Sailing trip takes wild turn

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Dane Lilling­stone dane.lilling­stone@ whit­sun­day­

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

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