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Sailing boat in trouble off Fraser Island towed to safety

A crew member from VMR Bundaberg sights the 25-tonne Chinese junk rigged sailing vessel.
A crew member from VMR Bundaberg sights the 25-tonne Chinese junk rigged sailing vessel. Contributed

IT TOOK 19 hours for a crew to come to the rescue of two sailors whose vessel started experiencing difficulties near Fraser Island's Waddy Point.

Volunteer Marine Rescue Bundaberg was called for assistance at 6.04am on Saturday, according to a statement released by the organisation.

The skipper of a 25-tonne Chinese junk rigged sailing vessel reported a water leak and air ingress in the engine's heat exchanger and a broken boom.

The two men had been in contact with the water police overnight and had been able to partially repair the heat exchanger, but progress was only possible directly into the swell and sailing was not an option.

Five crew members from VMR were assembled by 7.30am and began preparation for the 180-nautical mile round trip to tow the heavy vessel by taking on extra fuel.

Adding to the challenge, a 2m to 2.5m north-easterly sea was running outside the Burnett River, most likely the result of overnight squalls.

Seas increased to 3m with breaking swells further out to sea, resulting in a safe speed of only 10 knots for most of the trip. While the tow line was being attached, crew training swung into action when one of the windscreen motors on Bundy Rescue burnt out.

Circuit breakers were thrown and a fire extinguisher was readied while the smoking unit was isolated.

The vessel was towed at 5 to 7 knots, but with frequent jerking of the tow line due to the residual swell.

Seventeen nautical miles from home there was a one-hour delay to deal with two episodes of breakage of the posts attaching the tow line to the junk.

The VMR Bundaberg Rescue was back in the Burnett River channel by 1am and the vessel and very relieved crew was at anchor near the Port Bundaberg Marina at 2.15am.

Topics:  bundaberg chinese fraser island junk sailors vmr



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