Longliner boat stranded on beach
IT was a bizarre early-morning sight to behold on Coffs Harbour’s most popular beach – a local longliner fishing boat and its five crew stranded for seven hours halfway between the surf club and the Hoey Moey.
How the 19-metre Menrae came to be so far off course from the harbour on its return from the sea is now the subject of a joint investigation by Water Police and Maritime officials.
The rescue effort of releasing the boat from the clutches of the sandy beach was a credit to members of the local fishing community and emergency services who worked side by side to ensure it was back in deep water before sustaining serious damage.
Menrae’s skipper radioed Marine Rescue at 1am yesterday with news the vessel had run aground on a beach near Coffs Harbour. At that stage he wasn’t sure where he was, Sergeant Don Stewart said.
“When he gave Marine Rescue his GPS position they put him north of the harbour,” Sgt Stewart said.
Police began their search and quickly found the stricken vessel. Their initial concern then was for the crew’s safety.
“The skipper established no-one was injured, the boat was still intact and no water was going into the boat. There was no loss of fuel or contaminants into the water,” Sgt Stewart said.
“I spoke to the owner on the beach, and in consultation with him the crew volunteered to stay on board because there was danger associated with taking them off the boat because it was pitching and rolling in the swell.
“We decided to wait until first light so everyone could see what they were doing.”
SES crews were dispatched to light up the longliner and a watch was kept over the next few hours. Council lifeguards also helped at the scene.
The boat owner had called in three trawlers to help with the salvage operation.
“A towline was run ashore from one of the trawlers and secured to the Menrae, and virtually over the next 15 minutes, with constant pressure kept on the towline, they were able to turn the bow of the boat into the sea,” Sgt Stewart said.
“They were then able to drag it clear of the beach and out through the surf into deeper water.
“It was towed into the marina by one of the trawlers.”
A spokesman for Menrae said yesterday there would be no comment.
Further examination of the vessel will assess any damage.