DESTROYED: Irreversible damage was done to Venus of Portsmouth after wild weather sent it crashing into the rockwall in front of Sorrento's.
DESTROYED: Irreversible damage was done to Venus of Portsmouth after wild weather sent it crashing into the rockwall in front of Sorrento's.

Destructive cyclone devastates boat owners

BROKEN-HEARTED boat owners are picking up the pieces after ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald tore through the Whitsundays last week.

More than 20 boats were beached, sunk or totally destroyed as a result of the far-reaching storm system that started in the Gulf of Carpentaria and continued tracking south, leaving widespread damage to property and flooding in its wake.

Destructive winds and waves hit the Whitsundays in the early hours of Thursday morning when the carnage on the water started.

The houseboat Blue Pearl was one of the first of several boats to break free of it's moorings or drag their anchors in the waters off Cannonvale. Blue Pearl drifted ashore to Cannonvale Beach where it was secured by members of the public and friends of the owner Ian Willett. Other boat owners were not so lucky.

The racing yacht Sundowner was one of two monohulls that ran aground on Pigeon Island and are now believed to have been lost. At the beach beside the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) base in Cannonvale, a strip-plank catamaran named Paradise was washed ashore and within 24 hours had completely broken up. Less than 100 metres further along the boardwalk, the steel-hulled Echo hit the rocks. It's owner Mark O'Donnell is hoping to salvage it on February 9.

In Airlie Beach, a couple of boats hit the rocks beside the lagoon. The yacht Manuwai washed up beside the foreshore market area and at the Whitsunday Sailing Club, a trimaran smashed against the rocks. Outside Port of Airlie another boat was lost, while Boathaven Bay was littered with two beached yachts and the remains of numerous boats plus a houseboat that was under construction in Pioneer Bay.

One of the most dramatic wrecks of all was the Venus-Portsmouth. The timber deckhouse of this steel-hulled motor-sailor broke up in front of a large crowd on the rock wall outside Sorrento's at Abel Point Marina.

Venus-Portsmouth owner Rick Mark said he checked on his boat earlier in the day "and everything appeared okay". By 1pm conditions had deteriorated significantly and although he took a dinghy out with two friends, the men were unable to save the boat.

Mr Mark, who has yet to hear back from his insurance company, was philosophical about the loss.

"I'm sure my story is not too dissimilar to any of the others," he said.

There is more coverage of the carnage on pages 4-5 and even more photos on our website www.whitsundaytimes.com.au and the Whitsunday Times Facebook page.


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