Port Clinton to Mackay

30 August 2011
Photo: ‘A’ Frame hut, West Bay, Middle Percy Island.

Port Clinton is surrounded by military land and is closed when the Australian armed forces have exercises in the area; it is isolated, remote and quiet and had just re-opened after extensive exercises with the Americans. We stayed in Port Clinton for a week while a weather system went through, enjoying the peace and tranquility. The area is extensive mangroves with sandy beaches, although the sandy beaches were not in the South Arm which is where we were for the better weather protection. We had the wind but no wave action in the anchorage so were very comfortable. Gordon and Maree put their crab pots out and caught two nice sized mud crabs, which we had for lunch one day, very nice. Other people in the anchorage where quite successful at fishing, although we talked about it we didn’t try. We did go for a walk along what appeared to be a public road through the military land, the signs warning of live firing, unexploded missiles and devices seemed to indicate the road was OK but not to venture into the bush.
Without a water maker we don’t know what our water usage is, so we are being conservative, maybe too conservative. There is a ‘competition’ to see who can use the least amount of water for a shower, which leads to who has the first shower, as this is usually quite cold; by the time the water has warmed up, the shower is over. Salt water dips and washes using salt water soap and shampoo are not an option with signs around warning of crocodiles. We haven’t seen any, but we think we have heard them.
Finally a week after we arrived; the wind dropped and on a misty, rainy morning we left Port Clinton and dropped anchor 3nm north in Pearl Bay, which according to the cruising guides is one of the nicest bays on this part of the coast, not today though. We stayed in Pearl Bay for 2 nights, the second day the mist and rain cleared and the sun came out, revealing the true beauty of the bay. We took the dinghy ashore for a couple of walks on the long sandy beaches and in the evening listened to the All Blacks playing the Wallabies in the Tri Nations decider on a scratchy am station. Unfortunately Brian thinks the All Blacks lost but says he “still isn’t sure” through all the static!!! Very Patriotic. There is no phone, TV or internet reception in Pearl Bay, one of the few isolated places we have discovered, the bay did have at least one dugong and some turtles happily swimming around. Again Pearl Bay is surrounded by military land so we could not venture further than the beaches. We decided at afternoon drinks to leave early the following morning to arrive at Island Head Creek on a rising tide. How plans change, we awoke to thick fog, no way were we going to attempt entering Island Head Creek without clear visibility. After a quick discussion on the radio with Gordon and Maree, Waimea, we decided to abandon Island Head Creek and go to the Percy Islands, so it was anchors up and we were away on a 55nm trip. Unfortunately for us, the auto pilot decided it did not want to go, so we hand steered all the way to West Bay, Middle Percy Island. The following day, however we turned the auto pilot on again and it worked perfectly, ooh the joys of boating. On the way we saw one whale breeching, again we were too slow with the camera and missed the photo, we’ll keep trying as the whales will be around until late October as they migrate back to Antarctica after breeding in the warm waters of the Whitsunday Islands.
West Bay, Middle Percy Island, is a must stop for most boaties going up and down the Queensland coast, although the anchorage is very prone to swell and can be very unpleasant. Luckily for us, the conditions were perfect with little to no swell in the bay. Middle Percy Island has a lot of history to it as it is an island that still is inhabited. There is one homestead and a couple of other dwellings, but although it has been farmed in the past, it is now part of the national parks network. We walked up the hill to the homestead and chatted to Kathy, who lives there with her husband, surrounded by goats, chickens, dogs, peacocks and pea hens. Down on the beach there is an A frame hut that was erected back in the 1970’s and has hundreds if not thousands of pieces of boat memorabilia, left over the years by boaties with their and their boat names, out the back there is a BBQ area and a shower. It is hard to describe the place, we spent almost an hour reading the messages and looking at all the memorabilia. Next door there is a tree house and another smaller building with older memorabilia. At one end of the beach is a boat harbour that totally dries out at low tide, with tides of 5 metres it is not an issue getting in, but only vessels that can sit on the bottom through low tide could use it with the homesteads permission.
Tuesday 30th August, 06:30 we upped anchor from Middle Percy Island in rain and motor sailed 67 nm to Mackay Marina for reprovisioning, laundry, fuel and water before heading for the Whitsunday Islands. On approaching Mackay, we had to thread our way through 30+ ships anchored and moving outside the port, they are very big when you are close to them, and seeing an AIS target doing 74knots we quickly worked out it was the helicopter transferring pilots between ships.
Next update from the Whitsundays.
Vessel Name: Dol'Selene
Vessel Make/Model: Warwick 47 cutter, built in three skins of New Zealand heart kauri timber, glassed over.
Hailing Port: Auckland, New Zealand
Crew: Brian & Gail Jolliffe
About: Brian and Gail have retired, at least for now, to enjoy the opportunity to cruise further afield than has been possible in recent years.
Current cruising plans are not too well advanced but we are inspired by Mark Twain’s quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your [...]
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