Island Hopping

There is something slightly romantic about an uninhabited island destination, even more so when you plan a series of island hops. This week this is what we have in store for you.

The weather is way too windy for the outer reef, so we are sailing along the coast from isle to isle: little hops, scenic anchorages, a few walks among the Percy, Northumberland and Southern Whitsunday Islands.

Middle Percy

Middle Percy is the quintessential island paradise, or so it seems. Look at those palm trees! Can you hear the ukulele music? We often stop there on the way north and we always swear never to do it again. West Bay, the designated anchorage in a southeast, is the pits in fresh conditions with swell rolling into the cove, making life very uncomfortable. But the picturesque spot with its quaint A frame hut, the honey, the walks ashore, the visit up to the homestead for a chat and a real lemonade seem to lure us each time, especially if we have guests on board.

The Percy Hilton!

The reality is that it is one of the few anchorages where we wish we had a gimbaled stove so the pots would not go flying as we cook, and we are glad our beds are oriented east west! Sleeping is easier when the bed moves head to toe and you don’t roll over your partner, or worse, roll out of bed! And if it is bad for a wide cat like Anui, imagine what it is like on a monohull rolling from gunnel to gunnel!

Sunset from West Bay towards Pine Islands

Digby Island

But two nights at West Bay were enough, and we sailed 20 miles further to Digby Island for some respite. This spot is an attractive anchorage tightly set between several islands: Digby itself, Henderson and Keelan, with Still Islet standing out by itself, looking like it should have a monastery at the top. It is never totally quiet, but after the extreme roll of West Bay, it feels comfortable. We were there with a prawn fishing boat overnight.

Anui anchored at Digby Island
Panoramic of the island anchorage
Still Island looking solemn!

We got there at low tide and were intent on going ashore although it is a challenging dinghy access to the beach at anything but high tide. There are rocky platforms but also a multitude of oyster covered rocks ready to attack feet and inflatables. So we anchored the dinghy out, waded in awkwardly and checked out the beach and the wreck, the victim of a storm a few years ago. Beach combing was excellent with Ann finding a rubber mallet!

Wade and Greg trying to keep the dinghy off the rocks!
Good find by Annie!
Can’t resist a wreck!

St Bees

The next 40nm hop was to St Bees in the Southern Whitsundays. A painfully slow passage to start with, it livened up for the last few hours with 20 knots of SE wind on the back quarter.

Screecher full as we reach St Bees

The highlight was catching a Spotted Mackerel on the trawling line, something we had never managed on Anui before, always believing she was going too fast to catch anything! Well it did not deter this beauty! There was enough tasty fresh fish to feed a hungry crew of four plus pussycat for a few meals! Sashimi, Ceviche, fillets crumbed in Panko and finally fish curry tickled our taste buds for the following four nights.

Spotted Mackerel caught on the trawling line
This should feed us for a while!

We picked up a public mooring at Horseshoe Bay on St Bees to start with, needing phone coverage for a telehealth appointment, but ended up moving to the northern end of St Bees to hide from swell and wind. We stayed there for several days while 25+ knots were blowing, unable to do much.

In desperation, we even tried a snorkel, but were disappointed although not surprised. The coral is well and truly dead, covered with horrible invasive algae, there is hardly any fish and the visibility is so bad it is… well, spooky! It is very sad to see how St Bees has deteriorated so much, just like nearly everywhere else in the Whitsundays. We revisit posts, photos and magazine articles we wrote back in 2019 about this region and shake our head. Three years later we have now reached the stage of feeling it is not even worth trying to snorkel here anymore because it is pointless and depressing.

Brampton Island

The next day we were getting itchy feet… it was time to sail twelve rowdy nautical miles on, and visit Brampton Island. We did not have far to go but with 25 knots on the beam, it was a chaotic passage!

Brampton and adjacent Carlisle Islands

We stayed a couple of nights, enough to time our shore excursion with the high tide and absence of rain! Once a tourist hot spot, Brampton sits deserted and derelict, like many other Queensland island resorts. The ruined owners have typically walked away from them, after a combination of post GFC tourism downturn, cyclone damage and then years of disrepair and neglect. But at least, Brampton Island being a National Park, some of the tracks are maintained. So we headed for the top of the hill! Here are a few of the sights we enjoyed: Blue Tiger and Common Crow butterflies, some fungi, a caterpillar, nice ferns and not a bad view!

Shaw Island

With a forecast of rainy and windy weather, we snuck in another 25nm hop, this time to Shaw island, just before the rain set in.

Approaching Shaw Is
Captain Wadie at the wheel
Greg & Ann underway: we have internet!

After five weeks on Anui, our friends Greg & Ann are now getting a taste of life aboard when you can’t get off. They will have experienced it all on this voyage! As we post this, we are still at Shaw Island, battening down for a soaking. There is not much hope of pleasant conditions over the week ahead, so we will make our way to Airlie Beach in a few days after the rain has eased and our friends will leave us there.

15 thoughts on “Island Hopping

  1. Wow, you guys have had some great adventures lately! The island photos are so beautiful with butterflies, caterpillars, and more. The sea was looking angry in one photo, scary. Safe travels! 😎🇦🇺

  2. This post was sad reading. The iconic Whitsundays ruined by governments who have ignored the dangers of climate change, who have continued to ignore the impact of chemical runoff from human development and farming. What was once a go to destination for tourists, both local and international is no longer so attractive. The economic costs are huge to our nation. Our new government has a long road to hoe to try and fix all the issues. Power to the Great Barrier Reef Authority, scientists and those seeking to stem the tide of destruction. In spite of all of this I am so pleased you are having a beautiful time with Greg and Ann. Ignore my glumness, life is worth living to the full. Have fun. Getting better by the day.

    • Hi Sue, hopefully only the St Bees and Brampton sections were the sad ones in this post, but yes the state of the fringing reefs and quality of the water in the Whitsundays are indeed poor, particularly if you like diving. For most people who just look at what is above the surface, things are ‘lovely’. Good to hear you are on the mend. We would so like to welcome you on board in a few weeks!

  3. More great adventures and catching a beaut mackerel for your meals…what a great life!!
    Hope everyone is doing well.

  4. Ah, the romance of island hopping ang gimballed stoves! Still vicariously enjoying your adventures ….

  5. Such beautiful photos Chris, & a lovely reminder that the fine days are memorable and make a passage very worthwhile. Such beautiful weather is hard for us to imagine at present, it has been mostly very wet, cold and windy here. Enjoy your island hopping & hope the fine weather returns up there for you very soon.

    • Hello Lindy and Phil! Memorable moments with friends… always special. It has been pretty good overall. Only the last few days have been really poor weather wise so we have not done too badly.

  6. These look like some really fun adventures, Chris, particularly exploring the beaches. The insect photos were an unexpected surprise–nice shots.

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