I've got a bit of writer's block as I try to tap out another journal entry about our trip north but I'll give it a try. At the moment, we are anchored off a lovely cove called Pearl Bay, about 100nm south of Mackay. The passage from Yeppon today was marked by the strong SE trade winds, moody skies, cool conditions and a lumpy 2 metre swell. Comfortable but uncomfortable sailing at the same time if you can imagine that. We are going to have to get used to these conditions though because the trade winds have set in it seems for the entire length of the Queensland coast. It's downwind sailing so no complaints, we just weren't expecting it to be this cool!
Plenty of interesting characters along the way
We left Sydney about 6 weeks ago and it's only now that it feels like we are really getting into a rhythm. The stopover on Great Keppel Island provided a little glimpse of what the cruising life can be like. We stopped there for 3 days and met up with sailors also anchored there, waiting out some crappy weather to blow through. There was Drew to whom Great Keppel Island
is a second home. He and others have set up on the beach a little 'retreat' with everything imaginable for enjoying a drink and chat with other sailors as the sun goes down. Palm leaf shelter, a hodge podge of chairs and tables, solar panels for lights, even a derelict sail turned into a rainwater collector for fresh water..... It was something else to chat to the odd assortment of cruisers and hear what they could tell us about what lies ahead as we go north. Typical salty, sailor types, it seems they have checked out largely from everyday life. There's no doubt you get into an entirely different rhythm living on a boat. Our lives are ruled by the sun coming up and the sun going down with wind and the waves determining everything else in between. We met Yanni, a lady who lost her only son fighting with the Australian Army in Afganistan. To commemorate her son and raise awareness of returned soldier suicides, she had walked 60km a day for 3 months to traverse the entire length of Australia, north to south from Cape York to Cockle Creek in far south Tasmania. I'm still bewildered that anybody could manage this.
The classic was after meeting Drew, were are now organised to take a few bales of feed from Yeppon out to the couple who live and farm on Middle Percy Island. The trade off is we get treated to Australia's purest honey that they produce out on the Percy Isles and maybe even goat stew if we get there by Wednesday!
Travelling just north of Gladstone, we passed through The Narrows between Curtis Island and the mainland, instead of going around the outside and taking on the trade winds. Now that was an experience. We left just before high tide to make the 12NM journey. The chart actually shows a large part of the passage dries at low tide. So when you watch your progress on the chart plotter, it looks like the boat is passing over dry land! We even passed over a cattle crossing between the mainland and island.
Another character we met a few times at island stopovers was a 80yo gentleman called Rye from Canada. He was born in Estonia and told his story leaving Stockholm as war refugee when 8 years old to Halifax, Canada. Apparently his father organised an old fishing boat, lined it with as many bunks as he could and made the treacherous trip across the Atlantic via Scotland to Canada and a new life. There were more than 100 people on the boat and the bunks were that small you could not turn over because there was not enough space to the bunk above you. Just like sardines in a can but they made it.
John and Kate are the custodians of Middle Percy Island and live a very spartan life in a 100yo homestead there. We met them after delivering the feed for their chooks and enjoyed their hospitality and learnt a little about their life on the island. They are basically the only permanent residents on the island and the Percy Island Yacht Club is a legendary meeting point for yachties where they play host with a cook up of goat stew. We were lucky enough to be there when the word had spread the stew was on and boats came from all directions to be part of it. With around 10 yachts anchored just off the beach and a motley crew of Aussies, Americans, Dutch, French, Italians and a few others, it made for a pretty interesting evening swapping stories and finding out a bit more about lies ahead up the coast. The Percy Island Yacht Club is truly a remarkable stopover if you ever get the chance to visit.
relaxing on Great Keppel Island
this time anchored off Middle Percy with the A Frame of the Percy Island YC amongst the palms
we have a pretty healthy diet onboard :-)
check out the plaques left behind by all the visiting yachts to the PIYC
downwind sailing under a sullen sky
Wilson's cousin on Great Keppel
we hiked to this isolated beach on Great Keppel, very nice!
heading overland through The Narrow - lucky it was high tide
The Narrows cattle crossing under water at high tide.
catching rain water on Great Keppel Island
trade wind sailing off the Queensland coast
an interesting contrast between shiny new and seen better days in Mackay marina
just a few ships waiting to load coal off Gladestone - that's Australia heading overseas, one shipload at a time