10 May 2023

Vessels torn to shreds after off-shore storm at Lizard Island

| Sarah Martin
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SEASONED sailors have warned of the importance of remote telecommunications and being prepared following a freak storm that left dozens of yachts damaged at Lizard Island.

Watson’s Bay, a popular anchorage on the northern side of Lizard Island and home to some of the world’s most pristine reefs, had about 25 vessels anchored when a freak storm with winds over 100km/h burst in from the north.

“We were prepared, but not for a storm from that direction,” yachtie Leonie Leonardi said.

She and partner Dave Flynn rode out the four-hour storm, watching 7m tenders drift by to smash on shore as they desperately tried to keep their yacht off the nearby reef.

“We had the motor running, keeping the yacht away from the reef behind us and dodging the three big white boats in front of us,” Mr Flynn said.

“If one of those big boats had come loose, we would have been in real trouble. If we jumped (overboard), the conditions were treacherous, we would have got cut to pieces on the coral and there was debris in the water.”

Ms Leonardi said if boaties had been able to see the storm cell earlier, they could have moved to the sheltered southern side of the island, but the limited reception meant many didn’t have access to internet.

“Everyone was very, very lucky,” she said.

“At one point we registered 48 knots and when you’re not ready for that, it’s quite daunting.

“We had other boats anchored nearby, large boats in front of us, tenders floating past, gas bottles, wheelie bins and dive gear, all going over the side.

“The waves were breaking and coming in over the boat, and there was a lot of damage to boats.”

Cooktown-based boatie Jim Parker, who also experienced the storm aboard his yacht with partner Kathy Lawfer, agreed.

“There’s WiFi at the Marlin Bar (at nearby Lizard Island Resort) and the guests have access,” Mr Parker said.

“The resort also often puts the call out on the radio with the dinner specials or letting yachties know when the bar is open, that sort of thing.

“If we had access to their internet, or they had even put out a call on the radio, we could have prepared better.

‘Even 10 minutes warning would have made a difference.”

Mr Parker said a fellow boatie who had been visiting Lizard Island for more than 50 years, said the storm was the worst he had seen in his time there.

Mr Flynn, who has been living aboard his yacht for 15 years, said he had been through worse storms, but not one that severe with no warning or preparation.

“She was wild – waves and wind and lightning.”

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