The story I would like to tell, sadly had a tragic ending for those involved and their family and friends.
I think it is important to tell this story so that others can learn by what happened to them.
If someone reads this and finds themselves in a similar situation, their loss, as tragic as it was, may save someone's life.
This is the story as I remember it.
In the mid-1980’s, my brother David and two of his friends decided to sail a large 3 mast yacht called the Ancient Mariner, from Brisbane to Cardwell NQ. After leaving Brisbane, they found themselves at the entrance to the Great Sandy Straits, Fraser Island. They decided to wait until the morning to cross the entrance, as it was late in the afternoon and conditions were not favourable for the entrance crossing. A decision was made to anchor up and wait till the morning. When they anchored up off the south end of Fraser Island, they decided to use a forward and rear anchor to hold the yacht in position. (This was a mistake.)
Sometime during the night, unbeknownst to them, the ocean swell increased, sending an extremely large set of waves crashing into the side of the yacht. Unable to turn into the swell due to the forward and rear anchors, the yacht was capsized and sinking. They made it out of the yacht but were unable to reach the life jackets, which were inside the yacht and underwater. (No Epirbs were available in the 1980’s). They managed to make it into the tender boat, but it too was capsized, leaving the three friends alone in the water, at sea, with no help. Sadly, only one person survived. He managed to make it to shore on Fraser Island, after a swim of some 15 to 20 hrs. He raised the alarm after flagging down a passing 4x4.
A long extensive search was undertaken, but unfortunately, no other survivors were ever found.
I think several factors certainly would have contributed to this tragic loss of life.
- It is not a safe practice to anchor in open waters with both front and rear anchors. The boat needs to be able to face bow into the waves, to avoid rolling over.
- Make sure your life jackets and EPIRBS are as accessible as they can be. You never know what could happen or when you may need them.
A memorial is now in place at the southern end of Cardwell beach for the beautiful young lady who was lost. And my Brother David will always be missed.
Remember to be safe out there. And always have your safety gear sorted out, because at the end of the day if you get into trouble, you only have yourself to rely on until help arrives after you’ve activated your EPIRB.
R.I.P David and Colleen.
(David Jones in photo)