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Up to 70 yachts lost in Bundaberg's Burnett River floods

by Sail-World Cruising roundup on 1 Jan 2011
Bundaberg’s Burnett River - flood has caused many yachts to break their moorings SW
While Bundaberg Port Marina, where many cruising yachties stop along their way, was unaffected by the recent flooding in Bundaberg, many other yachts, particularly those anchored in the narrower part of the river close to the centre of town, have been washed down the river and destroyed. Up to 70 yachts are believed to have been affected.

Making the matter worse, VMR volunteers by their charter are not allowed to 'salvage' boats, meaning that helpless volunteers watched as yachts careened down the river, some out to sea, and others to be smashed on sea walls.

'The carnage on the Burnett River is horrendous,' yacht owner Peite Voorderhake told News Mail. 'We've seen four or five boats go out to sea past Burnett Heads, and several boats are out between (Burnett Heads) and Lady Musgrave Island.'

According to some yacht owners, the inability of volunteers to assist to catch a runaway boat will have cost the owners an estimated $10million.

Other yacht owners were risking their lives going out in ill equipped inflatable dinghies to try and save the boats that had broken their anchors.

'A 34ft yacht came down the river with its anchor out, and got blown onto the northern wall — it's been totally destroyed by the wind and the waves bashing it against the rocks,' Mr Voorderhake said.

Paul Grunske, a seafood retailer on the Burnett River at Bundaberg, says there has been a lot of destruction on the water.

'There's a lot of dragged yachts,' he said.

'There's a lot of yachts normally moored up the town reach of the Burnett River and when they build up with weed and that sort of thing and when the floodwaters reach that speed, the moorings drag and away they go.'

Others living on their boats had been stranded for days, unable to leave their boats, and were assisted by an emergency food and water drop by police.

VMR state president John Jacobsen told News Mail that due to a pending court case, VMR volunteers were hamstrung in their rescue efforts.

'It is so frustrating for the volunteers to see a vessel floating away and to be unable to do anything to save it,' Mr Jacobsen said.

He said the Bundaberg branch was also hampered by a shortage of volunteers, after several members were trapped in their own homes by floodwaters.

'The volunteers are distraught that they don't have enough people to man the base fully,' he said.

He said volunteers had spent 16 hours a day on the water and had rescued several people.

'On behalf of VMR, I want to say that we feel for every person that has suffered through this horrible flood,' he said.

Currently, a drifting unmanned boat comes under the category of a vessel to be salvaged. With many of the owners of these yachts possibly fighting their own battles to save their homes and families, it shows up a weakness in the present legislation which prevents willing VMR volunteers, equipped with the appropriate launches, from chasing and securing a runaway vessel.

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