Sailing trip takes wild turn
FROM sailing at Whitehaven Beach to being locked in a cyclone shelter on Hamilton island – it wasn’t the first trip to the Whitsundays for Grace Ewing and her fiance Sam Mills but it was their most memorable.
The couple and two friends from the UK began their journey onboard a Cumberland Charter yacht and after visiting Cid Harbor, Tongue Bay and Whitehaven Beach they were warned a storm was coming and instructed to head to Hamilton Island Marina.
“We checked in and they fully updated us on the conditions; when the cyclone was due to arrive, how we needed to prepare and what we should expect,” Ms Ewing said.
On day five of their sailing adventure, the storm arrived.
“Hamilton Island was more than prepared and ready for Cyclone Debbie’s arrival,” Ms Ewing said.
“By noon that day the marina staff gave us the evacuation order and we were all taken to the Hamilton Island Convention Centre to bunker down for the night. We were supplied with blankets, pillows, non-stop movies, meals and even a popcorn machine. We could certainly tell Cyclone Debbie was here.”
On day six, the region was copping the brunt of the category four storm.
“We were all bunkered down in the main movie room when we noticed a hole in a door had busted through. The staff and security then evacuated us to the front lobby/eating room,” Ms Ewing said.
“The wind was ripping through the main room and pushing against the fragile doors in the lobby room. My fiance, Sam, joined a group of men in holding up a mattress against the doors until security and staff could evacuate families to one room and everyone else to the two nearby bathrooms.
“All we could do was wait, and we waited for nearly five hours.”
It wasn’t until day seven that it was safe to explore the damage.
“We all had moments of shock to see the devastation in front of us, but I want to say the community spirit we felt from this point forward was incredible,” Ms Ewing said.
While Ms Ewing’s friends were able to get to the airport and fly home later that day, she and her fiance could not leave.
“We heard our vehicle (at Abell Point Marina) had actually been on the news and was inundated with water, so at this point we knew we would need to make arrangements to fly home,” she said.
But Ms Ewing and her partner still want to come