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The Voyage of Spectacle Mackay, Queensland

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Mackay, Queensland

With a population of about 81,000, Mackay is 600 miles north of Brisbane and 240 miles south of Townsville.  Though Captain Cook arrived in 1770 naming several landmarks, John Mackay (1839 – 1914) explored the region in 1860, staked a land claim, and returned in 1862 with 1200 head of cattle.  Mackay surveyed the Pioneer River, submitted the charts to the government officials in Rockhampton, and thus, the Port of Mackay was born.

The correct pronunciation of the name Mackay is Muh-kai, as in rhymes with ‘sky’.  This unique pronunciation has been a subject of some good-natured controversy.  However, the Scottish descendants of John himself officially ended the discussion by chiming in:  the Gaelic name, Mackay, ends in ‘kai’ not ‘kay’.

On January 21, 1918, one of the most destructive cyclones to strike a populated center in Australia to this day touched down in Mackay.  Every structure in town was damaged, and communication lines were completely destroyed – a full five days passed before the outside world knew of Mackay’s fate.  The accompanying storm surge and 55.55 inches of precipitation caused unprecedented flooding and witnesses reported 6-foot-high breaking waves down Main Street.  

Mackay is nicknamed the sugar capital of Australia.  In the region, sugar cane agriculture covers 86,000 hectares producing up to 6.5 million tons of raw cane for processing.  Mackay Harbor is home to one of the world’s largest bulk-sugar loading terminals.  Unfortunately, the sugar industry has fallen on hard times as the worldwide price of sugar fluctuates, but mining continues to boom.  The nearby Bowen Basin contains the single largest coal reserve in all of Australia with annual extractions of 100 million tons.  Even so, business owners understand the potential fragility of both of these industries and continue heavily investing in tourism infrastructure.  Mackay is well-located as a jumping off point to visit the Whitsunday Islands.  Halfway between Brisbane and Cairns, Mackay is a good stopping off point for yachts in transit as well.


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