Night of horror for sailors
HANNAH ROSS firstname.lastname@example.org TWO men spent a harrowing night clinging to the sinking hull of their 12-foot catamaran as it drifted several nautical miles off our coastline on Thursday.
The stricken boat was towed into Brunswick Heads at 8.45am yesterday, 18 hours after the sailors set off from Kingscliff boat ramp.
Joel Wilson and Scott Warren were in remarkably good spirits after their dramatic rescue.
Draped in hospital blankets, the pair spoke candidly about their ordeal and the relief they felt when they were spotted by a rescue helicopter.
Mr Wilson, a civil engineer from Kingscliff and Mr Warren, a demolition worker from Brisbane, and both fathers of young children, set out for a quick afternoon sail at 4pm on Thursday from Cudgen Creek. But what started out as a one-hour trip quickly turned into every boatie's nightmare when their catamaran cartwheeled in rough seas, dumping the two men into the chilly water.
After the men failed to return home they were reported missing by a friend. Police checked the boat ramp and located the men's car and boat trailer where they had left them.
The first crew to head out to sea was Point Danger Volunteer Marine Rescue at 9pm. Rescuers had to contend with choppy seas and northerly winds blowing 18 knots. With a two-metre swell running in a southerly direction, rescuers focussed their search south of Kingscliff.
At 11.30pm the Brunswick Valley and District Volunteer Rescue Association got the call from Byron Bay police to join in the search. Tweed Coast Sea Rescue volunteers also set out at first light from Hastings Point.
Crew member Anthony Smith said he spotted a three-metre shark as he scoured the area aboard a jet ski.
The sailors were finally spotted from the air by the Westpac Life Save Rescue Helicopter about three nautical miles off Hastings Point.
They were winched to safety at 7.15am and taken directly to Tweed Hospital.
"At one point we made the decision we wouldn't be able to swim for it so we improvised and made a shelter for ourselves and just waited to be rescued," Mr Wilson said.