West Bay, Middle Percy – a haven for seafarers

Tuesday 31st August, (day 44)

As mentioned we arrived pre-dawn but Geoff stayed outside Pine Islet that has a marked rock just to its northern side and given our jitters from the experience at Hexham, he marked time by taking another pass to the south and back before we entered the anchorage. This is the anchorage viewed from Pine Islet and looking toward the beach and taking in the entrance to the creek.

Our prime concerns for this visit to West Bay at Middle Percy Island is now to try to obtain some fresh water.  All we have is what was left in the kettle on the stove and 3 partly filled freshwater drinking bottles.  

Fortunately, it is still squally weather and Geoff has a tarpauline especially for water collection.  He cleverly rigs it in the aft end of the cockpit with a dive weight to angle collection into the stainless-steel Dutch oven.  It is my want to save things that might be useful and happily my reluctance to be rid of the tapped 10 litre container proves to be an advantage as a place to store some of the water.  We managed to collect about 15 litres during the day and with us both rather tired we stayed aboard today, electing to collect what rainwater we can before venturing ashore tomorrow.

Cooking dinner without using much water is something to consider when at sea.  Yes, you can use seawater to cook vegetables and pasta, but I’ve done this before (about 40 years ago) and it can oversalt the food, thus requiring fresh water rinsing anyway.  With this in mind, I was reluctant to try it again, and given we hoped for more water tomorrow I cooked meatballs and linguine and saved the water to re-use tomorrow night for the vegetables.

Wednesday 1st September (day 45)

The rain has gone and with it, any hopes of collecting more freshwater is too.  However, we are still experiencing 20-25 knots easterly winds and it threatens to continue.  Launching the aluminium dinghy from the davits in any swell and high winds can be a little trying especially when then lowering the outboard motor and securing it to the stern.  We manage it well, but not without some stress for Geoff.

As is the custom for visitors to the “A-Frame”, we took with us one of the rope bags I had made and illustrated to leave our memento.  We joined as members of the Percy Islands Yacht Club in 2019, but at that time had nothing to leave.  I noticed that most of the most visible notices from visitors were quite recent.

The breadboard that I had left in 2009 when I visited with Dave and Lindsey had long faded into obscurity, so I was also keen to leave that mark again since I had joined the club as Shell de Mer (the name of the ketch that visited that year).

We saw the water at the “A Frame” was non potable, so ventured to the Tree House in the hope of begging for some water – we could not stay longer without more and neither could we leave until the weather settled.  Steve who has lived on the Island in the ‘round house’ for 12 years happened upon us looking for someone to grant us permission to get water and he happily obliged us with fresh water from the tanks there.  Not only did we have the 10-litre container, but we brought with us the 19 litre solar shower. 

Being aware that the Island and the inhabitants of the Homestead are restricted in what water and food they have, we respect that anything we need impacts on them and their needs.  We were very grateful for this support in our time of emergency.  The spirit and nature of the community of the Island and the seafarers and volunteers is that West Bay is a safe haven for sailors and we know that in times of trouble many would offer their assistance. 

Steve informed us that we could travel by dinghy up the creek to a landing area to collect more water from another tank once the tide had risen.   

Back at the boat we emptied our containers into the stainless-steel fuel tanks located under the aft cabin bunk and dipped the stick – it barely registered the pitiful 25 litres in 500 litre tanks.  Geoff locked off one tank so that we could just input one at a time for now. We decided that the next trip we would just keep the 10-litre container filled so that we could measure how much we used each day.  We are very frugal with only 2 litres per person.

Some pearly shells I missed at Pearl Bay were found today on the beach here, and a few coconuts were collected to augment our low drinking water. (photos)

Listening to the weather reports on the VHF radio, it was decided that tomorrow was the window of opportunity to get to Curlew Island ahead of another weather system that would impact our journey.  We expected a pleasant sail to Curlew and a few boats had headed in that direction today.

As the tide came in, we ventured up the creek in Grum the tinny, and passed the catamarans that are safely homed here.  We were very surprised to behold “Joshua C” and the ramshackle ‘boat yard’ through which we traversed on the way to the rainwater tank.  We were very disappointed that it was signed ‘non potable’ and given this was purely for drinking water and not cooking or washing we were not brave enough to take this on board. 

Given our rather urgent need for enough water to see us both through for at least 3 days possibly more we returned to the Tree House and helped ourselves to another 28 litres of water.  Some may think this was greedy and that we had no permission to take this water, but we believe that the spirit of the ‘safe haven for seafarers’ extends to supplying water when in need.  The rainwater tank was full, and we were assured there was another further up the hill, so we don’t believe we took more than we needed or that we disadvantaged others.

Marine life is in abundance, and we’ve watched the pelagic tuna and mackerel chase and chop up schools of baitfish.  A very large pod of dolphins with young family members have played and fed the channel from Pine Islet across the bay and northwards.  Just when it couldn’t be any more perfect, I notice a strange wave that signified a very large whale about to surface.  There were two adults and a very young (perhaps newborn?) whale right at our stern.  One adult seemed to move off, but we watched the mother and her calf on the surface until it was too dark to see them anymore this evening.

Below decks we were serenaded by the pair all night long.

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