We almost didn't stop at Middle Percy Island, despite its great fame among the sailing community ("you MUST stop at Percy!") The main anchorage on Percy, while beautiful, has a reputation as an uncomfortable anchorage - as our cruising guide puts it diplomatically, "no one would describe it as the most comfortable anchorage they've ever visited." After three nights of big tides, surgy anchorages and sleepless nights we were seriously considering bypassing MPI and starting on the 2 day trip to Mackay. We are so glad we decided to stop as it was one of the great highlights of our trip so far.
Middle Percy has a long and interesting history and has long been a popular stopover for sailors heading north to the Whitsundays, largely because since the 1960's the leaseholders have welcomed yachties with open arms, offering fresh produce like honey, fruit, vegetables and goat meat for sale. In recent times the island has been subject to a great deal of controversy and a protracted legal battle after the elderly and ailing caretaker was conned out out of his lease for just $10 before he passed away. The island's facilities were left to deteriorate, animals died, and yachties were no longer welcome. Thankfully in 2008 courts awarded the island back to the family of the original leaseholder. His cousin, Cathryn, has returned the island to its former glory as a wonderful, welcoming place for sailors to meet, socialise and enjoy their own little slice of paradise.
(There is an interesting article here which details the dramas of the island's recent history: The possibility of an island).
The caretaker Cate was happy for us to spend the night on the island so we packed up our camping gear and mozzie coils and camped out by the beach under a full moon. We and the other boats in the anchorage were invited by Cate to meet at the fire-pit behind the A-Frame for a dinner of peacock stew! I'll try just about anything once and the peacock stew was delicious. The closest I can compare it to is a strongly flavoured version of turkey.
The island is a long boat ride from the mainland (two days sail if you stop overnight on the way) and so the residents have to be pretty much self sufficient. Like many other QLD islands, goats were introduced to Middle Percy in the 1800's to feed passing mariners, and the homestead also keeps bees, peacocks and chickens. Interestingly kangaroos were also brought to the island for food, a native introduced species.
We had a great night socialising with the other yachties and the island residents, and were talked into staying an extra day and visiting Cate in her homestead at the top of the island the next day.
In the morning, after waving off the visiting replica tall ship Joshua C from the lagoon, Cate offered to drive me up to the homestead in her ute, saving the poor pregnant woman the steep hour long walk. There have to be some perks to being up the duff, right??? We met the resident goats which, having been on the island for so long, are a really pure genetic strain which Cate is very proud of. She gave us tea and biscuits while we checked emails - you can access precious internet and phone reception from the mainland at the top of the island. We picked limes with backpacker Sarah who a week earlier jumped ship and has decided to stay for a while. We waved goodbye to Cate and the goats and went to visit resident Steve at the nearby "Rondavel", a circular stone house hand-built by previous residents of the islands. The steep but beautiful walk back down to the beach topped off a fantastic day. Not since visiting Three Hummock Island in Tasmania have we been to such a unique place so welcoming to sailors. Middle Percy's website is: http://percyisland.com.au/
The next day, getting very low on supplies, we reluctantly upped anchor and started the passage to Mackay, stopping overnight at Curlew Island. We're now stocking up on supplies and getting a few boat jobs done before we head into the southern Whitsundays over the next few weeks.
The famous Middle Percy A-Frame - the Percy Hilton" - full of decades of memorabilia left by visiting yachts. We added our own little sign and felt suitable communal!
Cute MPI goats
A goat that thinks it's a dog
Michael with resident Steve and visiting backpacker Sarah
Rows of coal ships off the Hay Point port South of Mackay