10 May 2023

Quick-thinking captain beaches vessel

| Matt Nicholls
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A CRISIS was averted last week when the skipper of a barge bound for Innisfail nearly sunk off the coast of Cape York.

The actions of the captain of the Wattle probably saved the newly-bought vessel, although he did require some luck.

Making its way from Darwin, the former Navy boat had made it successfully across the Gulf of Carpentaria and through the Torres Strait when it started taking on water as it turned to go down the east coast of Cape York.

Bronwyn Tully, speaking from Turtle Head Island, told Cape York Weekly that they were phoned on Wednesday night and told the Wattlehad been beached nearby.

“We got a call from the owner in Innisfail and it was just at sunset so we went outside and we could see the mast lights,” she said.

“The captain had turned it around and aimed at one of our beaches … but he picked the rocky beach so he was very, very lucky.

“There have been a few boats beached there before but that was the first one that deliberately beached itself there.”

On Thursday, the skipper was able to manoeuvre the Wattleoff the beach and to a sandier beach at Turtle Head so they could fix the vessel at low tide.

Rusty Tully lent a helping hand and the three-man crew were able to enjoy a coffee and a hot shower on the island.

“The ship was seaworthy but there was rust around an exhaust pipe and that’s where the water came through,” Bronwyn said.

“It was lucky they had a welder on board and Rusty gave them some metal sealant – a type of putty.”

The Wattle was steaming away on Friday and from all reports had managed to stop the water leak.

Bronwyn said there was rarely a dull moment on Turtle Head Island and that they were more than happy to lend a hand.

“When you live in a remote part of Australia that’s just what you do – you help each other out,” she said.

“They were appreciative of the help and we were more than happy to give it.”

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