Miraculous escape after boat rolls in dangerous seas

SAFE IN THE HARBOUR: The 16m cruiser involved in last night's rescue is now moored safely in the Coffs Harbour marina, having sustained minor damage.
SAFE IN THE HARBOUR: The 16m cruiser involved in last night's rescue is now moored safely in the Coffs Harbour marina, having sustained minor damage. Coffs Harbour Marine Rescue

AN ELDERLY couple has been rescued in a lengthy operation after their 16 metre cruiser was struck by large swells at the Clarence bar crossing.  

Northern Region Marine Rescue controller Stephen Reading said the husband and wife were attempting to leave Yamba for Coffs Harbour in their cruiser about 6pm yesterday when they came into serious trouble at the bar crossing.   

In 3-4 metre swells and on a dropping tide, the vessel was hit broadside twice, causing it to pitch heavily before miraculously making it into open water.   

Both people on board were injured after being tossed around in the cabin.  

A crew from Marine Rescue Iluka-Yamba immediately prepared to Iluka-Yamba 30 to provide assistance and the Ports Authority cutter was placed on standby.   

New marine rescue boat.
New marine rescue boat.

The Westpac Helicopter headed south from Lismore to provide aerial support, locating the cruiser and lighting up the bar.  

Mr Reading said the skipper, who had sustained a head injury, decided not to attempt to re-enter Yamba and drove the boat to Wooli, where despite difficult conditions two water police were transferred on board to take control and deliver first aid. 

 After a 60 nautical mile journey the cruiser was assisted to a berth at the public wharf in the Coffs Marina about 1.30am, where the pair recieved further medical attention in hospital.   

The eight-hour operation involved resources and crews from three Marine Rescue NSW units, the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, the Ports Authority at Iluka-Yamba, NSW Ambulance and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.  

This morning, Mr Reading warned boat skippers to always read the conditions before attemping to travel.  

A dangerous surf warning was issued on Monday for the entire NSW Coastline for Wednesday, with "deceptively powerful swells" to continue into the early hours of this morning.  

"Given the weather forecasts and the swell conditions I wouldn't have been tempted to head out on a bar like the Clarence on a dropping tide," Mr Reading said.   

"Sure people have their plans, but unless you take notice of the conditions you can find yourself in a world of hurt. These guys nearly got completely outdone by going out through the bar at night.  

"Always err on the side of caution, and know your vessel and your own capabilities."  

Topics:  boat accident clarence river cruiser marine rescue

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