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Sailing Log Week 1 – Self Sailing Whitsundays

Sailing Log Week 1 – Self Sailing Whitsundays

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

This space has been a great outlet for sharing international travel experiences and to give a purposeful sense of significance to my photography habits.

That said, unlike most blogs out there, I never had the intention to diarise my personal travel plans or week to week goings on.

But, after landing in Mackay last week and having spent my first seven days of many sailing in the Queensland Coral Coast, I had the idea that sharing a more detailed and personal experience might be beneficial to many, especially those looking to go self sailing Whitsundays.

For this reason, I’ve decided to create a small series of posts dedicated to my time living on a boat and sailing from Mackay to the Daintree.

Self sailing whitsundays

What’s the Plan?

I’ve flown into Mackay and headed straight for the boat harbour to meet my parents. They have left their belongings in Brisbane and set off to live on Malaika, a 50-foot, home-built steel motorsailer.

Malaika and crew have already spent the last two months sailing up the coast from Brisbane, so I’m joining in a little later in the voyage.

The general plan is to accompany the sail from Mackay, past Cairns and Port Douglas and as far as the Daintree River.

We aren’t stretched for time, so the goal is more about how much we can see and do throughout the journey, more than how quickly we can get there. However, based on rough estimates, it should take about two months.

Mackay coast aerial photography

The Ship – Malaika

Malaika was built in my family backyard from 2004 and launched in 2014. She was largely my dad’s project, however, this quickly turned into a family ordeal, where most of us would spend our weekends helping build her from the ground up in some way or another.

While it might have been a lot easier to buy a boat, my parents’ dream of sailing the seas wouldn’t be as epic as first building one themselves.

Aerial drone shot of malaika

She’s definitely unique. The heavy steel-hull, high steering helm and the junk rigged schooner rig definitely turns a few heads and raises a few cameras when sailing past.

Sunset drone shot of sailing boat malaika

READ MORE: What it’s Like Sailing up the East Coast of Australia

The First Week Self Sailing Whitsundays

Introductions aside, the first week was mostly spent gaining my sea legs. By now the crew consisting of my parents and two dogs were already well adapted to living on the water.

Snorkeling in moalboal 2

So far, self sailing Whitsundays has offered calm, sunny and hot weather. This was a nice tropical change from cold and gloomy Sydney. The anchorages have offered relatively peaceful shelter from the Southern trade winds that can blow through.

Self sailing in keswick island

Keswick and Brampton Island

After arriving in Mackay, we set sail for Keswick Island, roughly 15 nautical miles out. Keswick and neighbouring St Bees Island are one of the first common anchorage spots for cruisers self sailing the Whitsunday Islands.

Sunset at keswick island

The next day, we headed to Brampton Island. It seemed as if every northern nautical mile gained, the water turned a lighter hue of blue.

Brampton itself was once home to a large and popular tourist resort. Due to cyclone damage, the owners decided to pack up and abandon it. For us, that meant heading to shore and checking out the remains.

Brampton island abandoned resort

Coconut palms and pristine beachside island huts remained, but no tourists were in sight.

The anchorage outside the abandoned resort was quite protected. However, we still had some strong residual winds and swell coming through at night.

Brampton Island to Outer Newry Island

I could get decent enough LTE and 4G connection in tiny remote Philippines islands and even in the Everest Himalayan region. But, now that I was back in Australia I couldn’t seem to pick up a bar out in Brampton Island.

Because I work online on a schedule, we were forced to head back closer to the mainland for the weekend. We chose Outer Newry Island for its well-protected anchorage in strong Southerly winds and its decent internet connection.

Outer newry island
Outer newry island drone photo

The next few days were spent working off a laptop on the boat. We also had time for kayaking, fishing and exploring the seemingly deserted islands off the coast.

Goldsmith – Back to the Islands

After a couple of days in Outer Newry, we were finished with work. This meant we were ready to go self sailing Whitsundays again.

It took roughly five hours of great sailing in 15 knot Southerly winds on our beam to reach Goldsmith Island. Another epic gum-hilled island surrounded by turquoise blue water.

We spent the day kayaking around the reef and enjoying the white sand beach and solid ground beneath our feet. The next plan is to continue up through the Lindeman group and to Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.

Self sailing keswick island
Sunset at keswick island

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Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.


Thursday 6th of June 2019

Can't wait to meet up with you and share this amazing journey!