Perth Yachtsman rescued by Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue Group

David Ashton aboard his yacht on Thursday night at Two Rocks Marina. Picture: Justin Bianchini
David Ashton aboard his yacht on Thursday night at Two Rocks Marina. Picture: Justin Bianchini

ROUND-the-world yachtsman David Ashton spent the latter part of last week at Two Rocks Marina strengthening his masts and preparing to resume sailing within a week.

The retired theatre production specialist had set off from Mindarie for the Cocos Islands early last week when trouble struck off the coast of Seabird.

A mast snapped on the yacht he built over the past two decades and a cray rope brought a halt to one of his two engines.

He also had one of his two female sailing companions, Amanda, badly seasick.

‘The dilemma was I could have carried on sailing because I’ve still got another mast and a jury rig to sail,’ he said.

‘But one of the girls was really sick; she was incapacitated and I didn’t really want to spend a couple of days sailing up when I had her sick because she could have got really bad.

‘On the way I ‘picked up’ a cray rope so one of the engines is stuffed because I’ve got this cray rope wrapped around it.

‘I had another engine and it didn’t really like going against the wind and everything.

‘So under the circumstances and given that one of the girls was pretty sick, I thought it was the safest course of action to ask for some assistance.

‘I didn’t set off the epirb and all this other (reported) rubbish.

‘I simply called up the sea rescue people and explained the situation. We weren’t in any danger, we were out in deep water, we were nowhere near a reef. I had limited controls but enough control to keep out of problems.’

Mr Ashton, who nearly 25 years ago sailed around the world with his then nine-year-old daughter Jane, was grateful to Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue Group and surprised at the reception at Two Rocks.

‘When we arrived here there were helicopters flying around for a couple of hours and three camera crews and it was just a crazy situation,’ he said.

‘I’ve broken a mast in the past and I’ve never got a helicopter or anything. In the old days I used to be a DJ and I would have killed for this publicity.

‘And I used to run shows at the Regal ” couldn’t get a camera crew down there for love nor money.

‘Break a third-year mast off and all of a sudden you’ve got half the world coming in, so it really was funny because it really was not a big deal.’

Mr Ashton came to Australia in 1972 and went into the theatre business, installing and operating the lighting for the Perth Concert Hall and the Perth Entertainment Centre and doing shows for the Perth International Arts festival.

Jane is running the family business, All Things Theatre, with his son Sean.

Fellow sailor Amanda works for the Ashton family business, part-owns the yacht and brought her friend Christie along for the journey.

After his inital round-the-world trip with his daughter he sold the yacht, Jane Louise. Coincidentally it is moored at Two Rocks.

‘It’s just strange how these things happen,’ Mr Ashton said.

‘Here I am with a new boat in the Two Rocks harbour after coming a cropper and the old boat is about 200 metres away.’

He said he learnt to sail in a force 10 gale in the Irish Sea as a 20-something year-old. Pray tell?

‘That will be in the biography,’ he said.

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