Illusions struck down by underwater mystery
SUNDAY was just another normal day on the Whitsunday water for Illusions owner and skipper Josef Concy, but then something went horribly wrong.
Sailing the same route he has for the past 14 years, on a tour between Hayman Island and Stonehaven off Hook Island and travelling at around 6 knots, he heard a loud bang and knew something wasn't right.
"I knew we hit something,” he said.
"What we hit... nobody's seen. Passengers were sitting at the front of the boat (but) nobody saw it.”
It was around 11.30am and the boat immediately started taking on water.
The 42ft tour boat, with 13 passengers and three crew on board, was hit on the starboard side and that's about as much as Mr Concy can tell.
"We had a diving instructor go down to see if we could patch (the hull) and come to the mainland but water was coming in too quickly,” Mr Concy said.
"We tried to find a mooring in Black Island (but) we eventually had to make the decision to ditch the boat.”
Mr Concy put out a pan-pan call on radio and soon another local diving charter came to their rescue.
Brent Chatterton, skipper of dive boat Kiana, was the first to get the call around 12.30pm.
"And I was there in about 12 minutes,” he said.
"We assisted all the passengers off the vessel, gave them some lunch and got all their lunch and belongings off the boat.
"We talked to them, settled them down and made them feel comfortable.
"We got all their details, took them back to the mainland and dropped them off at their accommodation.”
Mr Concy had nothing but praise for the Kiana crew.
"I tell you they were the best people I had the pleasure to work with. They came out swiftly and carried all our passengers on board,” he said.
"It was absolutely magic. I couldn't have any better words for them.”
After staying with Illusions on Sunday and having it secured, the boat was towed back to Airlie Beach last night.
Following the incident, both skippers agreed that all vessels in the Whitsunday waters needed to be careful in the wake of underwater changes after Cyclone Debbie.
"I've been doing the same route for 14 years,” Mr Concy said.
"(But) since Cyclone Debbie, all of the Whitsunday waters have changed a lot. A lot of stuff is not the same.
"There's a lot of debris, a lot of sunken boats around. Nobody knows where they are, nobody knows what's happening.
"What I hit put a hell of a dint on my boat
"Debbie will strike people for quite some time to come.”
Mr Chatteron agreed.
"I have seen a dramatic change in some of the locations out there,” he said.
"There's coral heaped up on the shore... underwater it's quite likely things have changed.”
A spokesperson from Maritime Safety Queensland told the Whitsunday Times last week that many of their navigation aids had been destroyed and said they would be undertaking a survey of underwater hazards and shifting channels.
"While much debris has been washed out, there remains the need for caution on waterways particularly with regard to keeping a low speed,” the spokesperson said.
"We are working as quickly as we can to do this but we can't identify every risk so there is a need for common sense.”