Tuesday 09 – Peaceful Percy

Position: 22 39.18 S  150 14.62 E
At anchor West Bay, Middle Island, Percy Group
Wind: SE;  F3-4, gentle to moderate breeze
Sea: moderate   Swell: ESE 2.5 meters
Weather: sunny, mild
Day’s run: 100 nm

We have enjoyed a mostly pleasant sail from Great Keppel Island to Middle Percy Island. The wind started fresh but gradually eased later in the day and eventually the swell eased a little as well which made for a much more comfortable sail. Our passage took us past the Shoalhaven Exercise area where we passed two US amphibious ships and their associated aircraft and landing craft. Of particular interest were the Osprey VTOL aircraft which I had not seen before. They overflew us a few times and we were to witness one of them landing on the back of what I presume was her mother ship.

We arrived of Middle Island around 0530 and as I did not want to attempt to anchor in the confines of West Bay in the dark, we stood off for an hour under mainsail only, before tacking, resetting the jib and making our way to anchor.  We came to anchor off its sunny beach at 0735 and I think Kate was truly taken by the bay’s natural tropical beauty, with white sandy beach with palm trees behind, red rocky headlands, forested hillsides, and turquoise waters. And we weren’t rolling – well only a little bit.

Once Sylph had settled, I settled into a short nap after which we got the dinghy overboard and headed ashore for a brief reconnoitre of the immediate area.  I have been here a number of times now, the last being in 2013 on my way north to Japan but this is Kate’s first time. Middle Percy Island is something of a yachtie Mecca. Many years ago, a leaseholder built an A-frame hut as a meeting point for passing cruisers and it has been a place where sailors call in whenever passing by ever since.  The A-frame, as well as providing shelter, a campfire and washing facilities, houses the memorabilia of passing yachties for the last fifty years or more.  Kate and I explored its labyrinthine interior and sought out the sign I had left here six years ago. Eventually I found it nailed to a post and was pleased to see that it was still in pretty good condition.  (I will likely just add a date to it to commemorate this visit.) I was also pleased to see a board that I had place here with the Youth Crew from Young Endeavour back in May 1995. This board was done mainly in ink and being so much older was not faring as well as Sylph’s memento.

After paying homage to the A-frame, we continued to the lagoon to see what boats were secured there.  We found three boats there, a steel motorboat that presumably belongs to the current leaseholder, a beached trimaran, and a little Hood 23 sitting on its shallow keel with careening poles holding her upright.  A fire was burning beside the little Hood and the piquant wood smoke added to the relaxing ambience. The tide was out so we could easily traverse the sand bars and mud patches to visit the boats.  The trimaran was owned by Bill and his partner Kim.   We had met Bill down at the beach so knew a little of his story, a long-term local who clearly holds a great affinity for the surrounding waterways.  Apparently, he has owned and sailed his trimaran, Tethys, for forty-five years which makes my twenty-two year relationship with Sylph seem relatively short.

The Hood 23, which I didn’t get the name of, is owned by a romantic American soul who goes by the name of Shipwrecked, or Shippie as I heard Bill call him. It was his fire that we smelled burning on our approach. It turns out he is cooking goat stew, the skin of which he was in the process of curing on the lifelines of his Hood with a homemade brew of brine.  The small coach-house that covered his companionway doubled as a greenhouse, its windows lined with  numerous plants, with the portside plants all being hydroponic. Saronged, suntanned, and dreadlocked, with several spare sarongs drying in the rigging of his boat, Shippie looked like someone determined to keep alive the dream of the possibility of an alternative lifestyle against the pressures of an increasingly crowded and urbanised planet. Long may he prosper.

All is well.