The incoming tide washes over the yacht, which became caught on a reef near Cape Hillsborough. A high tide and strong winds pushed it further onto the rocks, puncturing its hull.
The incoming tide washes over the yacht, which became caught on a reef near Cape Hillsborough. A high tide and strong winds pushed it further onto the rocks, puncturing its hull. Pamela Frost

Owners could be in trouble with the law after yacht sinks


WATER police are investigating whether any charges will be laid over an incident in which a yacht became stuck on rocks near Cape Hillsborough.

A husband and wife were forced to spend Sunday night sleeping on rocks after their yacht started taking on water through holes in its hull.

They rowed to shore in a dingy and slept overnight on the rocks before finding accommodation at the nearby Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort the next morning.

Whitsunday Water Police Senior Constable Neil MacMillan said police were investigating the incident, along with the government body, Maritime Safety Queensland.

He said while the incident was minor, they would be reviewing the file to determine if they would take action.

The owner of the vessel said he was inexperienced and had never sailed a yacht before. The couple had purchased it in Mackay just days earlier and were on their way home to Cairns.

There were many things to keep in mind when sailing a yacht, Snr Const MacMillan said, including having the right licence, making sure the vessel was registered and having the right equipment on board.

He said for most yachts it was necessary to have life jackets for all persons on board and a flare pack.

Also, if you were more than two nautical miles offshore, you needed a 406 MHz EPIRB distress beacon that must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Snr Const MacMillan said equipment, including navigation systems, was the responsibility of the vessel's owner.

Water police can lay charges including unsafe operation of a vessel and unsafe navigation, but Snr Const MacMillan said that was unlikely to play a part.



A HUSBAND and wife were forced to spend a night sleeping on rocks after their yacht, which they anchored near Cape Hillsborough, started sinking.

The couple, who didn't want to be named, bought the 28-foot yacht in Mackay on New Year's Day.

They were making their way up the coast to their home in Cairns.

The man said he had never sailed a yacht before and that his sonar, which showed what was under his boat, wasn't working properly.

"We planned to stop for an hour or so and have a rest and feed," he said. "Then we felt a bump."

They had lowered their anchor, in what the man believed was a channel between rocks, about 3pm on Sunday.

However, the boat swung around onto the edge of a small reef and became stuck. They were attempting to get off the rocks when the tide came in.

They had hoped the high tide might lift the yacht off the reef but instead it caused it to crash further into the rocks, puncturing holes in the hull about 9pm.

It is believed the yacht wasn't insured.

"The water was coming in that quick we couldn't pump it out quick enough," the man said.

"We thought 'let's get out of here'. We just jumped in the dingy and grabbed what possessions we could and spent the night sleeping on rocks."

They rowed to the shoreline and, unaware of where they were, decided to sleep on rocks.

Next morning they walked along the beach and found the Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort.

Yesterday they were staying in a cabin while salvage works were under way to retrieve what they could from the yacht.

He said the ordeal hadn't put him off boating.

"I'm definitely going to get another one, something a little bit bigger," he said.

"S*** happens. My biggest worry was the missus. I can replace the boat but I can't replace the missus."