terminal early and Adam wasn’t ready to have me get on board yet. I talked to the sailboat moored next door and they invited me on board. It was a nice Benetoe (French) yacht. We talked sailing while I waited for Adam to ready the Aquascene. It is the little flat boat next to the sailboat.
Finally the boat was ready and I got onboard, along with 9 other passengers. There were actually just 5 family groups, and people did do social distancing even though there are only two active cases in all of Queensland. Captain Adam gave us a safety talk and then asked us what we wanted to do for the day. We could sightsee, snorkel, do catch and release fishing, and hopefully see a whale. I was interested in sightseeing and seeing a whale or at least a sea turtle. No one wanted to go fishing, so we would have more time for sightseeing and snorkeling. We had to be back at the dock by 3:00 so some people could catch the ferry back to Townsville.
As we pulled out of Nelly Bay Captain Adam pointed out a ship that had been sunk on purpose to make the harbor, only the guys that sunk it were drunk on rum and sunk it in the wrong place. The water was so clear, you could see the rusting boat below:
The coastline of Magnetic Island was beautiful and unusual. When Captain Cook first saw it his compass was not working right. He blamed the problems on the strange rocks that appeared to teeter on the coast. These rocks look like they could only be held in place by magnetical forces, hence he called the island magnetical island, but the al was later dropped. These granite rocks look like they are going to fall down, but they are actually very stable and have stayed in place for all man time.
Our first stop was to go snorkeling. I put on a wet suit and planned to go in, but the water was just too cold. I remembered from my trip in 1999 that the ocean water here in winter was the same as swimming in Lake Superior, except of course it is salty and there are reefs.
Captain Adam approached me with a strange question, he asked, “Are you brave?”
I just stared at him, not comprehending the question. I didn’t feel particularly brave especially when faced with cold water.
“I just want you to feed a bird.” He said.
“Okay,” I answered, wondering why I should be brave to feed a bird. I’m comfortable with most animals.
He handed me a fish, and said, “Just hold it out there, while I film you.”
I did as I was told. Holding the cold slimy fish out over the water upright, while I faced the camera. My back was to the water, so I didn’t see what was coming. It was straight out of Jurassic Park, only much smaller, thank goodness. I was very surprised to be so brave.
Next stop was a warm beach for brunch. Adam asked, “Do you want to eat on the boat or on the beach?” We decided to have lunch on the beach. He said the sand was sharp so I carried my sandals through the water, but I didn’t need them, the warm rough sand felt wonderful on my feet. I headed to a nice warm rock to warm up.
The rocks on the hills around the beach looked like they should be tumbling into the ocean. I ran around snapping pictures everywhere.
As we lifted anchor I had to record the solar winch he had on the back of the boat. It was wonderful. I would have loved to have something like that on our sailboat. I asked Captain Adam about it, he said, “Yes it is wonderful, I had it for four years, and haven’t had any trouble with it.” It was powered by solar cells on the roof of the boat.
We still hadn’t seen a turtle or a whale. Suddenly some of the passengers said, “Look over there.” In the distance dolphins were playing. We slowed down and drifted closer. Adam said, “These aren’t the friendly dolphins they are shy Indo Pacific Dolphins. They may have been shy, but they played near us. We counted five splashing in the water.
He said we had one more place to snorkel in what he called Bombie coral. There are coral that grow up out of the ocean like a mushroom. They grow very slowly, only 1.5 meters every 100 years!!!. It was too cold for me to go in, in fact just three people did.
We hurried back to Nelly Bay and arrived just as the Ferry Boat was loading. It was an absolutely marvelous ride.