Jackets saved lives

Safarri was smashed to pieces after capsizing as it entered Ocean Reef boat harbour on Saturday.
Safarri was smashed to pieces after capsizing as it entered Ocean Reef boat harbour on Saturday.

Ken Gardner’s 15-year relationship with his Farr 740 sports yacht Safarri ended on September 13 when the vessel capsized.

Despite his 40 years sailing experience, with more than half of that at Ocean Reef, Mr Gardner said the wave that turned his yacht over caught him by surprise.

‘I’ve been out that entrance 600 times and in that entrance 600 times,’ he said.

‘I’ve never seen anything like what came through and hit us.’

The Ocean Reef Sea Sports Club champion racer said the channel at the harbour entrance had silted up when they tried to return after a race.

‘It was a combination of the shallow entrance, a huge outflow of water from inside the marina which virtually stopped me and the other yacht that was beside me, then we got hit from behind (by a wave),’ he said.

Club Rear Commodore for sailing Geoff James said Safarri collided with the other vessel, then capsized.

Mr Gardner said his yacht turned over, sending himself and three crew members ” Vince Nippierd, Barry Fitzsimmons and Paul Phipps ” into the water.

All were wearing life jackets or personal floatation devices, and only one, who was in the water the longest, needed hospital treatment for mild hypothermia and bruising.

The skipper said the life jackets were a ‘saviour’ as he was pushed under water and his self-inflating device pulled him up to the surface.

‘It’s club policy that we wear personal floatation devices ” they are definite lifesavers,’ he said.

‘The main thing is that everybody came out relatively unscathed.’

Mr Fitzsimmons said the outcome would have been very different if they had not been wearing life jackets.

‘The boat went over in literally seconds ” we lost keys and wallets and mobile phones,’ he said.

Mr James said Whitfords Volunteer Marine Rescue Group were quick to come to their aid, and a diver at the club helped one sailor while two fishermen on the harbour wall dropped their rods to help another who was swept towards the rocks.

Mr Gardner said after rescuing the sailors, marine rescue volunteers tried unsuccessfully to tow the boat back.

‘It got too close to the reef and had to be left,’ he said.

‘Over the night, it got pounded to pieces next to the reef.’

With his insured yacht unsalvageable, the Kallaroo resident said his sailing season was over and Safarri had a greater sentimental than monetary value.

‘I had a lot of good times on that yacht,’ he said.

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