Top boat ablaze

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

LIT­TLE Au­drey, the 23-me­tre heavy tackle mar­lin boat that caught fire as it neared Dick­son In­let on Mon­day evening, will be out of ac­tion for six to 12 months, ac­cord­ing to its youth­ful skip­per Daniel Carl­son.

It is a game fish­ing boat of renown in Aus­tralian waters. Owned by Syd­ney-based Phil Web­ster, Lit­tle Au­drey has won the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional Bill­fish Tour­na­ment and for two years in a row came sec­ond in the Lizard Is­land Black Mar­lin Clas­sic.

Mr Web­ster flew up to Port Dou­glas to see the stricken ves­sel on Tues­day as the dam­age as­sess­ments were un­der way.

Mr Carl­son (25), who at the age of 20 be­came the youngest mar­lin boat skip­per in the coun­try, said Mr Web­ster loved the lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed 13- year- old boat and would ‘‘do what it takes to get the boat up and go­ing’’.

It is be­lieved the port en­gine tur­bocharger was the seat of the fire.

‘‘The en­gine room’s gone,’’ Mr Carl­son said.

The fire broke out just as the ves­sel was ap­proach­ing Port Dou­glas at the end of a seven-day sail.

It had all gone so well. The client for the char­ter, Tom Shu­mate of Cor­pus Christi, Texas, had or­gan­ised his Cairns mar­lin fish­ing trip about a year ago, and af­ter catch­ing a haul of nine mar­lin on his dream voy­age he was pretty happy.

‘‘It was my life-long dream to come to this place,’’ he said.

‘‘We were just rid­ing along and got here near the har­bour and we shut the mo­tors down, we opened the door to the en­gine room and fire shot out,’’ Mr Shu­mate said.

‘‘We went to get off the boat as soon as we could and we were just lucky there were other boats nearby. Every­body was real help­ful.’’

One of Mr Shu­mate’s hob­bies is mar­lin fish­ing and he has his own boat. ‘‘I didn’t know how bad the fire was gonna get. I’ve seen them burn right down to the wa­ter but it’s the first time I’ve been on one.

‘‘The trip was go­ing be all over in another hour. Then bang!’’

Mr Carl­son made a point of thank­ing his crew mates Will and James who stayed with him on board the Lit­tle Au­drey to make sure the four Amer­i­can guests were safely off­loaded and the ves­sel brought to dock. ‘‘It was our quick think­ing which con­tained the fire to the en­gine room by turn­ing off the fans and clos­ing the vents,’’ the skip­per said.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

CAUGHT ABOARD: Tom Shu­mate af­ter the fire aboard Lit­tle Au­drey

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