Monday, August 04, 2008

Millionaire Skipper Abandons Ship Off Australia

Peter Turner, 70, a veteran sailor with half a century of experience, and a crewman had to be plucked to safety by helicopter in a long-range rescue mission. Mr Turner said his 49ft cruising yacht Asolare, launched in June 2007, had been valued at £800,000 but was now unsalvagable. He said he had to escape in a life raft about 4am after hitting an "uncharted" reef in the Coral Sea near Willis Island, about 300 miles off Cairns. "Nowhere is nice to smash into a reef," he said. "But if I had to choose somewhere this was as good a place as any. "Our charts did not show any reef in that area at all. We hit the reef really heavily. There was an amazing crash and immediately she turned over on to her side. "It started leaking water and we had a rough time for three hours." Mr Turner said they contacted rescue authorities before taking passports, valuables and money and abandoning the ship.
"We got what we could off. The rest we just had to leave but you are very welcome to it - there are a lot of nice goodies out there." The only catch was it would be almost impossible to salvage. Mr Turner, from Nottinghamshire, was on a round-the-world sailing trip as part of the World Cruising Club with 35 other yachts and crew. "The whole thing has been quite eventful, not quite what I planned for a Sunday morning," he said. It was Mr Turner's first rescue and he had nothing but high praise for search-and-rescue crews, who had a spotter plane overhead within half an hour of his distress call. An Emergency Management Queensland spokesman said the rescue had been made difficult by the extremely long range mission into the Coral Sea. The Cairns-based chopper and crew had to stop to refuel at tiny Willis Island before carrying out the rescue about midday.

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