Middle Percy, Scawfell and Mackay

Sunday (4 July) we awoke to a flat calm sunny day. What on earth is going on?!? We ran the weather models and it definitely looked like Monday was going to be the best day to move on so we quickly got into departure planning mode. We realised that Mackay Marina (which wasn’t on our radar really as an intended destination) was only a two hour drive away from Airlie Beach (which is where our 2nd Covid jabs were scheduled for on Tuesday 13 July). By going there and driving to this medical appointment, we could spent more time exploring other islands on the way north rather than running past them in a hurry. So, decision made, we contacted Mackay and got ourselves a berth and booked a hire car for the day too. Result! At the same time, we cancelled our booking at the fancy Airlie Beach marina / resort but they kept our ‘flexible’ deal open so we can just rebook when we get closer. So everything came together nicely.

We got together a list of what we needed to do and started working our way through it. First, we headed into town on the bus and picked up fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and bread. We then headed back to the marina and into the laundry; downloaded some more Netflix content; and filled up with water. We then had a relaxing evening onboard.

Monday morning we got up very early and moved the outboard off the dinghy transom onto the rail. This was only possible because our marina neighbours were out fishing so we listened out for their engines as they left their berth and got this done as quickly as possible. We then ran the weather models again to make sure they hadn’t changed and, yes, it was still looking good. So I prepared the overnight passage food before heading to the marina office to tell them we were leaving earlier than planned whilst Richard did the engine checks. On my return we worked out our overnight route to Middle Percy Island and programmed that into the plotter. At 10 am we motored away. Despite being there for longer than we planned we enjoyed our stay at Keppel Bay and may well revisit when we return south later in the season.

Initially there was little wind but it kicked in a couple of hours later and we sailed away nicely. We had dinner together before going into our overnight shift patterns. It was a really dark and black night with only a tiny sliver of moon so the star show was absolutely fabulous. The wind was a bit flaky at times but, because we knew we would definitely arrive during daylight hours we didn’t mind, and continued sailing even when our speed dropped down to 3knots. But, despite it being a bit slow and a bit chilly, the sailing was absolutely great and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The wind died as we got close to the Percy Islands so we motored the last few miles.

We had our anchor down in West Bay, Middle Percy Island, by 9am on Tuesday morning having covered 107 miles in 11 hours.

We had just got settled when another boat came in and, despite there being lots of room, he dropped his hook virtually over our chain and then settled back sitting directly in front of us. We were not happy and Richard informed him over the radio what he had done. Although the guy picked up and moved (having four more abortive anchoring attempts before finally settling on a spot) he was definitely not happy and both him and his wife shouted at us as they went around the anchorage looking for alternatives. Hmmmm…..great! Never mind. Other boats started coming in during the day and it became quite busy but everyone stuck with the ideal diamond formation when anchoring and we were all quite well spaced out.

We caught up with some sleep before getting cleaned up and heading ashore. We visited the famous A-frame of Percy Island Yacht Club and had a wander around. The A frame reminded us of an early Foxys and Ivans in the British Virgin Islands. We also had a quick explore of the beach and the lagoon where a couple of boats sit high and dry at low tide.

We returned to Morphie getting a bit wet as we negotiated dink through the swell which is a constant feature on this beach. Later on we came ashore again (and got wet again LOL) for sundowners where we met a lot of other cruisers, including catching up again with the crews of SV Gypsy Soul (Matt and Grace) and SV Jaraman (Kat and Jerrad). Was a very social evening and great fun.

Wednesday morning we had a lazy start before heading ashore. We had decided to try to walk to the Homestead (where the unpaid custodians Robin and Ann live) but after about 45 minutes on an uphill rough sand / dirt track I gave up and turned back. Richard pushed on but he gave up shortly afterwards when he turned yet another corner and was faced with even bigger hills to climb LOL. So we decided to chill out on the beach and explore the Tree House (which is available for rent if you really want to get away from everything) before returning to Morphie.

We did come ashore again for sundowners in the evening. We also met Robin and Ann who had come down to the beach to meet the cruisers – they were cruisers themselves before deciding to apply to be custodians of this island for the Marine Parks. A very interesting and passionate couple who have great plans but, as all material has to be sourced on the island and nothing is allowed to be imported, they have a lot of very hard physical work ahead of them. Ultimately they would like to be able to offer adventure camping / cabin trips to disadvantaged teens – really hope that they can pull this off. When chatting to them we told them that I wasn’t able to do the trek to the homestead but would like to visit and Robin offered us a guided tour on Friday in his truck – we were really happy about that. Check out the beautiful sunset and Morphie glowing in the red sky at night.

Thursday morning we had a lazy day on board and it was lovely and sunny for a change with light airs – Richard even took the opportunity to sunbathe on deck for a little while. We decided that today was the day for us to take our boat plaque ashore and install it in the A-frame. Richard had made this (with only a little bit of assistance) whilst he was bored on a rainy day in Keppel Bay Marina.

So we found a spot and got it installed out of the direct sunlight so that it wouldn’t fade. Very pleased with the output. Richard was so happy he went and shucked and broke open coconuts for some fellow cruisers to have at sundowners that evening.

Friday morning we awoke to a grey and cloudy day. We went ashore for 9.30 am and met Robin. Ian (from SV Zatara) joined us on the beach for the tour so Richard and Ian climbed into the back of the truck while I got the front seat. We drove up and over the hills admiring the valleys; thousands upon thousands of butterflies; white cockatoos flying; noisy crows; wild goats; kangaroos; views out to other islands and down to coves. Just absolutely wild and beautiful. So pleased we got to see it.

We were then taken to the homestead and met Ann who had prepared some home made goat pate for us to try and also some starfruit and chilli relish with cheese. So along with a cup of tea we had a bit of a taster session and both products were so delicious I persuaded her to sell her first attempts to me! This was followed up by an apple cake which quickly got demolished. It was very generous of them both to invite us into their home and to treat us so royally.

We also got to meet their pet cockatoo – he has a particular illness which affects the growth of his feathers and he would probably not have survived in the wild – but he was found and adopted by them and now definitely rules the roost! He is quite demanding, particularly when cheese is on the menu, and he even rode in the truck with me on the way back down to the anchorage LOL.

Robin and Ann need to earn an income from the cruisers during the sailing season so they are looking at opportunities to use up surplus crops and Ann is trying her hand at making stuff to sell. She has already (in the 10 months onsite) learnt how to manage the bee hives and is now producing very good organic sweet honey which is sold in the A-frame along with a surplus of fruit; eggs and other merchandise (on an honesty system). We decided to support this great couple by joining the 400 other boats who have already become members of the Percy Island Yacht Club so we now have another flag on board LOL. Such a great place and a very special day.

Back on board we ran the weather models again. The wind was switching back to S/SE in the early hours so it was time to move on and we decided not to go ashore again. The anchorage had thinned out in the last day or two but had filled up again during the late afternoon. We set our alarm for 2am hoping for a 3am departure but, when we woke up, we realised that the wind and tide shift had meant that we really couldn’t tell in the inky black night where our anchor was. It was also so crowded with surrounding boats it would not have been safe to pick up. So our departure was aborted, we reset the alarm for 5am and went back to bed. At 5am we got ourselves ready to go at first light and by 6am we were heading out to sea as the sun came up. Of course the wind was stronger than expected with gusts up to 30 knots and we had large and lumpy seas so it was pretty uncomfortable for the first few hours with the boat rolling from side to side and it was cold! But then, as we got further away from the pull of the island, the wind moderated a bit and the seas flattened and we had an absolutely amazing fast downwind run. We had anchor down at Scawfell Island by 4.30 pm having covered 65 miles.

We anchored in quite deep water (allowing for a 13 feet tidal range) in the most amazing bay with a fringing reef. Just wow! So we enjoyed sundowners in the cockpit watching the sun go down before turning in for an early night.

Sunday morning we had a leisurely start. The wind was still blowing at up to 25 knots and it was chilly in the wind despite the beautiful sunny day. So the wind generator was definitely earning his keep! Later on we headed ashore in dink and walked the beach and just admired the spectacular scenery. These unspoilt marine park islands are just absolutely stunning and we hope to go snorkelling here one day if we ever do find some warmer settled weather….

Monday morning, by 7am, we were pulling out of Scawfell towards Mackay. The wind was much stronger than expected so we had quite a feisty run arriving into the main harbour (dominated by the sugar processing plants) and into the marina by 11.15 am having covered 28 miles.

The marina had no staff to assist us on the dock so we had to do this unaided – which we managed – but really don’t understand why they run these places with just a couple of young girls manning the office. Anyway, we got ourselves sorted out, and went to check in. They gave us a “pay three get four” nights deal so we were happy with that. Now it was time to clean Morphie as she was totally salt encrusted and to get the shore power connected. Having done some jobs we headed to the Marina Village Tavern for some dinner before returning to the boat for bed. The tides here are quite big so the slope on the dock is quite a challenge!

Tuesday morning we picked up our hire care – a true ‘rent a wreck’ which we were surprised was even legal LOL. Check out the rust!

Anyway it drove OK so we headed north towards Airlie Beach around 9am. We enjoyed the quiet main roads and the mountainous scenery along the way before arriving into Airlie Beach around 11am.

We did a quick shopping run to Woolworths and the bottle shop before then going to the chemist to get our prescriptions filled. The day before we had received them via email from our GP in Coomera so printed them off and presented them. But this wasn’t acceptable according to Australian rules so there was some conversation about how we would get round this. The pharmacist, in the end, contacted Coomera and got the originals sent to her so she was able to give us one month’s supply but no ‘repeat scripts’. Oh well, at least we’ll be OK for another month.

We then headed to the Whitsunday Doctors surgery for our 2nd Covid jabs. There was quite a line of people waiting but they were pretty efficient and we had them done together, then sat outside for 15 minutes to check for no ill effects, then headed over the road for some lunch. We then returned to the pharmacy to pick up our medications before starting the drive back to Mackay. All done and Covid vaccination certificates in the bag – woo hoo!!! Back on board we had a quiet night in.

This morning, Wednesday, and we have treated ourselves to breakfast out in the marina village cafe and I’m blogging while Richard catches up with the news. The weather gods have decided to not play ball again with the winds turning north so it looks like we could be here until Saturday but we have a list of jobs to do, as always, so no worries.

Hope you are all well at home and enjoyed the football, despite the sad result. What great efforts from the team though – I think the tabloid headlines just sums it up perfectly.

Take care everybody and sending lots of love and hugs coming your way. So it must be time for another iconic Australian animal to make you smile – this time it’s a happy emu.

Bye for now, Jan