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.
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.