Phillip Atkinson's yacht the Justa Gypsy before it sank.
Phillip Atkinson's yacht the Justa Gypsy before it sank. Contributed

Novice yachtie tells of boat sinking off Gladstone

PHILLIP Atkinson and the Justa Gypsy had just three weeks to get to know each other before they were the subject of a midnight rescue by the Gladstone Volunteer Marine Rescue.

Mr Atkinson, 61, bought the yacht and went from "land lubber to ship master in a day".

Three weeks later his boat had sunk near Facing Island.

The 33ft ferro cement yacht was sailing from Rosslyn Bay to Gladstone using an outboard motor on a tinny tied to the side of the boat and sails that "didn't steer too well".

When he bought the yacht for $1200 on October 27, the anchor was the only working part.

Mr Atkinson said he had been heading south passed Facing Island to enter the channel in the dark.

"I was heading down the channel and the waves were so bad they broke some bits of the tinny off," he said.

"The ropes broke and it was hanging sideways off the boat."

He said he drifted north while he retied the tinny.

"It just went crunch and I'd run aground," he said. "I tried to give the motor a real go but it was stuck."

The VMR went out to him but it was too shallow to reach the Justa Gypsy, so he decided to sleep until the tide came in.

"I woke up to the sound of water coming in the boat," he said.

"It was rocking like you couldn't believe. Water rushed in, I grabbed my gear and put it in a suitcase."

He said he sat on the side of the vessel as waves broke over him.

"I tried to put on my life jacket but the waves knocked it away from me," he said.

"The lid came off and life jacket after life jacket floated away."

The VMR came back to rescue him but it was still too shallow to approach the boat.

"They threw out a life ring, I jumped off the boat and the water was only up to my waist," he said.

"If I knew that I could have walked around and used the life raft."

He was taken to the Gladstone Hospital for observation and was released in the morning.