Two solo sailors lose their boats in Queensland incidents

Sad sight - Stargull on the rocks
.. .
Two incidents off the Queensland coast involving solo sailors have again highlighted how easily and quickly one can run into trouble if all systems are not working well. In one incident, a wooden sailing boat unexpectedly started taking on water and sank, while in the other, a steel yacht hit rocks while the sailor was below dealing with a problem. It is intact, but high and dry.

This incident happened at night when the Kiwi solo sailor was arriving in Australia and heading for the Bundaberg Port Marina when his yacht Stargull developed its equipment problems. He was down below dealing with the problem when the yacht left the channel and hit the rocks.

As Volunteer Marine Rescue spokesman Graham Kingston observed, 'Keeping a proper lookout is one of the things we stress, but it's tough for solo sailors.

'With the bad weather he probably hasn't had much sleep over the past few days.'

A salvage expert called into rescue the vessel said he would probably have to use a bulldozer to drag it off the rocks.

A fibreglass hull, however, would have shattered.

In the other incident, the sailor, Fabian Stelco, was taking his wooden vessel from Port Macquarie to Yeppoon to meet his wife when he ran into trouble between Seventeen Seventy and Lady Elliot Island.

Mr Stelco was almost at his destination when 'things went wrong' and his 13m timber cutter began to take on water.

He activated his emergency beacon, abandoned ship and jumped into the dinghy.

'When I heard the chopper that was a relief,' he said. 'You don't get any return signal or anything so you just have to hope it's working,' he said. (which says a lot for the latest technology where you DO get a reply)

The AGL Action Rescue Helicopter from Bundaberg was sent to help the stricken yachtsman and was able to lower crewman Richard Mitchell down to rescue him.

'It was wonderful to see these guys fly up. To watch them put someone in the water and to swim over to the ducky and lift me up,' he said.

Mr Stelco and his wife were planning to live on the boat in Yeppoon, but uncertainty now surrounds their next move.

'We are currently staying with relatives and we just have to work out what to do,' he said.