Sail­ing through the eye of Cy­clone Deb

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

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.

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