Top boat ablaze
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.
CAUGHT ABOARD: Tom Shumate after the fire aboard Little Audrey