Most of my blog posts do show the ‘up’ side of our trip north. The idyllic, relaxing and picturesque lifestyle we lead for six months of the year is what sailing is all about for us.
However it’s not always like this … but … we can usually find an ‘up’ side no matter what the situation.
We have spent the last five days at Keswick Island, the most southern point of the Whitsundays. The forgotten islands of the Whitsundays really. It has blown hard from the SE for most of this time so we have sheltered Horseshoe Bay in Egremont Passage.
St. Bees and Keswick Islands are close neighbours with Egremont Passage separating them. We are currently on a mooring (a $20 a night bargain) after sitting on anchor for 24 hours. It’s still blowing 20 knots plus, but we are quite safe.
Keswick Island is near Mackay where big tides are common and we have a full moon about. So we are currently experiencing BIG tides for this area. We have seen a .00 low tide and a high tide of 5.8, with 4 knots of current running in the passage. Consequently, we, along with the two other yachts anchored here, are constantly ‘sailing’ as the strong current and the strong wind are both fighting each other, pulling and pushing our boats in all directions. Sailing 360 loops around our mooring/anchor are common. We even set our Anchor Watch app on the mooring and the alarm went off during the night. The drop in depth meant the mooring stretched out longer, setting off the alarm. Check out the pic below of our Anchor Watch app tracking our movements on the mooring.
So the ‘up’ side? It’s coming!
We left Airlie Beach southward bound after some provisioning with Last Resort (friends Terry and Barb from home who are delivering a cat to Brisbane for its owner). We knew strong SE winds were coming so Keswick Island and the Mackay marina were options to sit out the blowy days. We both chose Keswick, however, Last Resort’s decision was later made for them as they unexpectedly needed a dentist after Terry broke a tooth. Two teeth extractions actually. Ouch!
Keswick and St. Bees Islands are surrounded by fringing coral reefs, a great place to snorkel. After a brief visit last year, we did want to spend some time here this trip. Just not in strong winds!
Going ashore we discovered we could hire a buggy to explore the island which was a huge bonus. We drove on bitumen roads (we had no idea it was this developed) to walking tracks, lookouts, picnic tables and huts, and beaches. Spectacular views from the hilltops! We met some friendly locals who gave us lifts up the hill for our phone reception and even a coffee sitting on their deck overlooking The Bossa jumping around below in the windy seas.
Keswick Island only has 15 permanent residents (5 of whom are staff), a landing strip, a shop that only opens occasionally, 120 sold house lots (approx’ 25 houses) but it is an island and it’s in the Whitsundays. You would certainly have to like the peace and quiet though. There is an approved permit for a marina and other infrastructure but it needs an owner with deep pockets. It is for sale, along with St.Bees Island. It is easy to see how it could be developed to encourage more tourism and residents. Great beaches, fishing and snorkelling and only an hour or so in a high speed boat from Mackay. One day?!
So while our five days rocking and rolling in strong currents gave us the yips, we found the ‘up’ side by finally getting to know Keswick Island. Unfortunately the winds meant the snorkelling wasn’t so good, so we will visit again next year.