2 January 2024

Campers plucked from the water in daring post-Jasper rescue

| Cape York Weekly
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The Cooktown Coast Guard exchanged passengers with the Queensland Police off Bloomfield. Photo: Nick Davidson

Three campers attempting to boat out of remote Cedar Bay in the wake of Cyclone Jasper were lucky enough to have their escape attempt hijacked after being spotted by the Cooktown Coast Guard returning from running emergency personnel to Bloomfield.

Camper Rob and his two friends said they were well prepared, and had an EPIRB and other safety equipment, but had not anticipated the level of flooding when they decided to return to the Bay, roughly halfway between Cooktown and Bloomfield, to get their small boat.

“We’d been camping at Cedar Bay for a week, we had a radio and knew the cyclone was brewing so we hiked back in to get our boat and our stuff,” Rob told the Cape York Weekly.

“We then realised the ocean was too heavy to boat out, and didn’t want to bring other people into that situation by activating our EPIRB.”

The trio built a bamboo platform to stay above the water, and webbing to stop the branches being felled by heavy rain landing on them, and waited it out.

“There was zero wind, but the rain was so hard that branches and trees were coming down, it was pretty scary,” Rob said.

“We didn’t sleep all night spotlighting for crocs, and the floodwater came within two inches of our platform.”

Out of food and water, they thought help was at hand as they tried desperately to wave down the Coast Guard as it headed south towards Bloomfield, but they weren’t spotted.

“We decided we could boat out and stick close to the shore, I had GPS maps of all the terrain and we felt safe to hike out from anywhere if we had to go ashore,” Rob said.

Cooktown Coast Guard deputy commander Nick Davidson said if it wasn’t for an eagle-eyed passenger, they would have steamed past on the trip north as well.

“We were about 5 nautical miles off Cedar Bay and one of the doctors below had eagle eyes and spotted this tinny off in the distance,” he said.

“These three were very much on Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s radar, it was just pure chance that we were the first ones to spot them.”

Rob’s companions said they were thankful for his preparations, which included all boat safety equipment, adequate provisions and a radio.

“Thank God we had a tarp and a radio. We like to do everything by the law, we had all the safety equipment in the boat and provisions for four to five days,” Rob said.

The trio are resting in Cooktown before making their way back to family in Julatten for Christmas.

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