A few key points to consider before we head off on the day.

Remember, any time you are out on the water the weather can change quickly! We recommend that regardless of the weather forecast you always bring a rain jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Wear comfortable shoes. Its not fun walking in those beautiful high heels on a moving boat deck! Regardless of how good the shoes look, you run the risk of looking less than steady on your feet! Think and plan ahead and give us the best chance to make sure we can do our thing to make sure you enjoy your time with us to the max!

Choose your experience for some of the best Whale Watching of the year.

With the Sunshine coast whale watching season closing at the end of the month it surprises some people to know that there is in fact often no better time  for some truly amazing whale encounters. The number of whales in September and October, heading back to the antarctic waters, is simply astounding. And so many of them have of course their new family additions swimming alongside them. (and the calves are usually so playful too!).

In fact this time of year you will often get the chance to spend time with a number of different pods. Some in groups of 5 or more together.

Why Choose Sunshine Coast Afloat for your whale watching?

When choosing who to whale watch with there are a number of operators  and vessels on the sunshine coast. From the biggest and most well known operators of Whale One and Croc one down to the smallest with Set Sail Cruises or Hella-va-jet. This now give visitors (and locals) to Mooloolaba a much better range of operators to choose from for their experience with the whales.  Every operator is different. These differences will range from the type and size of vessel, to the actual way you get to interact with the whales. Some of the larger vessels will take up to 120 passengers on a trip, and then with the smaller vessels as little as 5. Smaller groups can often mean you might have the boat to yourselves. The larger vessels usually have the ability to pay on board for additional amenities (food and drinks), or come as “all inclusive” tours.

At Sunshine Coast Afloat we operate a small fleet of vessels from 5m-17m. We specialise in small group charters from 2 people up to 23 people on our vessels Crusader 1, Hela-va-jet and SupaYot.  We work closely with all other regional operators including Sunshine Seaplanes who often help locate the whales before we even leave the dock. All of this to allow us to get you quickly, and comfortably, close up to our large marine friends.

Because, as mentioned, we specialise in smaller groups, our tours are aimed squarely at those people that want a guaranteed railside, uninterrupted viewing position.  We don’t need PA systems to be heard of the noise larger groups always generate. Your experience is purely directly with our friendly experienced skippers and crew, who are there to assist you and answer any “whaley questions” you may have. No matter where you go on board, you will never be standing behind someone having your view blocked. You will never struggle to find a comfortable seat when you want to have a sit down. In fact, we do everything we can to make you feel as if you are on a large private trip with just a few friends. The sort of trip we all really want to have!  Add in the fact that the Whales certainly seem to love our boats, constantly having a number of very close personal encounter this season and last.

Sunshine Coast Afloat is a small Family business with a complete focus on providing high quality experiences and service.  Every member of our crew have young families of their own, ensuing a great understanding of your family’s needs. Each of our skippers have been working on the ocean for over 10 years, in all areas of marine tourism. From Scuba Diving to long range expedition cruising, up and down the east coast of Australia. Each brings their own knowledge and experience with them them and all are willing to share this knowledge with any of our passengers interested. Their experience and understanding of what our customers need and deserve means that your time is valuable and is treated as such by each and every crew member.

 

A humpback whale shows her tail near Crusader 1 on the Sunshine Coast

When choosing your boat with Sunshine Coast Afloat it’s worth knowing the facts:

Crusader 1

Crusader 1 coming back to her home port
  • Spacious and very stable 17m Conquest West Coaster
  • Cruising speed of up to 23 knots
  • Max 23 passengers.
  • All inclusive with food and non alcoholic drinks.
  • 2 toilets
  • 2 decks
  • LOTS of seating to accommodate more people than actually aboard.

Crusader 1 is one of the largest charter vessels on the Sunshine Coast. So large that most other operators would easily run up to 100 or more passengers on a vessel this size. With just a maximum of 23 people the most common comment we get is “Gee, the boat almost seems empty!”. And that is the feeling we want for our guests because that means you have both room and privacy aboard! Room to move about. Room to position yourself for the best view or angle possible. And privacy to not feel crowded or “sardined” in. Privacy to feel that you are having a very special and privileged experience!

Our main deck is only 1m above sea level. So when the whales decide to check us out you are SUPER close! Anyone that has had this experience will agree, its an emotional and moving experience!

Our forward deck is only 2m above sea level and its quite common to stand there and watch the whale swim right under our bow! Dolphins are also often seen playing in the wake as we head out or on our way back in.

Hela-Va-Jet

2 shots of Hela-Va Jet during whale Watching trips
  • 9.5m enclosed Oceantech Jet Boat
  • Cruising speed of 35knots (70km/hr)
  • Seats up to 12 but only takes 4-8 passengers (10 with 2 kids) for whale watching.
  • All inclusive whale watching

Hela-va-jet’s size and speed make her an ideal whale watching platform for small groups in sea conditions up to 1.5m of swell. She has the ability to get you out to the whales up to 10 miles off shore within 15 min of leaving the river mouth. In calmer seas enjoy the smooth, fast, air conditioned ride. And when the seas pick up strap in for a high speed adrenaline filled ride out to the whales as the highly experienced skippers twist and turn through the waves.

Once with the whales your skipper will open up Hela-va-Jet’s full length gullwing doors allowing you to move around the cabin getting the best views from at sea level with the whales.

Hela-va-Jet’s size allows her to sit on a single wave preventing the twisting motions you can get on larger vessels (which usually contributes to sea sickness) making for a very comfortable, fun and easy time with the whales.

If any above the information above sounds like something you are interested in just give us a call on 0402 625 825 or 0412 155 814 or jump online. We would love to have you aboard!

The highlights from August 2017

August proved to be another fabulous month here on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We really only had one (and a half) weekend(s) out due to unpleasant weather.  Although we have not had rain for some time now,  we have experienced a few, shall we say “ordinary” days, with strong winds and swelly seas, keeping us grounded in port.

Whale Watching Trips

On the other side of things, our mid-week WHALE WATCHING trips are, slowly, gaining momentum.  Some of these have been absolutely spectacular to say the very least. Even our bird watching trips (More on these below) have turned into amazing whale watching trips! Have a look at a few of the images and some footage:

 

Hela-Va Jet, our offshore Jet Boat, is getting the same results most trips as well. And when you as close to the water as you are on this boat, the whales really look VERY big!

2 shots of Hela-Va Jet during whale Watching trips

Deep Sea Fishing

With the abnormally high winter temperatures (We have not really had much of a Winter here on the Sunshine Coast at all this year) we certainly have not seen the influx of Snapper and Cobia we normally do.  Most trips are still very much a mix of both Summer and Winter species. Towards the end of the month we finally started to see a bit of a resurgence of the Spanner crabs, even though the vast majority are well under size. At least there are clearly crabs about which will hopefully spawn in November and December to restock the levels back to where they should be.

Amongst our August trips one of the highlights was the 11 hour fishing charter which took us out past the Barwon Banks in search of the bigger fish, and we were not disappointed.  It was actually Angie’s birthday and it was a stonker of a day.

Angie getting her cake (and eating it too!) aboard Crusader 1.

And Angie got in on the fishing action too as you can see below!

A snapshot of some of the fish caught during August aboard Crusader 1.

August in general did see a lot of Tea Leaf Trevally, Amberjack, Parrotfish (Surprisingly so), and Mack Tuna. Along with the usual year round fish such as cod, pearlies, squire, Mowong, tuskies etc.

A snapshot of 2 of the trips results in August 2017 aboard Crusader 1.

This stunning Coral Trout was released back to the Coral Sea to fight another day and the only memory the person that caught it wanted was this picture of it. So I thought I would share it will everyone as these fish are seldom released!

Aboard Crusader we have been experimenting with different styles of bait, and we believe we have found an excellent mix which is seeing great results in most conditions. A combination of our own designs of both hooks and plastics combined with bait is the final result of which our customers feedback has been overwhelmingly positive!

We have had a lot of groups book their trips with us. Our vessel’s size at 55 foot makes it ideal for larger groups to still be able to head out for a day of fun together. We also had another school outing which was again strongly supported by Gary of De Bretts on Parkyn Parade.

Two of the many groups hosted aboard Crusader 1 during August. On the left is a school group from St Teresa in Noosaville.

August also saw another Pelagic birdwatching trip (you can read the full post on that here). Its funny how we all hang out for calmer winds and seas for fishing and whale watching, these guys prefer stronger winds. But so far every trip has seen beautiful calm conditions, making their trips more whale and marine watching than true pelagic bird watching! Ah well, as they say, “be careful what you wish for!”. No doubt they will soon enough have the weather they are currently wishing for.

The arrow shows the Brown Boobie on the Trawler. The passengers carry some of the most impressive camera gear we ever see aboard Crusader 1.

General Trip stuff

Of course the Beautiful Coral Sea off Mooloolaba here on the Sunshine Coast provided for some amazing sunrises over the ocean. Zoe took a number of amazing shots. Here are just 2 of them:

A couple of Sunrise Shots taken by Zoe aboard Crusader 1.

And of course we still had the other usual marine encounters such as dolphins (Yes, Crusty is still visiting us almost every day when fishing!).

It’s a common sight to see dolphins enjoying swimming in the wake created by Crusader 1 as she steams along.

So that caps off another month of fun and sunshine here on the Sunshine Coast. With the September school holidays just around the corner, we can only hope that the weather gods decide to grant us all more of the same.

We hope to see all of you out with us for some awesome fun soon!

The highlights from July 2017

What a fabulous July we had on the Sunshine Coast!  Spectacular weather with temperatures in the mid-twenties, you would think we were in Spring rather than Winter. We have not experienced the normal winter weather at all this year. In fact we are even still seeing some pelagic out there!  Overall fishing has not been too bad at all. The crabbing has been rather dismal with only 1 in every 5 trips hitting any real volume of crabs.

The weather certainly resulted in a massive influx of bookings and has allowed us take on a variety of different activities this month. All of which which has kept us on our toes and excited.

The great weather even allowed us to get TWO overnight charters out in July! The first of these being a single group booking, celebrating a couple of birthdays. The other overnight charter consisted of a lot of our regular customers, which is always a lot of fun for everyone involved!  Of course both trips were very different, but both successful in different ways.  Everyone certainly said they enjoyed the trips and almost all are asking about when we will be doing our next!

Night Fish often gives excellent fishing results as can be seen by this huge Sweetlip.
A nice Tusk Fish on one of the evening deep Sea Fishing Charters on Crusader 1

We decided to give August a miss – a good call as it turned out – as we tend to experience the strong Westerly winds in that month. In the 3 years of doing these trips we are yet to have a comfortable August overnight charter happen! The date we had pencilled in before we decided to “play safe” saw strong winds and high seas. So we made the right call and did not need to disappoint anyone that would have had a booking!

July saw a massive number of “common” fishing charters completed. Certainly nothing like the 60% cancellation rate due to unsuitable weather the prior months had been impacted by! Perhaps this is also one of the reason the fishing was often much better than expected.

The smile says it all! An awesome size Tusk Fish makes all the effort worthwhile!
Any Coral Trout is an exciting catch. Especially this size!

As a company we are always looking at ways to improve the experience we provide us customers. Fishing isn’t becoming any easier with the ongoing increases in boat numbers and without doubt the impact of huge overseas commercial fishing vessels. Large fish grow large for a reason. They have learnt to survive! So catching a large size fish requires more than just pure luck. Skill and technique are more often than not the key. And to assist in this we trialled a number of different “plastics” in July. Some more successful than others. These plastics need to be matched with the correct hooks etc. So we ended up getting our own designs made for us to ensure we were able to get the best possible results. And we believe the result are more than encouraging. We’ll never remove bait fishing entirely, but the impact we are seeing from the plastics is so strong we feel it will become a very key component of our setup moving forward.

Of course this time of year whale watching really starts to hit its strides. Especially towards the end of July into August. The now clearly rapidly growing numbers of whale migrating up the Eastern coastline is making for more and more frequent amazing encounters. Both Crusader 1 and Hela-Va Jet offer very personal and special viewing of these special animals. The growth in our booking for whale watching trips is fantastic and we believe down to both our brilliant crew and the very private feel we have aboard our boats. Our focus is on giving the best possible viewing of the whales, and the only way to do that is have small passenger numbers on our vessels. With some mind blowing encounters already in July we can’t wait till August and September!!

Whale Watching aboard Hela-Va Jet on the Sunshine Coast
Another group enjoying the amazing Humpback Whales from HEla-Va Jets unique perspective
HEading out whale watching on Hela-Va Jet is exciting in many ways!
A pod of Humpbacks sees one whale head straight for Crusader 1
A curious whale pops up right next to Crusader to see what all the fuss is about.

July also saw our 2nd Pelagic Bird watching trip for the year. See the full post on that here. It’s funny how it goes. Fishing and whale watching needs to ideally have light winds, whilst we are told the pelagic birds are much more plentifull with winds speeds of 20 to 25 knots. Both Pelagic Bird trips have seen the most gentle of conditions of course! I bet our fishing and whale watching customers had that same luck every time!

 

Getting the best positions for the Pelagic Bird Watching trip in July 2017
Birds on the Bow of Crusader 1 on July’s Pelagic Bird Watching trip

Of course we had a number of other trips on as well. Cruises, Hens and Bucks parties to name a few. And of course a large number of the more common or standard fishing charters. See below images for a few images taken during those trips. Some great fish were caught. Just a bit of a pity the spanner crabs did not play the game as much this month.

A common sight on a nice day is the dolphins swimming and playing in the Bow wake of Crusader 1 as we steam along.
One of the local dolphins trying to get the attention of the passengers aboard Crusader 1
The spectacular Sunrises on offer over the Coral Sea from Mooloolaba never fail to impress!
Heading out before the Sun has risen gives a great sunrise over the ocean every time. It never fails to make an impression!
Steaming back in as the Sun prepares to set on another day of fun deep sea fishing aboard Crusader 1

Well that wraps up July 2017. A great month by any measure! Here is hoping to more of the same in August!

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Bird Watching Trip August 2017

sunshinecoastbirds blog.

Humpback spy-hopping. Pic by Rick Franks
Prolonged, multiple and unusually close encounters with multiple Humpback Whales were the highlight of the pelagic bird watching trip off the Sunshine Coast on Sunday August 27, 2017. No particularly unusual birds were encountered due to relatively calm conditions, though winter records of Tahiti Petrel and Sooty Tern were interesting.
Humpback Whale
Hopes were high with a forecast of winds from the right direction (E-SE) at 15 knots as we departed Mooloolaba Marina at 6.35am on another clear winter day. A Sooty Oystercatcher on the rocks at the Mooloolah River mouth was unexpected. This was the second pelagic foray on our 17m boat, Crusader 1, operated by Sunshine Coast family company Sunshine Coast Afloat. The deep-hulled vessel ploughed effortlessly through a swell of up to 2m that had been whipped up by strong winds offshore in the preceding days.
Humpback Whale with calf
We spotted quite a few Humpback Whales on the way out and a couple of small groups of Hutton’s Shearwaters, along with the first Wedge-tailed Shearwaters of the season. After a few stops we reached the shelf at 9.10am at 400m, 32 nautical miles offshore: 26.42.174S; 153.42.680E. We had an excellent encounter with a pod of Humpbacks in 300m and that set the pattern for the whole time we were out on the shelf, with whales frequently in sight and often venturing close to the boat. It is unusual to find Humpbacks out on the shelf and to see so many this day was quite extraordinary.
Providence Petrel
The first Providence Petrel soon appeared as began laying a berley trail and we were to have small numbers of these about while we off the shelf.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
Wilson’s  Storm-Petrel
Several Wilson’s Storm-Petrels put in an appearance along with a few more Wedge-tailed Shearwaters.
Hutton’s Shearwater
A single Tahiti Petrel was unexpected at this time of the year. A couple more Hutton’s Shearwaters flew by.
Sooty Tern – Pic by Malcolm Graham
Two Sooty Terns were seen distantly and Crested Terns were constantly about the vessel. A Tiger Shark was seen to surface briefly.
Humpback Whale head’s encrusted barnacles
The Humpback Whale encounters got better and better with the huge mammals on several occasions swimming under the vessel in clear view. These interactions culminated in a superb performance by an adult female and attendant adult male which in unison spy hopped several times, raising their massive, barnacle-encrusted heads above the water within a few metres of the boat to check us out.
Humpback Whale – Pic by Rick Franks
The whales were so close that my prime 400 lens was of little use; thanks to Rick Franks for some of these images. It was as well that the whales put on a show because the forecast fresh south-easterlies did not materialise, with a gentle breeze struggling to reach 8-10knots despite the vigorous swell. After drifting 3 nautical miles eastward to 800m, we turned around at 12.45pm to head back.
Humpback Whale

We saw plenty more Humpbacks and more Hutton’s Shearwaters, some not far from shore. We managed reasonable views of most shearwaters and there did not appear to be any Fluttering among them.

Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins

We had a nice encounter with a large pod of Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin, including a small juvenile.

Brown Booby

We found a Brown Booby perched on a trawler as the winds picked up quickly, sharply and belatedly.

Eastern Reef-Egret

We returned to the marina at 3.40pm, spotting an Eastern Reef Egret perched incongruously by the swimming pool of a canal home. Again, all aboard were impressed by the comfort, space and amenities of Crusader 1, along with the enthusiasm of its crew.

PARTICIPANTS: Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Chris Attewell, Duncan Cape, George Chapman, Jo Culinan, Robyn Duff, Rick Franks, Malcolm Graham, Matteo Grilli, John Gunning, Jane Hall, Mary Hynes, Russ Lamb, Davydd McDonald, John Merton, Trevor Ross, Eske Ross, Jim Sneddon, Raja Stephenson, Ged Tranter, Jamie Walker, Chris Watts, Chris Wiley.

SPECIES: Total (Maximum at one time)
Providence Petrel 25 (5)
Tahiti Petrel 1 (1)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 15 (3)
Hutton’s Shearwater 22 (6)
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 10 (2)
Brown Booby 1 (1)
Crested Tern 70 (20)
Sooty Tern 2 (2)
Pied Cormorant 2 (2)
Humpback Whale 80 (9)
Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin 25 (10)

12 POSSIBLE REASONS WHY WHALES BEACH THEMSELVES

As Whale Watching continues to grow as a tourism experience, the impact humans have and are having on whales is becoming both more apparent and yet at the same time in many areas less clear. Beached whales are an event that deeply touches everyone that hears about it, sees it, or is involved with. And as technology continues to “shrink” our world such events are becoming more and more known by more people. It is believed that whales have been beaching themselves since at least 300 B.C. but scientists are unsure if the increase is because more people are reporting it or if there is an actual increase in beaching’s. One thing is clear. A beached whale (or worse whales) create(s) a massive response from the public, and despite the obvious difficult situation will usually see enormous numbers of people doing everything possible to assist. Although there is still no clear cut explanation for why these beachings occur, the following 12 impacts are strongly believed to likely be at least partially the cause.

1) Injuries from collisions with boats, ships and other man-made obstructions.

As recently seen on the Gold Coast, Shark nets have an impact as do the many ships on the ocean with increased global trade, the opportunities for whales to collide with ships and become injured or disoriented causing them to accidentally strand themselves.

2) Water pollution

As our waterways are becoming more polluted, whales and other sea animals are suffering. They can become sick or poisoned from chemicals such as gas, plastics and rope in the sea as well as the daily waste products from everyday living.

3) Confusion due to man-made sonar

Some biologists and scientists think that whales may become disoriented, sick and confused by the use of man-made sonar which may interfere with a whales brainwaves causing the whale to lose its sense of direction and beach itself.

4) Natural diseases

Like any living creature, whales are susceptible to sickness or disease that may come about for an unknown reason or due to age.

5) Attacks from sharks or other marine mammals

Whales may beach themselves in an attempt to escape or find cover from shark attacks or attacks from other marine mammals such as the killer whale.

6) Poison from various aquatic species

While it is more difficult to find adequate information regarding whales being poisoned by other aquatic species it is definitely possible that a whale could become poisoned and disoriented causing it to swim to shore.

7) Changes or abnormalities in the earths magnetic field

Some biologists believe that abnormalities caused by changes in the earths magnetic field may interfere with a whales biological navigation causing it to lose its sense of direction

8) Pneumonia

Just as humans get Pneumonia so do whales and there are recorded cases of whales swimming to shore as a result of catching Pneumonia.

9) Traumas caused by various aquatic elements in the environment

While whales generally have a good sense of direction and are excellent swimmers there are some instances when a whale may collide with a large natural element (ie: a large rock) in its environment causing it to become injured and disoriented.

10) Changes in the weather and ocean caused by global warming

A common topic discussed today is global warming and its impact on the earth.

Changes in the tides, melting icebergs and shifting food sources such as fish may force whales to relocate and wander off course causing them to swim into shallow waters or possibly even beach themselves.

11) The whale has already died

The whale had died before beaching: Sometimes the whale is already dead when it becomes beached on the sea. It may have died naturally or from another cause. In some cases a whale may end up beached because it has already died and ended up washing ashore.

12) Following the pack

They are trying to help another whale: There is a theory that some whales beach themselves trying to find a whale who is crying out in distress because they have been beached. They try to follow their calls and end up in shallow waters or on the sand themselves Whales are very social creatures often travel in large pods or groups. In rare instances some pods or groups may unknowingly follow a sick or disoriented whale towards shallow waters and/or beaches where they can possibly get stuck in shallow water or end up beaching themselves. As stated earlier some of these theories are difficult to prove on a large-scale, however they are worth noting because each concept posses a possibility as to why whales beach themselves and is important for finding possible solutions to this problem, especially those that may be caused by the contribution of humans.

  • Noise pollution– As more and more artificial sounds enter the oceans atmosphere growing concerns are developing regarding the likelihood of man-made sounds affecting the hearing of various marine mammal species. These sounds may include sonar, loud jet engines and explosives among other noises.
  • Water pollution– Chemical pollution from oil and other toxic chemicals can have a dramatic affect on whale populations and affect their food supply. Poisoned fish could lead to sickness and death among the whales that consume these foods.
  • Collisions with boats – The increasing use of commercial/personal boats can lead to congested areas of water that may increase the chances of a whale being struck by a passing boat.
  • Overfishing– Areas that are being over fished could lead to shortages in food supplies which could forces the marine mammals to relocate or deal with having difficulties finding food.

Sunshine Coast Pelagic Bird Watching Trip July 2017

sunshinecoastbirds blog.

Brown Skua
Brown Skua and a fine suite of cetaceans were the highlights of the July 30, 2017 pelagic trip off Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The outing was significant because it was the first time we had used Sunshine Coast Afloat’s 17m Crusader 1, and all aboard as we departed Mooloolaba Marina on a crisp winter morning at 6.45am were looking forward to experiencing the new boat. We weren’t to be disappointed.
Crusader 1
The forecast did not bode well, with a breeze struggling to reach 5 knots as we departed the river mouth and headed out to sea on a swell of under 1m. It was very pleasant weather (surface temperature 22 degrees at 9am) but the winds were not going to be of the right speed and direction to net a substantial avian hall.
Brown Booby
On the way out we had a small group of Hutton’s Shearwaters and a smattering of migrating Humpback Whales. We stopped for whales and a Brown Booby perched on a trawler before reaching the shelf on the Barwon Banks 32 nautical miles offshore in 320 fathoms (26.4419S; 153.444E) at 9.15am. Without stops, it would have taken us a bit over 2 hours to reach the shelf.
Brown Skua with Providence Petrel victim
When he stopped at the shelf we saw a Brown Skua feeding on what we eventually identified as a Providence Petrel. The petrel had evidently been freshly killed as the skua was vigorously removing dry features from its victim.
Brown Skua with Providence Petrel victim
The skua allowed close approach and we saw it a couple more times while we were out on the shelf. Brown Skua is a rare winter visitor to south-east Queensland so this sighting was welcome.
Providence Petrel
We began laying a berley trail and soon the first live Providence Petrel put in an appearance. This species and Crested Tern were the only birds we saw regularly out on the shelf as conditions remained stubbonly mild with very little wind.
Mammals were more co-operative. We had several pods of Risso’s Dolphins, some of which showed nicely close to the boat.
Risso’s Dolphins
Risso’s Dolphins
Of particular interest was a small pod of Dwarf Minke Whales, another rare visitor to south-east Queensland waters. One of the whales surfaced briefly very close to the boat.
Dwarf Minke Whale
A single Tahiti Petrel put in an appearance – another winter record for a tropical species that is not supposed to be in these waters in winter. We saw a single Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and a couple more Hutton’s Shearwaters out wide.
Tahiti Petrel
Along with a few Australasian Gannets as we drifted eastwards for 7 knots before turning around in 470 fathoms and heading back to port. The wind picked up at this point to 10-12 knots, but from the north – not the best wind direction for seabirds in this part of the world. The Brown Booby was still at its trawler roost and the Humpbacks were plentiful if distant. We arrived back in port at 3.45pm.
Australasian Gannets
The boat fulfilled our most optimistic expectations in terms of creature comforts. Although 23 birders were on board, there was plenty of room to move about on deck and on the bow. Everyone was able to find a seat; hand rails were a welcome change; and an extensive roof provided shelter from the elements. Viewing conditions for seabirds from the deck were excellent. Most importantly, the deep-keeled, high speed monohull made for a smooth ride out and back.
All aboard
PARTICIPANTS: Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Grayham Bickley, Todd Burrows, Chris Burwell, Jo Culinan, Jan England, Cecile Espigole, Alex Ferguson, Hendrik Ferreira, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, Christian Haass, Bob James, Matt Latimore, Elliot Leach, Andrew Naumann, William Price, Jim Sneddon, Raja Stephenson, Ged Tranter, Paul Walbridge, Jamie Walker.

BIRDS Total Number Seen (Maximum seen at one time)
Tahiti Petrel 1 (1)
Providence Petrel 10 (2)
Hutton’s Shearwater 5 (3)
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 1 (1)
Brown Booby 1 (1)
Australasian Gannet 6 (2)
Brown Skua 1 (1)
Crested Tern 60 (20)
Silver Gull 1 (1)
MAMMALS
Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphin 4 (2)
Risso’s Dolphin 25 (7)
Humpback Whale 20 (3)

Dwarf Minke Whale 3 (2)

TWO BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS and OUR REGULARS HEAD OUT AGAIN

The mainly wonderful weather in July 2017  has allowed us to operate TWO overnight deep sea fishing charters in the same month for the first time ever. Mind you, as kind as the forecasts were we still had unexpected wind hit on both trips.  Luckily although not forecast, it was not enough for concern for to deter the experienced anglers aboard both trips.

The first of the overnight deep sea fishing charters

The first overnight charter was a celebration of two birthdays.  And what a way to celebrate! The forecast conditions were looking perfect nearly all week in the lead up, and all the boys were clearly really looking forward to this overnight deep sea fishing charter. So much so that they arrived in the morning and then waited anxiously till 3PM to board and head out on their adventure!

Two of the fish caught by Tama on the overnight Deep Sea Fishing Trip in July

The scene was set as best we could. The moon cycle, tides, wind, seas and swell were all ideally aligned, but you still wonder Will that mean fishing is going to be good?”

Once out on the Northern end of the Barwon Banks, Crusty, our resident dolphin, as almost always came to the party looking for whatever those aboard were prepared to part with. The crew found good shows on a number of our marks seeing the esky filling up fast with spangled emperor, snapper, moses perch, amberjacks and hussars, to name a few.

With beautiful weather, a few drinks, and Joe and Luke’s two birthdays being celebrated, it was a big night for some and one I am sure those aboard were ecstatic not to have missed out on. After heading back in from the Hards, a bit more fishing proved successful at sunrise. Combined with a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, & hash brown’s I doubt anyone would have wanted to be anywhere else!  We even spotted whales on the way home, which is always a great way to end a deep sea fishing trip.

Jessie cooking the BBQ breakfast on the Overnight Deep Sea Fishing Trip

A fantastic trip. Even the crew “loved every minute of it!”

The second of the overnight deep sea fishing charters

About 6 days later our second overnight deep sea trip headed out. This trip consisted mainly of  our regulars. It was was great to see a lot of familiar faces all together and it was clear they all enjoyed catching up again also.

There are a lot of phosphorescent jelly fish around at the moment along with a good amount of Whales coming up the coast.  This night saw some good snapper & a massive red emperor amongst a good spread of other fish.  Although again not forecast we had bit of rain. Luckily Crusader 1 has a well covered deck area ensuring everyone could stay comfortable and dry. Almost everyone had a bit of a sleep, allowing them to take advantage of when the fish came on the bite. As always everyone loved the BBQ dinner & breakfast, prepared by Zoe on this occasion.

Zoe played the catering host this trip with both Dinner and Breakfast cooked to perfection!

Almost everyone was able to get good fish on board. There was of course lots of banter and fun, and the whales again put on a show on the way home.

A few of the 2nd July Overnight Charter results.

 

June deep sea fishing finishes with a Bang!

Another amazing weekend of deep sea fishing and fun this last weekend of June! Exactly the type of weekend we would all  no doubt love to be able to replicate every time. And what a great way to finish the June Fishing month! (Next Saturday is the 1st July already!)

One of the groups we had the pleasure of hosting the last weekend in June.

It sort of seems like ages since we had a full weekend of fantastic weather conditions here on the Sunshine Coast. The month started beautifully, and now has clearly ended in a similar vein. It was the middle bit that wasn’t that great…. Mind you, the guys at BOM didn’t help. June would have to be one of the worst forecasting months they have had in memory! Days forecast with 40 knots and 4 to 5m swell turned out to be 10 knots and 1m swell. (Just a tad off!!!….) and the one time they forecast perfect conditions – for our overnight deep sea fishing charter of course! –  they were off by about 15 knots as well! Luckily we had a pretty hardy group aboard!

At least this last weekend we had lovely conditions. The seas were calm with a gentle rolling swell. The fishing was really good, and we had a great bunch of guests to join us this weekend.  We were lucky enough to be out on the water to experience a wonderful sunrise and finished off the day with a cruisy sunset deep sea fishing charter on Saturday evening.

 

The wildlife seemed to also be enjoying to conditions with our regular visiting dolphin (we have nicknamed him Crusty because of a growth on the end of his nose) being just one of the highlights of the day.  Zoe, the newest member of our team, was delighted to be able to feed and film our regular visitor.

Crusty the dolphin turned up again looking for a few pillies!

We are now also starting to see a few more whales as we head out, but they are still mostly out wide. So we will continue keep an eye on them and will let you know when we will be starting our whale watching cruises.  Pelicans, al other birds resting on our rails all added to the delight of the being out on the water.

Saturday and Sunday were both Full Day deep sea fishing charters.  Our angler guests had a great weekend of fishing the Barwon Banks, pulling up a wide variety of good fish – red throat Emperor, Moses Perch, Maori Cod, Pearl Perch, Snapper, just to name a few. The conditions were in fact so gorgeous out on the water that we decided to “put it out there” and do a “Sunset Fish and Fun trip” (Still working on the name. Any ideas are welcome!) on the Sunday.  Everyone on board for that trip had an enjoyable time so we will be expanding on this, and most likely make it a regular thing but including a BBQ as well. Keep an eye on this space for more!

One of the BBQ lunches on the weekend. The crew cooked up a storm!

We left at 3.00 pm and returned at 8.00 pm. The crew said they could have stayed out longer as it was just nice being out there, and in addition the fish were biting well!

We have re-introduced our 9 hour sunset-evening charters for winter.  These depart at 11.00 am and return at 8.00 pm and are already filling up fast.  Grab a group of friends or hit the boss up for a corporate outing, you’ll have a ball with us out on Crusader 1!

Our July overnight charter booked out so quickly – first to be fully booked in fact – that we decided to set another July date to give everyone the opportunity to jump on board.  The next trip is scheduled for Monday 10th July returning Tuesday 11th July, 2017. Only half full at this point so if you are interested give us a yell!

If you want any further information about any of our trips just give Paddy a call on 0412 155 814 or email us, we will get back to you.

 

What an absolutely beautiful weekend of deep sea fishing we had up here on the Sunshine Coast!

This Saturday started off with a full day (9 hour) deep sea fishing charter, with the majority of passengers being from a fishing club! Obviously our crew felt even more pressure to perform given this. The weather was a little worrisome to begin based on the forecasts, but as has been the case too regularly, BOM was well off track and it soon turned into the most beautiful day.  So much for the 80% chance of rain predicted!

A stunning morning as we head out to the Barwon Banks

The decision to head to the north end of the Barwon Banks proved correct, and we stayed there for the majority of the day as there was so much action. Our crew were kept super busy helping our guests in every way possible to get fish on and indeed off the hook.  With heaps of fish coming up, the day once again passed so quickly.  Fish species caught included: – Fusiliers,  Snapper, Tuckies, Pearl Perch,  Moses Perch,  Grassies and the usual huge heap of bream and whip-tail. All in all lots of action to keep everyone busy and entertained! A deep sea fishing trip that we all aspire to!

The crabbing side was not as successful.  It’s actually been a slow year in general for the crabs to date, but we did pull up, and couple of Spanner Crabs, as well as sea urchins and star fish!

An Okuma offshore Rod & Reel Combo was given away to the fishing group as part of our appreciation for booking with us and Brian was going to put it towards the club. Lots of smiles, high fives and thank you’s to our fabulous crew as they walked off with a bag full of quality fish.

Toby, giving Brian a Rod & Reel as a gift for booking the boat with SCA.

As part of our full day and longer deep sea fishing charters we always make sure our guests have plenty to eat. This includes an array of meats on our custom marine BBQ. Always a huge hit with all aboard!  Cakes, platters, fruit are available throughout the day so no one ever goes hungry on our charters. We enjoy watching satisfied customers sitting back in comfort on the way home after a full day of activity and food, taking in the beautiful day, fantastic coastline views, a few drinks and lots of stories to talk about.

Sunday mornings 5 hour deep sea fishing charter saw us head straight out towards Murphys before the sun rose. Murphy’s tends to work well at sunrise and sunset (Less so during the day we find) to hopefully take advantage of that.  Being just a  5 hour trip we need to make the most of the rather short amount of time available. These short deep sea fishing trips are always a lot more difficult to make as successful compared to trips with longer times of course. But (almost) everyone was successful in taking home fish on the trip. And one very large Amberjack was the reward for the early venture to Murphy’s. A couple of spanner crabs made sure nobody went home empty handed. These short trips are much more about the experience than about the result. In keeping with that our guests consisted of quite a few holiday makers, getting in before the busier period in a few weeks. The absolutely beautiful weather conditions and amazing water clarity didn’t help the cause on Sunday. Rougher weather always fishes better. But it was hard to imagine a nicer day out on the water!

Overall the weekend provided the most glorious weather we have had for a long time! The best place to be is on the water when it’s like that.  It was a bonus that the fish still “played the game” topping off a fab weekend of deep sea fishing!

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There have been some recent warnings about the Mooloolaba Bar crossing and how the sand has moved making navigation quite dangerous.  Apparently dredging is set to start on the 1st of June 2017.  For us all the hard work in getting our flybridge rebuilt is now paying off.  It allows us to steam out having full visibility ensuring the safety of our passengers, crew and vessel. As we head out before the sun rises, visibility can be difficult at the best of times, particularly in winter. Add in typically foggy boat windows and early morning surfers taking chances surfing right across the river mouth (without any way of being seen) and you can understand the benefit this has added to our operations! No doubt the added visibility will also be a huge bonus this whale watching season too! Not yet finished but at least operational, it has already become a key safety feature for us!

 

A lot of sanding, polishing, fiberglassing, and rewiring has gone into getting the flybridge up to modern standards and reliability. The dashboard part is now finished and the work remains on the deck and sides.

10 Key Things you need to consider to get the best from this Whale Season

At Sunshine Coast Afloat we have tried to make it easy for you to “Come, Stay & Play” on the Sunshine Coast, and in particular Mooloolaba this Whale Season  We ourselves have two very special Whale Watching options to choose from.  We can also organise accommodation, even pet friendly accommodation, recommend restaurants and other things to do during your stay.  Consider us your “One Stop Shop” for your next trip to Mooloolaba!

1. WHERE TO GO TO SEE THE WHALES?

There are obviously a large number of locations along the Southeast Coast of Australia every whale season that offer excellent whale watching opportunities. From land based lookouts on Stradbroke and Moreton Islands to the many and varied whale watching operators taking passengers out to see these amazing mammals. Mooloolaba, the pearl of the beautiful Sunshine Coast, is located approximately one hour north of Brisbane. One of the key advantages it has is recognition as the safest bar crossing between Brisbane and Gladstone.  This is important as it means direct access to the coral sea at all times, regardless of tides, and without the issues we so often see on the news about vessels in trouble during bar crossings. Mooloolaba has a natural bay shape, accentuated by the Northern tip of Morton Island and the Southern tip of Fraser Island. It creates a semi-protected area in which the seas tend to be a lot smoother and more comfortable. That is important for both the passengers on boats and the whales. A lot has been made over the years of the ideal conditions off Harvey Bay in its protected waters there. Mooloolaba is rapidly gaining a similar reputation for good reason. Add in the fact that you are as mention just a hour from Brisbane, and for people further afield can fly direct into the Sunshine Coast Airport. Sure, we are very biased on where to go, but when you take all factors into account Mooloolaba should be up very high on the list of best whale watching locations in Australia!

2. WHEN TO GO?

The most common question we get is ” from when to when is whale season?”. This obviously varies from location to location a bit, but we will start to have the odd whale sighting from the start of June on most years. These early sightings are both special and frustrating at the same time. The chance sightings (and they are really that, chance sightings only we feel) are always super exciting. But at the same time, the reason these whales are here early is because they after either faster or more in a hurry than the bulk of the pods. That tends to mean you will see them swimming but very rarely are they in a playful mood. And given the vastness of the bay it can be very difficult to actually find these small groups so early in the season. Many an early whale watching trip is spent searching without getting a satisfactory result for those aboard. For this reason Sunshine Coast Afloat generally do not start their season until the start of July. A full month later. Our view is that our customers have come for “Whale Watching” not Whale Searching”! The true bulk of whales are really here even later. August, September and even (Early to mid) October are usually the premium months for whale watching. We judge our season end on the number of whales in the area as we enter the 2nd half of October. With the increasing whale population, the end of the season is becoming later  each year, but generally speaking, November whale watching is very much the same as June whale watching, and not something we offer our customers. as such our season tends to finish at some point in October.

3. WHERE TO STAY?

Quality accommodation at Saltwater Villas on the Sunshine Coast

For Mooloolaba Whale Watching trips, we can certainly take the hassle out of finding accommodation for you. There are a myriad of accommodation options to choose from on the Sunshine Coast. Many located right in Mooloolaba giving you walking access to most things. Some are “Pet Friendly” as well. Depending on your needs just advise us if you need somewhere that can cater for families, or a couple or even singles.  Many offer massages and other forms of retreats as part of their accommodation packages. The Sunshine Coast is geared towards ensuring holidaymakers have more than just a room and bed to make their holiday special! We deal with most if not all accommodation providers and are happy to assist you with making the right choice.

4. WHICH BOAT OR COMPANY TO CHOOSE?

There are a few key points to consider when planning a whale watching trip. No doubt for some the key aspect will be the financial budget allocated for the experience. Mooloolaba has a number of operators offering whale watching and even swimming with the whales trips. Each operator has it own way of operating and this allows you to choose the one best suited to your personal preferences.  The more budget focused groups are catered for by Whale One in Mooloolaba. With a large vessel taking up to 120 people at a time they are able to offer prices smaller operators cannot match. At the other end of the spectrum is Sunreef’s swimming with the whales. Small group of 12 to 14 people, are fitted with wet suited and shark repelling electronic devices and accompanied by highly experienced dive masters on these very special trips. The much higher costs and care associated with such trips make this the upper end of the price market of course. At Sunshine Coast Afloat we offer a combination of the two. , or  We like to be able to offer you choice.

Sunshine Coast Afloat has 2 options for your Whale Watching tours! Cruisy and comfy and fast and fun!
  • “Whale Watching without the crowds” Small groups of no more than 23 people of a very large 55 foot ex commercial vessel – Crusader 1, with drinks and light snacks included, for a 3 hour whale watching cruise.

OR

  • “Extreme Whale Watching” even smaller groups of no more than 10 people for 2 hours on a high end, high speed,  jet boat, getting as close as possible to the water and the whales as possible without actually getting into the water!

Our whale watching trips are aimed and those looking for what we believe to be the best value for money in whale watching. Maximum comfort, the best possible service, and unobstructed “rail side” viewing positions at all times, close to the water. We believe this is as close as you can get to a private whale watching tour without the high cost that that would otherwise cost you. Whale watching is special, regardless of whether is the first time you do it or if it’s a regular outing for you. We feel that either way you should have a high quality experience that provides fantastic memories!

5. HOW TO BOOK?

With Sunshine Coast Afloat all you need do is choose which trip option you think suits best, then what method is your preference. You can book directly with the us online, or if you prefer the more personal touch simply phone us ( 0412 155 814 ). Either method is designed to be easy and comprehensive. You will receive an online email confirmation of the booking, and the day prior to the tour a reminder SMS. Both have all relevant information on times and locations. Give yourself time to head out. by that we mean if you take a break of 4 days, don’t leave your whale watching trip to the last minute. If weather forces that trip to be cancelled you have left yourself no option for an alternative trip. We recommend booking for as early as possible in your trip. That way you can always move things around should mother nature not cooperate with your initial planning! Whale watching is done out on the ocean which can be unpredictable. Give yourself flexibility in days and times to account for that. No operator likes to cancel any trip, but its about your safety, comfort a enjoyment after all!

6. WHAT TO WEAR?

Comfortable clothing is key. We do recommend layered clothing, after all, it’s winter and that means it can get cold quite quick. But this is the Sunshine Coast, and warm sunny days are still the norm in winter. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun as you will want to be grabbing that rail side view.  If you are heading out on Hela-Va Jet getting rugged up is not so important as you are in an enclosed vessel with a lot of glass for part of your journey. And even when the doors are open you are still very much protected. The whales can often get REALLY close, and their blow spray can get you! Its both wet and a bit smelly! No one ever complains at the time, but if you are wearing that brand new expensive outfit, it may be less funny the next day! Keep that in mind.

7. WHAT TO PACK?

Obviously a camera is an absolute must. We always love to see our guests photo’s so a share by social media or email is fabulous! A hat and sunscreen is always a good idea. There is sunscreen aboard our vessels, but it may not be your preferred brand or kind. Pack a light coat as well. Wind out on the water in winter can be surprisingly chilly at times! And finally sunglasses (ideally polarised). Good sunglasses will pay for themselves in one trip when whale watching. Whales are big, really big. So there is a lot of the whale under the water regardless of what they are doing. Good glasses let you see so much more! But have a strap so that if they fall they stay around your neck and not on the bottom of the ocean….

8. SEASICKNESS PREVENTION

If you are heading out on the water we ALWAYS recommend taking motion sickness tablets.  It doesn’t matter if you have never been sea sick before. Some of the world’s best skippers still get sea sick from time to time! Whale watching means you are focused on a much more detailed area than you would be just cruising. This can sometimes make people normally fine feel very queasy very quickly. Sea sickness is no fun. It will really ruin a great trip very quickly. For the sake of taking a couple of natural motion supplements such as Kwells, Travacalm or the like it really isn’t worth the risk. Check with your pharmacist for their opinion of the most effective prevention, and we highly recommend you take one or two the evening prior to your trip, and one or two more just before boarding. That way it’s in your system and we find it has by far the best results.

9. BE PREPARED

Our crew/staff are extremely knowledgeable about the vast majority of available information regarding humpback whales, and are there to assist you. However, it’s always good to know a few basic facts about Humpback Whales so you can tell your kids, ask more questions, and generally appreciate and enjoy these magnificent animals more so. One easy way is to simply follow our blogs during the season. We will be providing heaps of  interesting and often amazing information about these marvellous mammals.

10. Have fun

One of our mantra’s at Sunshine Coast Afloat is “Whale Watching is a team effort“. By that we mean that these stunning animals are for the most part under water, and can be difficult to initially spot. 20 sets of eyes are far more effective in spotting them than just the 2 sets of our crews! Keep an eye out and shout out if you think you have spotted something! The quicker we find them the more time we are able to spend watching and enjoying them. Remember, there are only a few of you aboard and the more we help each other the more fun we all have! OUr goal is to give you the best possible experience. Your “job” is to help us make that possible!