Wide Bay Bar Rescue 

Couple rescued off yacht after attempting to cross the Wide Bay Bar in rough conditions

A planned sailing passage to the Whitsundays came to a terrifying end last month for a couple forced to abandon their newly-purchased yacht in wild weather and atrocious seas off the mid Queensland coast. The Wide Bay Bar, at the southern end of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Straits claimed another boat.

The couple were forced to abandon their yacht after being rescued by the crew of Tin Can Bay Coast Guard vessel, Cooloola Rescue.

Coast Guard Commander Barry Ault said the 39-foot ferro-cement yacht got into difficulties as it attempted to come in across the Wide Bay Bar.

According to the Gympie Times, the couple radioed for help in the early afternoon and told Coast Guard volunteers they were in distress and were attempting to bail out the sinking yacht with buckets, as water rose to floor level inside.

Cmndr Ault said a few hours later that the crew of Cooloola Rescue had battled four metre plus seas to take the couple off the yacht.

"It was floundering around too much to come over the bar, so they were trying to find sheltered waters near Double Island Point," he said. "But it was taking water with seas over the top, so it wasn't going to last long. It was in about 30m of water. It's probably not there anymore. It may well have broken up," he said.

He said the couple were extremely upset at the loss of their sailing holiday dreams. "They were living on board, so they are homeless as well," he said. "They were cold and very upset. We've given them a cuppa and a shower and a meal and we've arranged accommodation for them tonight," he said.

Wide Bay BarThe Wide Bay Bar is well known by boaties as being one bar that demands the highest respect for attempting a crossing. The entrance is marked by lit beacons, but it is recommended that mariners contact Tin Can Bay Coastguard to obtain the latest information on bar conditions and position before attempting to cross it.

Sail-World reported that the yachtwas in the wrong position for crossing the bar, which moves frequently with the winds and currents.
Tin Can Bay Coast Guard Commander Barry Ault said the yacht has requested an escort through the bar, to which the Coast Guard acceded, and sent the Cooloola Rescue boat to escort them, having given them the correct way point.

'However, they were nowhere near where we expected to find them, being too far west in the directions of Fisherman's Gutter. The conditions were horrendous at the time, and unfortunately the Lilly Ann hit bottom, and began to take on water.'

The rescue vessel then began the difficult job of towing them back to safety to behind Double Island Point. 'Coast Guard Coxswain John McFarlane did an excellent job,' said Commander Ault. 'The conditions were deplorable, with 5-6 metre seas, pouring rain and nil visibility.

The holed vessel was taking water too fast for the crew to control, and the couple had to be rescued before the vessel sank in 30 metres of water. Even saving the lives of the sailors in the end proved a challenge in the difficult conditions.

'All sailors should be aware that the waypoints for Wide Bay Bar have been changed,' added Commander Ault. 'Sailors who are unsure of the currency of their waypoint information should call us by radio before approaching.

'If they use the old waypoints they could be in a very dangerous situation in shallow water. This applies particularly to yachts with their deep keels more than power boats.'

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard: 1800 - 0600hrs Stand by on 27 MHz and VHF Ch 16
Base Numbers Phone: (07) 5486 4290
Call Sign: VMR 417

Frequencies monitored
27.88 and 90 MHz
VHF 16, 80 and 82
VHF 67 during operation hours
MF/HF 2182, 2524


Updated May 2009


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