Sail­ing voy­age lands man in court

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

A WHIT­SUN­DAY sailor found him­self in the Proser­pine Mag­is­trate’s Court on Mon­day, charged with a raft of of­fences re­lat­ing to his con­duct at sea.

Con­rad Charles Ross-Smith ini­tially pleaded guilty to charges of breach­ing a bail con­di­tion, fail­ing to reg­is­ter two ves­sels and op­er­at­ing a ship while it was un­reg­is­tered.

The court heard that when po­lice caught up with Ross-Smith aboard his pri­vate yacht Apollo 3 on De­cem­ber 26, they dis­cov­ered the boat and its ten­der, a 3.5-me­tre alu­minium dinghy with a 15HP out­board mo­tor at­tached, were both un­reg­is­tered.

Ross-Smith said in court on Mon­day that this had now been rec­ti­fied.

For the breach of bail he was fined $110 and for the regis­tra­tion of­fences he re­ceived a $660 fine.

Mere min­utes af­ter these were dealt with, the 44-year-old was brought back to court in po­lice cus­tody, to an­swer a fur­ther charge of un­safely op­er­at­ing his 15me­tre yacht.

Po­lice pros­e­cu­tor El­iz­a­beth Cas­sells said Ross-Smith had set out from Air­lie Beach on Apollo 3 on Jan­uary 14, bound for ei­ther Townsville or Cairns. He de­scribed the weather and sea con­di­tions as “quite heavy”, but said the ves­sel was eas­ily able to cope.

Ross-Smith was sin­gle-hand­ing the boat and sail­ing un­der head­sail alone.

Ms Cas­sells said over the course of the voy­age he dam­aged his head­sails, was un­able to raise the main and had no means of propul­sion as the aux­il­iary en­gine was also in­op­er­a­ble.

She said he was drift­ing in this state for about a day and be­came ex­hausted. He then spot­ted a navy ship and let off an or­ange flare. Ross-Smith said crew from the navy ship came to his as­sis­tance and helped him to jury rig the boat. He said he be­lieved he could have made it to shore.

How­ever, at 7pm on Jan­uary 16, Townsville Wa­ter Po­lice were ad­vised by the Aus­tralian Res­cue Co-or­di­na­tion Cen­tre that Apollo 3 was drift­ing 15 nau­ti­cal miles east of Mag­netic Is­land and RossSmith was even­tu­ally towed into Townsville by the vol­un­teer coast­guard.

When po­lice caught up with RossSmith, they as­cer­tained he had not been keep­ing a proper watch in ac­cor­dance with col­li­sion preven­tion reg­u­la­tions. He ad­mit­ted leav­ing the ves­sel unat­tended while he took 15-minute cat naps.

He also had no elec­tronic nav­i­ga­tion equip­ment, no radar and no depth sounder. He said he had been navigating with a marine chart and by dead-reck­on­ing, how­ever po­lice no­ticed there was no course marked on the chart.

When the ves­sel’s safety equip­ment was checked, the emer­gency flares were all found to be out of date.

On the one hand, Ross-Smith de­scribed him­self as a “sea­soned sailor” say­ing Apollo 3, a for­mer con­tender in the fa­mous Fast­net race, was his third yacht. On the other hand, he said it had been “pretty tough” liv­ing on the boat and he put his mis­takes down to “a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Mag­is­trate Haydn St­jern­qvist said the max­i­mum penalty for un­safely op­er­at­ing a ves­sel was a $55,000 fine.

None­the­less he ruled that with no pas­sen­gers aboard, Ross-Smith was “the only one that could have per­ished on this boat” and he im­posed a $770 fine.

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