Air­lie yacht loaded with aid for Van­u­atu voy­age

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WHEN 65-year-old Heather Sut­ton and her all-woman crew ar­rive in Van­u­atu in a cou­ple of weeks, they will have chal­lenged them­selves be­yond be­lief.

But mak­ing the 1200 nau­ti­cal mile voy­age in a 45-foot yacht with­out a man in sight will be just the be­gin­ning of the hur­dles they face.

Ms Sut­ton, Iseta Har­ris, Trudy Erd­man and Sandy Pavey are sail­ing to the aid of the is­land na­tion that was dev­as­tated by Cy­clone Pam on March 13.

Fol­low­ing a call to arms to the Whit­sun­day com­mu­nity, Ms Sut­ton’s yacht La Quilta is now fully laden with es­sen­tial sup­plies and ready to hit the high seas.

The Whit­sun­day Sail­ing Club’s 2014 Yachtsper­son of the Year will be un­ty­ing the lines and leav­ing Air­lie Beach this week.

The four women will start their jour­ney with a shake­down cruise to Mackay where they will clear cus­toms for the 10-12 day voy­age.

As they loaded dona­tions from Zonta Whit­sun­days at the Abell Point Ma­rina last week, Ms Har­ris joked they were not averse to the idea of hav­ing a strong man aboard.

“But the way I see it is we will all learn to do things on the boat we have never been re­quired to do on other boats... and we will all share the cook- ing! It won’t just be one woman in the gal­ley,” Ms Sut­ton joked.

Ms Sut­ton said she ex­pected the ex­pe­ri­ence to be “quite em­pow­er­ing” but also “quite in­ter­est­ing to see how the lo­cals deal with us”.

“When the chief says ‘where’s the cap­tain?’ it won’t be a man, it’ll be a lit­tle white­haired lady. That’ll be a chal­lenge for them and an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for us to show them we can do it,” she said.

Ms Sut­ton has spent $50,000 of her own money up­grad­ing the boat so it will make the wind­ward trip “and to make it in­de­pen­dent so we don’t rely on the com­mu­nity to sup­port us while we’re sup­port­ing them”.

Af­ter ask­ing for dona­tions to help the cy­clone vic­tims of Van­u­atu re-build their lives, she said she was over­whelmed by the com­mu­nity re­sponse.

Zonta Whit­sun­day spokesper­son Ca­role Lind­say said her or­gan­i­sa­tion was one of the many who felt they just had to help, sup­ply­ing hand­knit­ted and sewn blan­kets tak­ing 200 hours each, plus cloth­ing and fab­rics.

It’s thanks to this and the gen­eros­ity of nu­mer­ous other in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions that the La Quilta crew will be able to divide their bounty be­tween five re­mote vil­lages.

With no space now left on the boat, Ms Sut­ton said if any­one still won­dered what they could give, money was para­mount.

A West­pac bank ac­count has been es­tab­lished un­der the name Van­u­atu Com­mu­nity So­lu­tions, BSB 034 207, ac­count num­ber 220137.

Photo: Sharon Small­wood

LOAD­ING UP: La Quilta crew Sandy Pavey, Heather Sut­ton and Iseta Har­ris get­ting loaded up with goods for their Van­u­atu voy­age cour­tesy of Zonta Whit­sun­day mem­bers Dawn Green, Ca­role Lind­say and Judy Brown.

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