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Adrift at sea for 13 hours

Mick Chappell (left) and his father Dennis Muller arrive at Airlie Beach on board the VMR vessel with crew Tony Bell, Don Martindale, Mick Evans, Tony McNeill and Sgt Graeme Pettigrew.
Mick Chappell (left) and his father Dennis Muller arrive at Airlie Beach on board the VMR vessel with crew Tony Bell, Don Martindale, Mick Evans, Tony McNeill and Sgt Graeme Pettigrew. Aimee Vinci

YEPPOON residents Dennis Muller and Mick Chappell feared for their lives as they spent more than 13 hours stranded on their 36-foot (10.9m) yacht near St Bees Island early Monday morning.

The pair had not eaten or slept since Sunday morning and had only purchased the yacht two weeks ago.

They ended up 54km east of Mackay, near Carlisle Island, before RACQ-CQ Rescue assisted the pair.

The exhausted father and son stepped off the yacht onto the Whitsunday Volunteer Marine Rescue boat saying their planned two-day trip from Airlie Beach to Yeppoon had altered when their yacht Chesapeake's' motor wouldn't start.

"From Airlie Beach we went to St Bees Island and anchored in a channel there," Mr Muller said.

"When the motor wouldn't start we went to a resort to see if they had a spare battery pack but they didn't.

"The wind was so strong it ripped our jib, so then we had no sail.

"We had to use two little tarps to sail with.

"We had to cut the anchor chain about 9pm and put up our jib to try and get away from the island."

Mr Muller said his son Dennis had a mobile phone and contacted the Whitsunday Water Police who helped them in their time of desperation.

"(Sergeant) Graeme (Pettigrew) was our eyes; we had a GPS but couldn't see anything.

"He was guiding us where to go.

"We're from Yeppoon so we're not familiar with the Whitsunday Islands.

"There was supposed to be a south-east breeze but it changed to a south-west.

"The rescue crews were absolutely terrific, we would have been gone without them."

A Mackay VMR spokesman said the first attempt to rescue the pair after midnight Sunday had failed due to rough conditions on the sea.

Meanwhile a Whitsunday VMR spokesman said he was thrilled with effort of the crew.

"They (the VMR crew) did an extremely good job to also save the boat," he said.

The RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter was tasked to help the pair at 8.20am to give them an emergency radio and also at 11.45am when they set off a flare to help the Whitsunday VMR vessel find the pair.

Topics:  racq-cq rescue, rescue, sailors, st bees island, yacht


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