From time to time you’re going to here from my mate Bruce. He’s on the first leg of a journey, short-handed sailing around Australia. Whenever he’s in broadband range he’ll be sending emails with lots of great photos of him and his yacht H2O. He’s got friends on board and – if fate hadn’t intervened (landing me in Auckland a few weeks before he sailed) – it would be me on the deck, beer in one hand, tiller in the other, as Bruce throws another mackerel on the barbie.
Here’s a grab from his last message, with his account of the night which sealed the unfortunate fate of three sailors who went missing from a catamaran in the same stretch of lonely ocean.
As the coastline between Bowen and Townsville was pretty uninteresting with
only one or two swelly anchorages, we made the decision to sail directly to
Townsville (about 120NM), sailing through the day and night, my first night
sail on H2O. Sailing in the morning got off to a slow start but by noon the
wind had picked up, pushing us along at 5-6 knots and we began to worry that
we were going too fast and might get to Townsville too early, arriving in
the night. So to play it safe, we reefed the main and after nightfall, took
3 hour shifts at the helm, keeping a good eye out for tankers, trawlers and
other travellers of the night. The night, however, proved uneventful until
about 3am when we heard a sea rescue plane asking if any ships were either
at or near Davies Reef. We were to find out the following morning that a
coastal surveillance plane had spotted a 12m catamaran drifting off the
reef, 80NM out to sea with no one on board. You may have read about this
rather unfortunate event in last Saturday’s papers – three men lost at sea
in mysterious circumstances. It turns out that they had left Airlie Beach
on the day we departed Hamilton and we probably just missed seeing their boat
as we crossed from Hook to Gloucester Island. Our biggest concern, however,
was contacting our families to let them know that it wasn’t us!