A perfect day for updating my blog! We are anchored at Shaw Island with Pas De Chat (pronounced pa—da-cha). It’s blowing 20+ knots so it’s a day on board, but we have blue skies and 24 degrees … and internet … so who’s complaining?
We left The Narrows two weeks ago for Great Keppel Island. It might be windy today but we’ve had very gentle winds and blue skies for two weeks really. However, our departure from Mosquito Creek in The Narrows (it didn’t really live up to its name), was in thick fog. With only 50m visibility we relied on our radar. We don’t use our radar very often but it is very handy when we do need it. Fog however, means no wind!
The Keppel Bay Marina is probably our favourite marina on the east coast – friendly staff, easy berthing, great prices, a café/restaurant, courtesy cars (and a hire car), buses to town, fresh seafood and walks. We caught up with our friends Jim & Jan on Pas De Chat, Brian & Eva on Zofia and Pete & Liz on Olivia III and we enjoyed a few visits to the Waterline Café. Their scones and ‘barra-burger’ were the pick!
Our next ‘hop’ was to continue north up the Capricornia Coast to Cape Townshend via Pearl Bay on the mainland, then further north via the Duke and Percy Islands. There are no viable mainland anchorages between here and Mackay. This stretch of sailing involves some picturesque islands but also the biggest tides in Australia (outside of Broome). Strong currents are common and tidal flow can really effect our boat speed so careful planning of passages is a must. We have VHF radio contact along the way with Thirsty Sound (don’t you love that name) who give us our weather forecasts. There’s no phone reception and therefore no internet. We have finally caught on to the ‘modem up the mast’ idea which does seem to help when there’s just a hint of signal. A permanent mast aerial is the go we think … but it’s “break out another thousand”!!
Our island ‘hops’ from Keppel Bay to the Whitsundays
Our first stop was Pearl Bay. This is probably one of the prettiest bays, but we’ve never stopped overnight. Pearl Bay has a lovely long sandy beach, clear water and pretty surrounding hills with its only access by boat. The swell can roll in and make it quite uncomfortable. With a bit of encouragement from Pas De Chat we decided we’d give it a go. We enjoyed two nights in Pearl Bay and apart from rolly tide changes and a major ‘catch’ by Jim the fisherman on Pas De Chat, as we pulled up anchor, all was well (see pics).
Our planned next stop was Hunter Island in the Duke Islands. We managed to get a scratchy radio call out to Sans Souci who informed us the exceptional high tides we were experiencing at the moment had made their stay at Hunter Island quite uncomfortable the night before, so we decided to sail to South Percy Island in the Percy Islands instead. The Percys are THE destination through these waters. We dodged some whales and caught a school mackerel on the passage. (My only fish so far, but no pic … a knot unfortunately gave way when we tied it to the boat by its tail … argghhh!! I think we are a bit rusty.). While South Percy was a bit swelly, we enjoyed our walk up the hills and got great views across to Middle Percy Island. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Neville’s aversion to walking before … always helps if there’s some peer pressure, I mean … encouragement!
Middle Percy Island is always a favourite destination for yachties sailing north (and south) through these islands. The West Bay anchorage on Middle Percy must have hosted every boat that has cruised these waters. On the beach at West Bay is the infamous A-Frame hut. We have all added our ‘plaque’ to the hut at some stage. The West Bay anchorage however, is not a great anchorage. It’s often rolly and exposed to most winds. We experienced a dreadful night there many years ago on our Seawind cat, which made for a very early morning escape. This year though, it was magic! No wind, sunny skies and no swell. Perfect! It’s all about the timing.
Middle Percy Island is quite unique. Cate and John currently live on Middle Percy, after its long time ‘caretaker’ Andy Martin passed away in 2003. Andy lived on the island from 1963 to 2003. Structures include the A-Frame, a Treehouse (which is currently being set up for holiday rental), a few sheds and the Homestead high on the hill (4 km walk). Cate and John are restoring the buildings but also use volunteers to help as much as they can. We walked the 4 km track to the Homestead and met Cate. She was incredibly welcoming, providing a cold lemon and honey drink (from their bee hives and lemon trees) along with a soursop icy pole (has anyone heard of a soursop tree??). Cate and John have to be self-sufficient as it’s a long way to Mackay for supplies.
After two nights at Middle Percy we left at 6 am for a 60 mile dash further north to Scawfell Island. A spinnaker run, dodging more whales! Some whales came quite close, perhaps to check us out? I’m sure we don’t see them all. I moved to the bow for a different view at one stage, only to get the fright of my life when a whale appeared right in front of me, crossing our path, only 40 metres away. I got such a fright. No time for the camera. Then it was gone.
We are now anchored at Shaw Island, just near Lindeman Island where an old unused resort still stands. We haven’t visited the Whitsundays since 2016 so we hope we see signs of rebuilding after Cyclone Debbie in 2017.