Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Visiting the homestead

The homestead sits on the hill of the island and was a reasonable walk uphill. The girls had to be on leads part of the way due to the odd feral goat who calls Middle Percy home. We were offered a lift up in the island's ute but we get as much exercise as we can, when we can.

It was a picturesque excursion, slow due to AK's dodgy hip, which Jacki was glad of due to her dodgy hip!. Pockets of forest were interspersed with wondrous views and Andy's hand written signs (see the previous post for an explanation of "Andy's signs").

We walked through patches of forest that were buzzing with hundreds of the butterflies that are found in the Whitsunday area. A memorable sight.

We experienced a level of hospitality that Middle Percy is famous for over lunch. Cate regaled us with stories of Middle Percy and it's infamous history, chooks and dogs roamed the open verandah and friends were made.

Cate & Lucy (Bronte's mum)

AK and Marg in front of the homestead

Steve (who also lives on the Island) invited us over to his "many sided" dwelling (built by the Hicklings) after lunch, an invitation we were glad to accept before slithering down the short circuit back to the beach. Steve grew up on Pine Islet which is just west of Middle Percy as the son of the lighthouse keepers which was automated in the late '80's. The lighthouse is now at Mackay Marina. Steve and his small family of goats plus his dingo cross live a very peaceful life on Middle Percy working hard to keep the facilities maintained.
Jack & Bob goat were fascinated by the little creatures (Jacki & Ruby)

We managed to get back to Manatee before it got dark, all very tired and very happy.

paradise at Middle Percy

The trip over to Middle Percy Island demonstrated winds of 10-15kts from the SE, so we were reasonably relaxed when we set the anchor at lunch time in West Bay. The vision was splendid- jewel like water, clear enough to see the sandy bottom and an inviting white sandy beach with the famous A-frame beckoning from amongst the coconut palms.

We all jumped into the dinghy, excited and eager to explore. Before we hit the beach we encountered a big, wet, brown dog who waded out to meet us- the girls didn't wait to see if it was friend or foe-they jumped off the dinghies bow and splashed and hooted to the beach....ahh freedom! Bronte was friend, her tail whipping about so much with pleasure it is a wonder that she didn't suffer whip lash of her rear end!

There were few other people about, the one couple we met decided to head out early the next morning when we asked them if they has heard of the low that Kay had spoken about, even though they hadn't heard of any weather concerns. What is it about this place that we don't know?

We spent the afternoon investigating the A-frame, looking at mementos left by boaties and surprised that we recognised so many names. Marg, who previously thought the whole idea a little unappealing even had a tear in her eye when she saw some of the poignant tokens from the 1960's. We vowed to leave an appropriate reminder of Manatee.

The next day was stunning, we spent the morning making our Manatee token (it took days)before heading over to the beach where Jacki spent the afternoon mucking about like a dog with Bronte, while Ruby, Marg and AK enjoyed more noble pursuits-like sun and water worship, bird watching and planning leisure activities for the following day.

is this paradise or what?

Another glorious day saw us exploring the island's lagoon in the morning, cooking lunch over a fire and then spending the afternoon swimming, walking and reading. Although the lagoon is a reasonable size, a sand bank closes access at low tide.

view of Manatee from within the lagoon

Boats came and went from the anchorage, we met lots of friendly and social people and we all had a chillingly good time! The girls were more relaxed after spending time free ranging and exhausting their pent up energy (so many islands/so many of them National Parks!)

We met Cate (the leaseholder) on the beach one afternoon and scored an invite for lunch at the homestead the next day. We were happy with Manatee's remembrance sculpture so tearfully hung her from the rafters of the A-frame where she can gaze out to sea, gently blowing in the breeze, ensuring constant movement.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hello Percy!

As soon as we could leave Mackay we turned Manatee's bow to the Percy Islands, often described as the boaties mecca. The weather was perfect, but as usual, not for sailing! We were heading SE and the wind was SE at 5-10kts. The seas were glistening.
We managed to snag a massive fish on our new lure when trolling but couldn't land it as it was so big and feisty. AK wasn't really sad to see it get away, although losing our new lure was a tad tragic.

An overview of the recent history of Middle Percy Island is on this link.....

It is around 65nm to the Percy's so we broke the trip up with an overnight stay at Double Island where we anchored at 1700hrs. We all enjoyed a peaceful night, sleep interrupted by fishing boats shining spotlights on Manatee intermittently. Must be a good fishing spot!
Anchorage at Double Island

The following day brought fine weather with S-SE winds at 10-15kts. We had trouble raising our anchor due to the rocky bottom so headed on to Percy (still 28nm away) at 1020hrs. After orientating ourselves to the Percy's (there are 3 islands-Middle, South and North East) we let out Manatee's anchor at 1720 at South Percy in Rocky Shelf Bay. Lucas describes this anchorage as having 'a difficult to define fringing reef of rock and coral which can prove hard to see except at low tide.' We managed to get Manatee's anchor to set in sand, which had good holding.
Anchorage at South Percy

We enjoyed a quiet night with two other yachts in the anchorage. Marg braved a swim the next morning and reported that the sea wasn't too cold.. The winds were forecast to turn NE 10-15kts (just our luck!) which would turn our anchorage into a lee shore. We headed over to Middle Percy looking for another anchorage only to find the latest weather (midday) was winds SW/SE at 20-25kts. As we were contemplating West Bay- the site of the A-frame- radio scanning conveyed a fishing boat reporting that there was a 'white-out' with very gusty winds and horrible seas. West Bay started rolling and the lone yacht at anchor was bucking so we upped the throttle and took off. We had a southerly chasing us!

 The roll of grey/black cloud was similar to a blanket being pulled up. It caught us on the eastern side of Middle Percy- we got hit by winds to 32kts-it was very uncomfortable-especially when visibility dropped to less than 50', but we were reasonably protected by the islands cliff face. We decided to head for Blunt Bay at North East Island but had to hold our heading as we were getting hit by broken 3m swell on our beam. Marg, who was helming did a large arc and we arrived at Blunt Bay at 1410hrs, just as the front menacingly rolled on its journey north. We had only been out in it for 1 1/2 hours, but it felt like days-needless to say we had a very quiet afternoon and evening!

Anchorage at Blunt Bay

The next morning a woman from one of the other yachts at anchor came over to check that we were OK- both yachts had been watching us during the front and were glad that they were at anchor. We spent the day exploring in the dinghy- what a beautiful spot!

The other two yachts headed north the next morning with a warning that a low was coming and they weren't hanging around! Kay said the Percy's had been 'a monkey on their backs' and they were glad to have had a reasonable visit (this time) but wanted to get going before the monkey grabbed them again!

We couldn't get radio coverage at Blunt Bay so headed over to the Middle Percy anchorage at West Bay.


Friday, June 14, 2013

(F)Airlie Ordinary

We took a quick road trip up the coast to check it out and to assess possible anchorages near Mackay (AK has one semester in a diploma of nursing (done in Mackay) remaining and was making the trip regularly from Rosslyn. Although a return to nursing is a shock, the idea is to pick up remote area contracts occasionally so that our plan of travelling to Asia can come to fruition (finally!). After completing a placement at a GP clinic attached to the Mater Hospital, the concept of nursing again became pleasurable!
The river in Mackay was not an option as it is not navigable at low tide and even Manatee would be sitting in the mud.
We drove up to the Newry Islands which are just north of Mackay and a dinghy ride from the mainland. The creek looked a little croc thanks!
So off we went to Airlie Beach. We weren't planning to sail into Airlie as we had been told by some yachties that it didn't have much to redeem it, so a road trip into the area seemed like a good excuse to check it out. The yacht club was great, the views from the verandah fantastic and people were very friendly.
view of the Whitsunday Islands from the verandah
a casualty of Oswald still on the rocks

The town was sad though, many shops closed and the main road undergoing road works which meant it was difficult to walk down the street.

So after a day of sightseeing (lots of sugar cane) we resigned ourselves to being in Mackay marina for the three weeks.
a little bit commercial shipping/a little bit marina

Islands tantalisingly close over the break wall

Manatee snug in her berth

Sunday, June 2, 2013


We awoke to blue skies with patches of heavy cloud. The pitching eased around 0300 but we still kept rolling. We up anchored at 0700, destination Mackay. It was an uneventful fish, no dolphins, no wind. Then we came across the charted restricted area just outside Mackay-it was a parking lot for cargo ships waiting to pick up at Hay Point just south of Mackay.

Recreational boats are restricted to transiting the area with no anchoring allowed. Who would want to anchor in between cargo ships?
Just outside the harbour entrance we saw a strange looking yacht. Out came the binoculars. Ah it's Greenpeace. We were admiring the A frame masts and commenting on its size when we noticed a small cruise ship slowing to approach the yacht.

                                                     Ah of course it's the police!

Greenpeace's yacht is rightfully named Rainbow Warrior and is the first ship built specifically for Greenpeace. She is one of the most environmentally friendly ships ever built. More about her at this link.

The Rainbow Warrior was on the east coast to bring attention to the fate of the Great Barrier Reef with the impact of coastal developments and coal exports. A week after we saw them in Mackay, activists had boarded a coal cargo ship in Bowen.

We tied up in Mackay Marina at 1355 and as we (AK) needed to be in the area for three weeks, pledged to find somewhere to anchor.

About Mackay: In 1860 John Mackay led an expedition to seek pastoral opportunities and they came across the coastal ranges, now known as the Pioneer Valley. Within a few years sugar became the dominant industry. The prosperity and confidence of the city is reflected in the fine older buildings. Sugar production ensured Mackay was Australia's fastest growing town in the 1920's & 30's.

Customs House Mackay
 Sugarcane farms are now being razed for highway developments and coal is now the biggest industry which is reflected in the prices (especially for accommodation) in Mackay. It does appear more 'cosmopolitan' than Rockhampton. As the official start to the Whitsundays, tourism was a major industry. There are signs in the marina for island trips, especially to Brampton Island. Most island resorts have now closed.

The dogs were excited to be in a marina again. They love promenading with other boat dogs. Marg and AK got stuck into repairs, purchasing a new generator and assignments.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


After a few glorious days at the Dukes we set out for Curlew Island, again catching the tide. We had brilliant blue skies, flat seas, variable winds and a dolphin for company-can't get much better than that.
Curlew Island is considered by many to be the jewel of the area with golden beaches and covered with open forest. It has a spectacular ridge that is similar to 'the phantoms cave'.

Manatee with Phantoms cave in background
 We anchored inside Tinonee (sand) Bank in 3 metres of clear water. We swam, walked, fished, ate oysters off the rocks, explored and relaxed. Perfect!
postcard perfect
one relaxed girl
another relaxed girl
 The island is national park and coconut trees have been cut down, with some stumps remaining as evidence of a 'island postcard'. What a shame.
In the middle of night three the winds shifted to the west, causing the swell to break over the sandbank, so we didn't enjoy a rolly, pitching we go to Mackay