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Australia's Category 5 cyclone Yasi a yachting catastrophe

by Nancy Knudsen on 4 Feb 2011
Yasi Hinchinbrook .. .
Among all the other devastation that Category 5 Cyclone Yasi wrought on North Queensland coast in the last days, all yachts and other water-borne craft that could not be moved out of the cyclone area did not escape unscathed. To put the notion into context, Hurricane Katrina which devastated Louisiana in 2005 was also a Category 5 hurricane.

The differences between the two cataclysmic weather events were mainly in size and fatalities, as the two packed around the same punch at

their worst, with winds of in the order of an unimaginable 190 knots, and a storm surge of between eight and nine metres. Yasi, though, was vast. Katrina measured around 200km across, Yasi was a monstrous 650km. While Katrina's eye was 60km across, Yasi's was 100km. Katrina killed 1833, and while it is too early to count, because of the early warning system and emergency procedures in place Queensland seems to have escaped relatively unscathed in human terms.

The video shown below, however, is just one of the many that could illustrate the catastrophe that has befallen the world of the cruising sailor in these normally idyllic sailing grounds. Not only were the boats swept from the pontoons, the pontoons themselves have been wrenched from their poles, or, rising with the storm surge, have escaped from the top of the poles, thus releasing the yachts.


Port Hinchinbrook Marina pictured above was once the playground of well heeled

holiday-makers and a popular stopping point for cruising sailors, but it looks like a scrap heap today.

Hardly any of the seventy yachts moored in the marina escaped damage when the cyclonic winds roared through, backed by a destructive oceanic storm surge, estimated to be about four metres. The storm surge came through about an hour after the cyclone struck the coastline and it seems the concrete pontoons floated off the top of the securing columns and the boats and the marina decking were pushed innto a corner of the bay.

One of the few potential tragedies surrounded a yachtie on a boat called Panku. Police commenced a sea and air search of the area in the hope of locating cruising sailor Rob Leyden who was reported missing since moving his boat from the marina before Cyclone Yasi struck.

‘‘He said he was moving his vessel into the mangroves to be safe from the storm surge,’’ the police spokesman said at the time. ‘‘Since that time we haven’t heard from him. We cant get into that area by foot. We’re trying to get a police water search as soon as we can, as well as do an aerial survey of the area.’’

When the cyclone was over, Leyden sailed calmly in, having roped his boat among mangroves to ride out the storm. 'I stayed with my boat because it's the only thing I have,' he told local reporters

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