Middle Percy Island
Thursday 25th May 2017
Distance run: 189 nm
Typically, when we woke up on Monday morning the sun was shining, and we thought briefly about staying another day, but then decided we should press on while we had fair winds, so after waiting for the tide to slacken off a bit, we weighed anchor and made our way back through the pass.
Monday morning was bright and sunny, though still with cloud. Mawari leads the way back through the pass, the reef easy to see.
The edge of the reef was clear to see as we went through the pass at low tide. It pays not to get too close to the channel markers!
With fair wind we made excellent progress and began to realise we would be at Port Clinton way too early for the tides, and probably for the daylight too, and a quick look at the chart confirmed that if we kept up the pace we could make it to Middle Percy Island before dark the next day. As Port Clinton was just a place to sleep for the night, it being part of a military exercise area and a no-go area ashore, we were happy to bypass it and changed course for Middle Percy. We had the best sail since leaving the Gold Coast, and arrived at West Bay, the anchorage on the west coast of Middle Percy Island, an hour before sunset, dropped the anchor and settled back in the cockpit with an anchoring beer.
West Bay was described as being a rolly anchorage, but we did not find it so. It was calm and comfortable and very picturesque, and we decided to stay for a couple of days. When we went ashore to stretch our legs and explore, we were welcomed warmly by the leaseholder, Cate, who interrupted her trip down the hill on her quad bike to do so. She was on her way to help with clearing weeds, but told us to call in at the homestead where she had left out some information about the island’s history for us to look at, and to rest and cool down there after the long climb.
It was indeed quite a steep climb in places, but well worth the effort. The views from “Andy’s Lookout” over to South Percy were breathtaking, and the homestead, built in the 1920’s, was a living museum. What a wonderful place to live! The island has provided a welcome to the yachting community for many years, and on the beach stand an A-frame building and a telephone shed which both house hundreds of mementos left by visiting boats. A highlight of the visit was seeing so many Blue Tiger butterflies, which apparently migrate to the island at this time of the year, not only ashore, but fluttering past the boat at anchor! We have only ever seen so many butterflies in captivity before, so it was wonderful to see them flying free.
The beach with A-frame (right) and Telephone shed (left). The anchorage is protected to seaward by these islets.
The A-frame or “Percy Hilton”. A notice inside the A-frame gives information about the island.
The old telephone shed, now full of mementos. The view from the beach across to the islets.
The path up the hill was strewn with encouraging and “wise” words.
We came across mushrooms like tables growing in the middle of the pathway.
Bright orange fungus added a splash of colour every so often.
The view from Andy’s Lookout over to South Percy Island. More words of wisdom, apt but uncredited, from the poet W.H. Davies.
The homestead was a substantial building surrounded by gardens with mango and papaya trees.
The information provided upstairs was very interesting. Henry White brought his family here in the 1920’s and built the homestead.
Middle Percy Island has had a chequered history since being settled by the White family in the 1920’s. It became a haven for visiting yachties in the time of Andy Martin, when they knew that a warm welcome would always be awaiting them at West Bay. Since then, the lease has been in dispute, with an expensive court case restoring it to Cate, Andy’s niece. The lease has since expired, however, and the Government plan to make it part of the National Park to which the other Percy Isles belong. This would mean no goats and no bees, making the current subsistence living extremely hard. Cate is trying to negotiate a compromise, and we wish her luck.
We followed the path back down towards the lagoon. Mangrove roots make an interesting pattern in the dried floor of the lagoon.
It was low tide when we reached the lagoon and it was completely empty of water.
Back at the beach, the dinghy was high and dry. Time to head back to the boat for sundowners.
Although Friday night is “goat stew night”, when yachties are invited ashore for supper, we reluctantly decided that we should take advantage of the fair winds and weather and be on our way again tomorrow. Next stop will be Shaw Island, just a short hop from Whitsunday Island.