Sailors winched from yacht wrecked north of Cairns

A couple were hoisted to safety after their yacht struck a reef in north-eastern Australia and began taking on water, ending their round the world trip, emergency services said last night.

The Czech couple were motoring inside the Great Barrier Reef when their boat's engine cut out in heavy weather near a reef at Pandora Entrance, 60 miles off the Queensland coast, 100 nautical miles northeast of Lockhart River, near Cairns. This area is exposed to the full force of Coral Sea swells generated by prevailing easterly winds.

The Australian Search and Rescue Coordination Centre advised the vessel set of its EPIRB about 7.30pm Saturday night, after the yacht, Buke Falos, struck a reef and began taking on water.

'As they approached the Pandora Entrance they struck heavy rain ...

They dropped their sails and were using the motor when it shut down,' he said.

'The yacht bumped across the reef, rolled onto its side and the mast snapped and fell. They just bumped and bumped through the night with the strong seas,' he said.

They were unhurt, but exhausted after spending the night being buffeted by waves before being picked up by a helicopter and flown to Lockhart River and then Cairns.

Queensland Rescue helicopter pilot 'Spider' Rider, who rescued the pair, said the couple used a flashlight to signal to rescuers.

'They were very disappointed, obviously, about the loss of the boat, and were tired and wet and hungry.'

The vessel was wedged on the reef, some 50 metres from clear water.

The reef at Pandora Entrance, at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef is the location of the wreck of the Pandora, the British vessel sent to the South Pacific to find the Bounty mutineers.

With 14 of the mutineers captured and safely locked up in Pandora's Box, the Pandora spent nearly four months searching the South Pacific for the leader of the mutiny, Fletcher Christian, and his followers.

Their search took in the Cook, Union, Samoan and Society Islands. However, the search for the elusive Bounty and the other mutineers was unsuccessful.

On 29 August 1791, the Pandora was homeward bound, via the Torres Strait, when she struck a part of the Great Barrier Reef and sank. Thirty-one of the Pandora’s crew and four of the mutineers drowned in the shipwreck.