THE maiden voyage for the new owner of the 40-foot cruiser Kios ended in chaos when it ran aground at Brooms Head Beach on Sunday night.
The vessel’s owner, who would only give his name as George, said disaster struck when a new GPS unit failed and he and a mate, who was making the journey home to Sydney with him, scrambled to determine their location.
George, who immigrated to Australia from Romania 36 years ago, said he bought the $42,500 boat on Saturday from Queensland’s Bribie Island and was planning to spend the night onboard moored on the Clarence River.
“Our GPS broke down around six o’clock last night and by the time we looked at a map we couldn’t work out where we were. Then we saw the light at Brooms Head and were under the impression that the entrance to the river was there,” George said yesterday.
They anchored a few hundred metres offshore, but when a wave came through one of the front windows of the boat they started to take on water and the bilge pumps did not work.
“We started with a manual pump and a bucket to bail out the water, then the wind blew us toward the shore and the anchor chain snapped,” George said.
George said he was experienced on boats and had held his boat licence for 25 years.
Brooms Head Caravan Park manager Danielle Barrett said she saw the vessel in trouble about 9pm near the offshore reef before the anchor let go.
“We went to let the dogs out a bit later, around 11pm, and we could hear the roaring of the boat’s motor,” she said.
“They let off two distress flares, had their lights on and were trying to manoeuvre the boat back out to sea.
“By this stage the tide was going out and they were stuck on the sandbank.”
The men also activated the boat’s distress beacon, which alerted the Coffs Harbour Water Police, who notified general duties police and an officer from Maclean attended the scene.
Ms Barrett said she continued to watch the stricken vessel as one of its occupants jumped off the boat and made their way to shore.
“He waded in and talked to the police and then came to the back door of the residence at the caravan park,” she said.
Ms Barrett said both men spent the night in a cabin at the caravan park.
General duties police and officers from Coffs Harbour Water Police, along with Yamba’s NSW Maritime senior boating safety officer John Rowe, attended the scene yesterday, where the beached vessel sat in the breakers with a hole in the bow.
Mr Rowe said the Maritime Authority would work with water police to determine how the incident happened.
“Until we finish our investigations it is hard to say whether any penalties would be enforced,” he said.
Mr Rowe said he hoped the vessel would only remain on the beach for a couple of days.
A NSW Maritime spokesperson said the threat of pollution from the boat was minimal.
After being notified of the incident by the water police, the boat’s former owner called The Daily Examiner yesterday revealing some interesting details about his former pride and joy.
He said the 40-foot timber and fibreglass cruiser was built in 1974 and served as the Admiral’s launch on aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne until it was decommissioned in 1982.
A navy officer then owned the boat until it was bought by its former owner, who did not want to be named, in 2005.
He said George took possession of the boat on Saturday morning.