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Marine Resource 2016

Plucky little yacht Scotch Bonnet - made it alone

by Lee Mylchreest on 16 Mar 2012
Scotch Bonnet as discovered - photo by Scott Fletcher .. .
A sound yacht's ability to stay afloat regardless of the actions of a crew is never better demonstrated than when a vessel floats its way across vast stretches of ocean alone. Yet another yacht has made a solo journey safely from half way across the Tasman Sea to arrive in Australia and wash up on a beach.

The sturdy little 10m yacht, Scotch Bonnet, finally ran aground at Brunswick Heads on the New South Wales coast Wednesday evening at 6.15pm, having been travelling since October 02 last year, an impressive 164 days.

But the locals who found it didn't know that. The vessel was de-masted and had other hull damage when local police inspected it, according to Tweed-Byron LAC spokesperson Sgt Alan McKittrick.

‘Surf rescue did a search around the area but didn’t find anyone,’ he said.

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter spokesperson Therese Shier said the chopper was tasked with assisting in the search on Wednesday night but failed to find anything.


However, after some investigation it was discovered that the yacht had been sailing from the Bay of Islands in New Zealand’s North Island to Sydney last year on a maiden voyage with a new Australian owner when she was dismasted in heavy seas and the crew were rescued on October 02.

The vessel was abandoned.

It was sighted again on 11 December by cruise ship Sun Princess. The ship had more than 2000 passengers on board at the time, but was forced to stop, turn around and dispatch a rescue crew to the dismasted yacht. When this incident took place the yacht was just 625 nautical miles from Brisbane.

Crewmen quickly established that no-one was on board and secured the vessel away from the ship. After receiving permission from Australian authorities, the Sun Princess had again abandoned her.

‘Water police will try to float the vessel and tow it to safety,’ Sgt McKittrick said. ‘It will then be a matter for International Marine Courts, because the vessel was abandoned on the high seas, unless the owner or insurance company takes responsibility for it.

In the meantime she had caused much fascination as she arrived onto the beach. Her sails were dragging in the water, but her cockpit was still largely intact after over five months on the ocean. Even her life rings were still attached.

Brunswick locals Ashley Virgo and Colin Jones were two of the first on the beach and, after a quick investigation of the yacht, they they were keen to discuss the unusual landing.

'We watched her coming in. It was really eerie; it was like a ghost ship.'

The yacht's owner was located and told about the vessell washing up at Brunswick Heads after it appeared on Wednesday night. However, it was understood the owner was currently overseas.

So Scotch Bonnet, a navigation hazard and alone and unaided, made it across the Tasman without any help from the crew. One can't help thinking she would have made it more quickly if only her crew had stayed around to jury-rig a sail and help her get there.

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