Extended stop at Keswick & St Bees!

Sailing is all about making the most of the conditions you get and seizing opportunities, whether you planned for them or not. Sometimes – actually often in our sea wanderers’ life – we just have to go with the flow!

The first example of this was when we left Airlie Beach with the tide in our favour and took the opportunity to go south via the Long Island Sound – a narrow 5nm passage between the mainland and Long Island we had never been through. We were motoring, since the breeze was just about non existent early in the morning, but with 4 knots of current with us at one stage it was a fast drift down, much faster than going via the more common Whitsunday Passage. And the bonus: a very scenic run!

Long Island Sound

Here is another prime example of going with the flow. On the way up a couple of months ago we were keen to stop at St Bees and Keswick Islands at the very bottom of the Southern Whitsundays, but the weather was not right so we missed out and were a little disappointed. This week, we got stuck at St Bees on our way south because the day after we arrived, strong easterly weather stopped us in our tracks. We knew it would happen when we left Airlie Beach, but thought it would be far nicer to hide at a scenic island than in front of town! Here is our first sunset at Keswick:

This is a satellite image of the two islands. We arrived at Keswick and anchored in one of the southern bays, then moved to St Bees, Homestead Bay, hooking onto one of four newly installed public moorings to get protection from the strong easterlies.

We were there for a week and boat bound for a few days which was a bit tedious! It was an opportunity though for Chris to work on an article about the Southern Whitsundays for Australian Multihull World, bake and play the piano! We also read a lot and plotted options for our track south.

We managed to explore on the not so blustery days: beach wander for Bengie, a walk up the hills for us, and a couple of snorkels, although the fringing reef has deteriorated a great deal. We made the most of our enforced stay. As Wade’s Dad Phil used to say: “everything works together for good”.

Here is the pick of the photos we took. As usual to see the images and captions in full screen click on the first one and arrow right.

And just to infuse a dose of realism about the state of some of our fringing reefs, here are a few upsetting sights. These images were taken at Horseshoe Bay, St Bees. 18 months ago, the bay was like a garden, with vibrant corals in a variety of intriguing shapes and lots of juvenile fish, which is why we so wanted to return. Look at them now, smothered with invasive algae and weeds which cut off their sunlight. It is a heartbreaking, frighteningly fast destruction. It is confronting because there is nothing we can personally do to change the situation.

The installation of marine park reef protection markers and mooring buoys to stop people from anchoring over fragile areas seems such an overdue yet grossly inadequate measure. How will this reef ever recover – not from anchor chain damage but from excessive nitrogen and sediment in the water and from bleaching events? It leaves us feeling terribly sad and powerless.

As we post this, with the northerlies back at last we have headed off south again, bound for a whistle stop at Mackay to pick up our long awaited right angle drill, then onto the Keppel Isles – a good test for the gear! Stay tuned for our next post on “Overcoming Winching Woes”.

For now we will leave you with a magic sunset from our last night at St Bees.

13 thoughts on “Extended stop at Keswick & St Bees!

  1. Great post on the two islands Chris. They are often bypassed or simply used as an overnight stopover particularly on our way south. We got “stuck” on Keswick a few seasons back. We did some walks on the island and remember the locals being very hospitable, even inviting us in for a cuppa! We learnt a lot about their history. I remember doing a blog post about the islands also. On our way to LM. Turtle time!

    • Hi Amanda – the “stopover” habit seems to be often the way… you don’t get to see much because you are in effect on a schedule. Pausing for a few days lets you explore and notice the good and the bad. Enjoy the southern reef and the turtles. We might get there after our dash to the Keppels. We’ll see what the weather allows! There is a strong SE change coming mid week!

  2. Thanks for the post guys. I’ve been checking the weather around your area, trying to predict the best time for you to head south. A fun exercise for a frustrated sailor, sitting out COVID in Alice. Not long now and we’ll be back onboard our boat!

    • Hi Pete, that’s excellent! It will be a huge day when you get back on board!
      We are on our way south to the Keppels at last. Should get there Sunday then we’ll see where the wind takes us! May be a coastal run or hopefully a reef run depending on how long and hard the next round of southerlies is!

  3. So sad Chris about the reef and its destruction and a government that has denied climate change forever. Love the sunset at the end

    • Hi Sue, we look back at underwater photos we took at our last visit and despair. The hardest thing is that there is nothing we individually can do, other than show these images and raise the issue with Marine Parks as we did. They were moored next to us and in a process of eradicating wallabies not native to the island and eating the eucalyptus growth that feeds the protected koalas… go figure!

  4. A lot of us metaphorically talk about “going with the flow,” but in your case, Chris, it is literal–you have to pay a huge amount of attention to the weather and water. I love the beautiful images, particularly those of the sunsets, the butterfly, and Bengie, of course. Stay safe, Chris. With the current covid situation in the US, traveling vicariously through you will almost certainly be the only travel I do in the near future.

    • It is strange, Mike. I was reflecting on the biggest aspect we have had to adjust to with this sea wanderers’ life. Realising you are not in control and relaxing into that, letting go and yes, going with the flow, is the single most significant shift we have had to make. Wade has been more accepting of this than I have!

      With COVID, looking with great concern at what is going on in the US and in France, we are indeed fortunate in Australia and particularly lucky in our own choice of lifestyle. I am glad our wanderings bring some positive escapes to you Mike and our followers and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

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