St Helena Cruise & Island Tour (Moreton Bay - not the Atlantic)

(Awarded Best Cruise Report for 2015)

Saturday 7th Nov 2015

by Sue Perry

A possible storm was rumored for before midday Saturday but it did not eventuate, the skies remained beautifully clear for our ‘short adventure’ to St Helena Island………..

St Helena Tour

For those readers unfamiliar with St Helena Island:

St Helena Island is a heritage-listed island in Queensland, Australia, 21 kilometres east of Brisbane and 4 kilometres east of the mouth of the Brisbane River in Moreton Bay. Originally used as a prison, it is now a national park.

The protagonists………

The Manly Six-MYCQ members – ‘Us Locals from hereabouts’

Captain Dudley & Jenny Young on Tropical Cat, graciously escorted MYCQ Commodore Bruce & Lyn Wieland along with Cruise Captain Ray & Sue Perry, over to St Helena and back to Manly harbour.

The Tri-hard Four – MYCQ members – ‘Blow-ins from up QCYC way’

MYCQ Treasurer Allan & Phillipa Bolt on Aquillo 1 and Peter & Delwyn Hackett on their ‘other boat’ all sailed down from Sandgate climes.

The Manly Six on Tropical Cat threw off their WMYC lines at 8.30a.m. and motored the 8 kilomtres over to the island’s western shore while The Tri-hard Four set sail from QCYC in a slight nor’east breeze at 8a.m., anchoring off the island’s northern shoreline to the east of the jetty by 10a.m. Peter Hackett advised by radio they would shortly be ‘storming the beach’. ‘Us Locals’ sighted said ‘storming’ i.e. ‘the Blow-ins’ wheeling and hauling their tenders some distance to shore across the exposed stony bottom, the time rapidly approaching low tide, each gasping for breath and water. We delicately suggested they would have to find a more appropriate beach to storm and time it for high tide!

The MYCQ members were welcomed by two of the island’s rangers - Mark & Jacque. Cruise Captain Ray had previously made their acquaintance earlier in 2015, having assisted with repairs to a couple of roofs on the historical buildings, when it was discussed that an exclusive MYCQ group tour would be perfect as a cruise destination/activity. In our group we had those who had never been to the island and others who had been some time ago.

What we learned from Jacque as we strolled around the museum and ruins….

For more than 60 years from 1867, St Helena was home to thousands of society’s outcasts, for here was located colonial Queensland’s foremost prison for men. During those years, and in the decades following its closure in 1933, the lovely little island gained a fearful reputation as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ and ‘Queensland’s own Devil’s Island’, where men were reputedly ‘kept chained by day and night’, ‘flogged to death’ and ‘hurried under the sod while their oppressors turned on those still living’. It was a place to dread for the colony’s murderers, rapists, bushrangers, rebels, thieves and men of like violence and mayhem. They were subjected to the lash, the dreaded black hole, the gag and straight-jacket, and energy-sapping shot drill. Life could be tough on St Helena. It was a secure prison – but dozens of men were desperate enough to attempt escape. Few succeeded. But St Helena also gained a reputation as a self-sufficient model prison, held in high regard by visiting interstate and overseas penologists, churchmen and journalists, for here men could be rehabilitated through learning such trades as tailoring, bootmaking, tinsmithing, saddlemaking, and farming pursuits. 

I have included a link to the island’s timeline, which puts its history neatly into perspective:

Jacque lead us through the historical and present day; man-made (middens, purpose built buildings, wells, lime kilns, radio transmitters) and natural points of interest about landscape, flora and fauna (natural and introduced); the profit-making activities; and the tall tales and true….while we ambling around the island, through the museum… catching the breeze at the highest point on the island….enjoying the shade of the enormous mango tree….contemplating aspects of the inmates daily lives….and lastly reflecting at the island’s cemeteries.

It was a thoroughly engaging and relaxing way to be treated to a very interesting tour of such local significance. This was enhanced by the friendly banter and jibes among familiar boating buddies. The Tri-hard Four headed off to Canaipa to find a safe overnight anchorage for the start of a weeklong Bay boating sojourn. The Manly Six retired to Tropical Cat to part-take of refreshment. A dip in the briny for some, with a cooling drink and healthy sustenance for all, followed by a kick back and chill-out before running out the jib and heading for home finished off a fantastic, fun day with friends.

Thoroughly recommended. The retiring Cruise Captain saved one of the best till last although who could pick as we invariably say each cruise is one of the best. Lets face it… it is a no-brainer….the camaraderie is the key!!

Merry Xmas…..and if you want a Happy New Year…..we are cruising to Noosa!

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