Sailing through the eye of Cyclone Deb
GETTING caught in the eye of a cyclone would come close to every skipper’s nightmare, but for Derek Shields it was just about guiding his ship home.
Mr Shields and his team were conducting scientific marine life surveys for Reef Life Survey aboard a Leopard 40 catamaran on Lihou Reefs, 230 nautical miles ENE of Airlie when Cyclone Debbie formed.
The cyclone passed over the crew, which consisted of three divers and Mr Shields in their 40ft catamaran, on the night of March 24.
“During the time we were in the cyclone it was a Category 1 then 2. The maximum wind speed we saw on our gauges was 62 knots during our first night but mostly it was too wet and bumpy to bother about checking wind speed that night,” the Eviota skipper said.
Mr Shields said they waited for the right moment before slipping through the reef. They then sailed SE at right angles to the cyclone’s course until they were safely outside the damaging winds, before turning SW and following her to shore.
“After that we kept outside the 40 knot winds .... the maximum wave height we saw was about 7m,” he said.
Mr Shields said it was an uncomfortable few days “but we were never in danger”.
The skipper said they had no idea of the destruction caused by Cyclone Debbie until they hit the shores of Airlie Beach the next Friday.
Eviota is now back in the hands of Whitsunday Escape, and was even back out on charter on Thursday.
SAFE HARBOUR: Eviota off Whitehaven Beach.