Miss Chloe is escorted across Ballina bar.
Miss Chloe is escorted across Ballina bar.

Two backpackers in sea rescue drama

By HELEN JACK helen.jack@northernstar.com.au IT WAS a lucky escape for three men aboard the converted trawler, Miss Chloe, on Saturday when an attempt to cross the treacherous Ballina bar flipped the vessel on its side, ripping off its starboard railing and tossing two crewmen overboard.

The crewmen, David Scanlan, 23, and his mate Michael Lowney, 22, both of Manchester in England, lived to tell the tale of their best adventure ever.

Skipper Andrew Dalton, of Brisbane, picked up the English backpackers, who were looking for adventure, and the boat at Port Kembla on January 7.

They were enjoying a leisurely voyage up the coast to Brisbane, where Mr Dalton plans to refit the vessel, when negotiating Ballina's bar proved an unexpected ordeal.

The Ballina Coastguard witnessed the mishap on low tide at 2pm and put out a call for immediate assistance.

David and Michael were both wearing life vests when they fell overboard, with each immediately clutching the same lifebuoy and hanging on.

They were quickly swept 1km out to sea in the outgoing tide, and then south a kilometre, before being picked up by the Ballina jet boat surf rescue unit.

Mr Dalton remained with his vessel during the whole ordeal, sending a mayday call received by the Byron Bay Coastal Patrol for two men missing overboard.

Retreating from the bar, the Miss Chloe sat about 1km off the coast for four and half hours waiting for high tide and for the bar to settle.

The vessel finally made it across the bar to dock at Fawcett Street at 7pm.

The Chloe was met by her two crew, who had been rescued nearly five hours earlier with only minor injuries.

David and Michael said they were not scared by the ordeal, and had rather enjoyed floating out at sea.

"We were gathering up all our belongings as they floated past. We even found a pack of boiled lollies, so I grabbed them and thought 'well at least we have something to eat' and then we kicked back," David said.

David figured they would be picked up sooner or later. "I'm just worried about my mum finding out," he said.

Upon seeing his partner Debra Lucas, who had travelled from Brisbane, Mr Dalton looked relieved and smiled. "I've had a big day," was all he said.

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