Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull, MV Grinner
Crew: Craig Newton (skipper)
A high over the Tasman, maintained a ridge along the east Queensland coast, bringing strengthening northerly winds. Winds early on NW 10-15 knots, soon increasing to 20 knots in more open waters and to 25-30 knots N-NW by late morning. Mainly clear sky but with a deal of smoke haze closer inshore and some high cloud cover developing later in the day. Visibility, quite good, max. air temp. 28 C, barometer 1016 hPa.
Fairly light seas on a moderate swell on leaving the Seaway, quickly increasing on entering more exposed waters and at widest point with the stronger winds, seas up to 2 metres on up to at times 3 metre swells. Sea surface temps. 20.2 C at the Seaway, 22.8 C on first crossing the Shelf-break, quickly rising to 23.7 C shortly after. EAC running at approx. 1.5 knots.
The weather forecast was looking dodgy to say the least, with strengthening northerlies but still within our parameters of safety, so on the Friday evening when everyone rang in I gave the go ahead for the trip. The Strong Wind Warning was issued after my last weather check that evening, for later on Saturday afternoon. The skipper rang and we discussed the situation and as three Victorians had made the trip north for some of our pelagic specialties (most notably Black-bellied Storm-Petrel) we decided to push ahead and take a cautious approach. As it turned out, despite the increasingly difficult conditions, we
zigzagged out to just outside the Shelf waters and made the most of a difficult day.
Departed the Southport Seaway at 0600 hrs and proceeded in a NE direction to maximise comfort, this changing to a more easterly direction as conditions changed and we finally reached the Shelf-break at 0910 hrs. approx. 23 nautical miles ENE of Southport. Drifted in a SE direction until 1145 hrs when, with the increasingly difficult conditions decided to head slowly back, arriving back at the Seaway at 1525 hrs. Duration of trip 9 hrs 25 mins.
On leaving the Seaway, zero trawler activity due to the high winds and inshore little around save for a few groups of foraging Crested Terns and low numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters with a lone sub-adult Australasian Gannet sitting on the water just a couple of nautical miles from shore. Hardly anything at all crossing the Shelf, with a few Short-tailed Shearwaters heading quickly south and a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appearing astern of the vessel.
On stopping at what was to be the only drift we were almost immediately joined by a pair of Crested Terns, followed straight after by singles of Providence Petrel and Wilson's Storm-Petrel. For the next hour or so, not much changed, with low numbers of Providence Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters appearing in the slick. Finally at 1020 hrs the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel appeared close in at the stern of the vessel, much to the delight of one particular Victorian birder. At 1110 hrs the next good bird of the day appeared close in, a dark Kermadec Petrel flew close to the vessel briefly but
with excellent views before disappearing down the slick. Shortly after, an intermediate Kermadec appeared and gave even better views as it circled closely then landed, to feed a short distance away in the slick.
Up to two Black-bellied Storm-Petrels with several Wilson's Storm-Petrels were now circling the vessel, along with more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Providence Petrels but at 1145 hrs with the conditions deteriorating further it was time to head for home. Obviously, conditions made it difficult for observation on the way back but at 1240 hrs and several miles back on the Shelf a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel joined us in the slick, no doubt attracted by the berley bag bouncing astern of the vessel, this bird followed us for some distance, at times approaching to within a few metres. Little else showing back across the shelf until nearing the Seaway with small numbers of foraging Crested and Common Terns, diving for surface bait fish, with the first Arctic
Jaeger of the Spring joining in.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel - 13 (4)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel - 6 (2)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater - 49 (20)
Short-tailed Shearwater - 5 (1)
Kermadec Petrel - 2
Providence Petrel - 12 (4)
Australasian Gannet - 1
Pied Cormorant - 2
Arctic Jaeger - 1
Common Tern - 6
Crested Tern - 126 (100)