Sailors Grave claims beached yacht

Sailors Grave claims beached yacht

With wild weather along the coast last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, one vessel and its crew of two struggled to cope with the conditions, running aground at Sailors Grave in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The 45-foot yacht with two men on board was en route from Eden, headed for Westernport Bay. Departing Gabo Island on Tuesday with plans to make Cape Conran, the weather turned, which saw the skipper decide to head out to sea and anchor to wait for more favourable weather.

“They had intended to get to Cape Conran, but wind delayed their departure from Gabo,” Gippsland Water Police’s Leading Senior Constable, Glenn Powell, said.

“But the wind came through and prevented them from coming ashore.

“They did the right thing, and anchored at around 1am, intending to stay there overnight. However the anchor did not hold, which they were unaware of until it was too late.”

Their distress call was received by Coast Radio Melbourne, which was relayed to the alert coordination centre, Melbourne.

Marlo Coast Guard received the call for assistance at around 2am. With conditions as wild as they were, the three coast guard volunteers dispatched to Cape Conran reassessed the situation, deciding to make contact with the vessel to determine where it was situated, whether on or near the rocks or at a safer distance.

Once it was determined the yacht was on the sand and not the rocks, flotilla commander, Harry Ferrier, said they proceeded to the East Cape Road carpark, from where the mast light of the vessel was seen rolling violently in the wild conditions.

“One of our crew spotted a light on the beach, not far from the yacht. Finding one crew member on the beach we learned there was one other still onboard,” Cdr Ferrier said.

The yacht was still off the water’s edge at that point, but the owner of the boat, who was still onboard, was not visible.

“We needed him to get on deck where we could see him. Facing stern first into the waves he could have been trapped on board, as conditions meant our rescue vessel could not have got close enough,” Cdr Ferrier said.

The owner was asked to activate his EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon), which he did, as Cdr Ferrier proceeded to wade waste deep to assess the situation further.

“The man was reluctant to come up on deck,” he said.

“The vessel was about 10 metres out at this stage so I waded out to shoulder height where I told the man he must come up on deck but was not to disembark until suitable conditions allowed him to do so.”

The man was eventually able to walk to the beach and was taken with his crewmate to the Marlo Coast Guard shed where they were assessed by ambulance officers. Having been knocked about a bit, one was taken to Orbost hospital while the other was taken to Bairnsdale hospital. Both were discharged later that day.

“With the coast guard, water and shore police, ambulance and communications it was a very well-executed rescue,” Cdr Ferrier said.

LSC Powell said the sailors had a “reasonable voyage plan”.

“Weather along the coast can be changeable, and you need to be prepared,” he said.

“They did the right thing, but their anchor just didn’t hold.”

With the fuel cells recovered at the time, along with any flotsam, there were no environmental concerns. The vessel was secured to await salvage when conditions allowed.

“There was no visible damage from the outside, though it did take a lot of water over the transom,” LSC Powell said.

It is understood, however, that damage was more extensive than appeared from the outside, and the stranded vessel was set to be demolished and taken away overland.

IMAGE: Wild weather was too much for the anchor of a yacht that wound up beached in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.