This is a story about how Claude Evans’ dream of restoring an old Huon pine yacht became more of a nightmare, only to end happily.

This story started 12 months ago. It began in July 2020. I had documented as much of the story as I could at the time. It was, however, not published at that time, mainly because I could not decide on the appropriate platform for publishing. The other problem that held me back was sorting through the hundreds of relevant photographs.  I may also have gotten side-tracked by other priorities. Now that some 12 months have passed since the story began, I feel that it is time to get the complete story out there.

Claude worked as a volunteer for both the Country Fire Service and Families SA. He is married to Patricia, and they have three children – Victoria, Samuel and Jared. Claude and Patricia celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary during the efforts to rescue the yacht. (That means that they were married the same year as my wife and I (1990).

The old Huon pine yacht was being offered free of charge on Gumtree when Claude Evans saw the listing. He rushed down to Port Adelaide from his Yongala home in the state’s Mid North to check it out at the Fisherman’s Wharf in the North Arm of the Port Adelaide River. He found that it needed some TLC, but he loved the look of the old vessel and he desperately wanted to restore it. Unfortunately, the free yacht only led to a great test of Claude’s perseverance and character.

He was told that he needed to take the yacht ASAP, so he drove back home to Yongala to get some supplies. When he returned to take the yacht out of the marina, he found that the weather was getting too rough. He took her back to the marina and asked if he could “collect her another time when he was more prepared, and the weather was better”.

After making sure that all sea charts were up to date and that he had everything he needed, including a dinghy, Claude and his son Samuel set sail in the old yacht towards Port Wakefield. They planned to put it on a trailer at Port Wakefield and take it to Port Pirie.

The outboard motor fell off of the dinghy within the Port River at some stage. It was never recovered, and an alternative 6 h.p. motor had to be used in its place.

As they were getting close to Port Parham, it was getting late, so they dropped anchor for the night. The rope on the dinghy let go whilst they slept during the night and the dinghy with the outboard drifted off. They put a call out over a mobile phone to let people know their location and that their dinghy was adrift. Police Rescue were called and, after finding the yacht, they towed it to North Haven beach.

Claude asked the police to tow the yacht to the slipway, but he was told that it was not possible and that the boat had to stay anchored out off the beach. The police rescue first made sure that the anchor was in good condition and that it would hold the yacht. Samuel and Claude were also told they were not allowed to stay on the yacht and police rescue dropped them on shore.

Claude and Samuel later got a call to let them know that the dinghy had been found down at Normanville, so they headed off to pick it up. During this time, police rescue got a call saying that the yacht had snapped anchor and was now adrift. The yacht was already on the beach when Claude was informed the next day.

A report written by The Advertiser’s journalist, Colin James about the yacht’s beaching appeared in The Advertiser on 23rd July. It is thought that the yacht had been on the beach for about a week by that time. I read the report during my morning coffee break at home. As soon as I finished my coffee, I rushed down to North Haven beach to check out the yacht. I found it a short walk south of the surf lifesaving club.

The yacht was high up on the beach, close to the sand dunes, parallel to the sea. The bow was pointing south along the beach. A few people were visiting the site to take photos of the yacht, just like myself. I took a few photos of the yacht from every angle, whilst thinking to myself that the yacht was likely to be stuck there for a few weeks.

After viewing my photos of the yacht back at home, I put the thought of it all out of my mind for a while. I did not think much more about it all until I read a Facebook posting about efforts to move the yacht, during the day, late on Sunday 2nd August. That spurred me on to rush back down to the yacht on Monday morning. I found that it had now been turned and the bow was now facing west towards the sea.

I was told that there would be an attempt to push the yacht out into the water later that day at high tide. This was the start of me visiting the yacht at least once a day, sometimes twice, for two weeks.

 (23/7/20)

On that first Monday morning (3rd August), I spoke with John McMillan who seemed to be watching over the yacht. He told me that the high tide was around 4pm and that there would be an attempt to push the yacht in to the water around that time. I told John that I would return at 4pm and that I would wear a wet suit and bring some spare ropes along with me.

 (23/7/20)

The yacht had to be pulled on to its port (left) side so that it had a shallower draught for the incoming tide. A rope was tied halfway up the front mast so that a couple of men could pull the yacht on to its side whilst I and one or two others tried to push the yacht at the stern.

 (3/8/20)

I met John McMillan working at the yacht on several occasions. He had apparently spent several nights sleeping on the yacht to keep an eye on it. Vandals had apparently visited the yacht one Friday night and had started breaking and stealing things off of it. John said that he did not get much sleep that night.

 (4/8/20)

I do not recall having any luck moving the yacht at all that Monday afternoon. Plans were made to make another attempt the following day. The high tide on Tuesday 4th August was forecast to be at around 5pm.

A small group of helpers were on hand when I arrived at the yacht that afternoon. Claude and Samuel had hired a small excavator and they had been busy clearing a path for the yacht to be pushed into the sea once that the tide had started to reach it.

 (5/8/20)

 Once more, a rope was used to pull the yacht on to its side whilst I and one or two others pushed at the stern. The small excavator was used to try to pull the yacht towards the sea. It was a great feeling when we managed to push the yacht for a few metres. The yacht soon became grounded in the sand again and we had to abandon the attempt as it was now getting darker.

I arrived back at home in time to see our efforts on Channel 7’s 6pm news that night. Each night, I would review any photos that I had been able to take that day. I would share some of these photos on my own Facebook page. I soon realized that some Facebook groups were showing photos of the yacht, so I would also share my photos with those groups.

It was not long before I realized that there was a Facebook page called “Save the boat” that was dedicated to the yacht. I could now share my photos with that page, and also find out what was happening on a daily basis.

We would try to move the yacht again each coming day, but one problem for me was that the high tides were now getting later whilst the sky was getting darker. I was having to juggle my teatime meals to fit in with the high tide attempts.

One man volunteered his time and personal excavator on Wednesday 5th August, I think. This meant that two excavators were working in tandem, so much progress was made on the beach that day.

 (6/8/20)

I arrived at the beach as darkness was falling on Thursday 6th August, only to learn that the attempt to push the yacht had already been abandoned due to a disappointing high tide. We tried again on the Friday evening. I was so determined that we would succeed that I strained most of my back muscles in the attempt. I struggled to put some Ice Gel on my own back that night because my wife was already in bed.

 (6/8/20)

(6/8/20)

 (7/8/20)

 (7/8/20)

By this time, Colin James, The Advertiser journalist, had passed the reporting of the story of the yacht on to his colleague, Rachel Moore. Rachel’s first report on the story appeared in The Advertiser on that Friday 7th August when she said that Claude’s spirits were at an all-time low and that he felt like giving up. She followed this up with more reports in the paper on 11th and 14th August.

My wife was adamant that I was not available to assist with any attempts on the weekend, so I rested my back and hoped that it would soon recover. My wife helped me by applying Ice Gel to my back each morning and evening. My pain would, however, still persist.

I think that I went back down to the yacht early on Monday 10th August to see how much progress had been made. I would have told Claude that I was not able to push the yacht any more myself. I offered, instead, to help in any way that I could.

It was about this time that I took some tea, coffee & biscuits, and a ½ bottle of non-alcoholic wine, for Claude and Samuel. They were starting to do some repair work on the yacht’s hull. Rachel Moore’s second report in The Advertiser on 11th August said that “the latest attempts to move the yacht ….. have failed, leaving owner Claude …and …. Samuel downhearted”.

I would sometimes turn up a couple of times a day to offer my support. Some Port Adelaide Enfield Council officers turned up on Tuesday 11th August to assess the situation. They were back there on Wednesday 12th August with workers from A.Haros & Sons Earthmovers who had a bulldozer and 2 front end loaders to dig around the yacht and move it closer to the sea.

 (12/8/20)

A.Haros & Sons Earthmovers had generously used their heavy machinery, staff and time to dig around the yacht and move it. Unfortunately, the heavy Huon pine rudder on the yacht fell off when a large excavator tried to push the stranded yacht into a newly dug channel. The excavator managed to drag the yacht close to the sea. It was now in a position where it was thought that it could be floated in the water on the next high tide.

 (13/8/20)

I could not stay for long that Wednesday morning because I had an afternoon appointment at the Adelaide dental clinic. I would need to have an early lunch and catch a noon train into the city. I did not get back home until 5pm, still feeling the effects of a second anaesthetic and some 3 hours at the dental clinic. I would not be able to eat my tea until around 7.30pm, meaning that I went some 8 hours without eating or drinking. Mind you, that may have been a regular occurrence for Claude and Samuel.  I did manage to supply them both with tea, coffee and biscuits a couple of times though.

I may have missed the odd event here and there, but the yacht was soon back in the water. Some people were offering the use of a boat to help to tow the yacht into the Port River. We awaited the arrival of these people a couple of times, but they were a ‘no show’.

I was regularly reading many Facebook posts about the yacht, and not all of them were positive or complimentary. I remained quite determined to do whatever I could to help Claude and Samuel.

I was out shopping with my wife on Thursday 13th August when I received a request for help from Claude. He said that the yacht was sinking in the water and he had no way of getting to it. I told him that I would ring him back once that I got home. This gave me time to think just how I could help Claude out. I asked Claude if the loan of a kayak would help them to get out to the yacht. He said that it would work for him.

 (13/8/20)

I had to quickly install soft roof racks on top on my small car to be able put a kayak on the car roof. I then had to throw a whole lot of other gear in the car and get down to the beach in record time. I met Claude and Samuel at the car park and we soon despatched a now wet-suited Samuel out to the yacht in the kayak.

I had to return home for lunch amid the sight of Samuel baling water out of the yacht with the help of a bucket. The yacht was side on to the waves of the sea and water had been breaking over its deck and entering the hull through broken windows.

I returned later that day to pick up my kayak and some safety gear that I had loaned to Claude. Samuel was still wearing my wet suit, so I agreed to let him hang on to it for now.

 (13/8/20)

I was quite surprised to see a photo of Samuel in my kayak in Rachel Moore’s third report in The Advertiser on Friday 14th August. It was only a small, postage stamp-sized photo, but the sight of my kayak in the newspaper made my day.

Claude and Samuel also told me that my kayak had been used for a rescue at the beach on that Thursday. When the kayak was back up on the beach, someone came running up to them, asking if they could borrow my kayak to rescue a stranded kite surfer in the water. Claude and Samuel both agreed to let them borrow my kayak for the rescue. I could not get over the fact that my humble kayak had been used in yet another rescue.

 (14/8/20)

The yacht was full of water again on that Friday morning. I got to meet Colin James, the journalist from The Advertiser who had first reported the stranding of the yacht high on the beach at North Haven back on 23rd July. Colin told me that he now felt a sense of ownership of the yacht and that he was keen to take up the story once more. After a chat, Colin took some photos of Claude, Samuel and me.

 (14/8/20)

Claude and Samuel had now bought an old inflatable dinghy to help them to use a heavy pump that they had hired to bale the water out of the yacht. The dinghy was a little bit flat, but Samuel bought out a new air pump to pump it up a bit more. The pump, however, would not fit the air valves on the dinghy so it had to be used just as it was.

 (14/8/20)

I helped them to carry the dinghy and the heavy water pump, including hoses, down to the water’s edge. Samuel quickly put my old, wet, wetsuit on again. He did so without any help from me this time, but he managed to tear the bottom out of the suit this time. I had already told him that the suit could tear any time soon.

(14/8/20)

We put the heavy water pump in the dinghy and launched it, with Samuel getting into it. He soon tied the dinghy up to the yacht and started pumping water out of the yacht’s hull. The sight of water streaming out of the pump was quite spectacular to watch.

The $600 second-hand dinghy was ‘full of holes’ with many of the seams opening up and letting water in. Despite this, Samuel loved the dinghy and it was later given to him as a reward for all of his efforts in helping in his dad’s attempts to save the old yacht.

I was able to stay for most of the day that Friday, but we had no food or drinks available. I had to be home by 4pm that day. With most of the water pumped out of the yacht’s hull, it was floating again. Nobody turned up with a boat to help tow the yacht though. We thought that we were in luck when a good-sized boat came into the beach, but it was only dropping off another (rescued?) kite surfer. I tried to attract the skipper’s attention to the yacht, but the boat quickly sailed away again.

It was about this time that I had retrieved a coiled hose from the yacht out of the water. I now figured that I had to come up with a solution, so I started making several phone calls to anyone who came to mind that may be able to help us out. I was soon stunned to see the fire boat Gallantry come out of the Port River and head towards us. I managed to take a photo of the fire boat with my mobile phone.

(14/8/20)

The fire boat came as close to the yacht as it could and passed a line to Claude and Samuel (who had been busy working on baling water out). The line was somehow tied to the yacht and the fire boat took up the strain, only for the line to break repeatedly.

After some three broken lines, I was thinking that it was not going to work at all. I now had to leave in a hurry. I felt guilty about having to abandon Claude and Samuel with all their belongings scattered around on the beach. As I passed over the top of the sand dunes, I heard the line snap for a fourth time.

I went home feeling disappointed about the whole affair. I was having to have an early tea before going out again. I received a call from Claude in the middle of my tea, saying that the yacht was now in the marina. I could not believe my ears. It was my understanding that there would be a trailer at the marina to take the yacht away, but that did not happen. I was then told that the ‘trailer place’ was now closed for the entire weekend.

Meanwhile, I managed to send photos of the fire boat arriving at the yacht to Colin James, the Advertiser journalist. He soon sent me a copy of his report, which he said would be in the Saturday’s paper. The report featured my fire boat photo, Colin’s photo of Claude and Samuel, and more photos, including one of myself. I could barely believe my eyes. Then I could not sleep much again after waking up around 5am.

In the morning, I quickly turned to page 23 of The Advertiser. There was my photo of the fire boat, and one of Claude and Samuel, but not the one of me. Oh well, I thought, at least it was shown online. (The online report can be read at report at https://1drv.ms/w/s!AptZwqUs2pz0gc595ly9nvsESM7-zA?e=zkDoFZ.) My disappointment was tempered by the fact that a large photo of Samuel in my kayak was featured once again. More surprising to me was that the editorial/political cartoon in the paper that day featured the yacht!

Cartoon by Valdman (since retired)

(Taken from The Advertiser 15/8/20?)

Again, my wife was adamant that I was not available to help out in any way on the weekend. On Monday 17th August, I went down to the North Haven boat ramp to help Claude, Samuel and Pete to load the yacht on to a trailer that was expected once more. They informed me that they had not been allowed to use the trailer booked for the yacht because it was not allowed to leave the Adelaide region to go to Port Pirie. They were going to leave the boat ramp to return the pump that they had been hiring for $100 a day. Claude was also going to have to return home to Yongala to get more medication for ongoing medical issues.

 (14/8/20)

Meanwhile, a man turned up in a 4WD car and headed straight for the yacht’s location. I first thought that it was Colin James, the journalist for The Advertiser, but he soon rang to say that he could not make it. I went over to speak with the new visitor. It was a man from Marine Safety. He asked me if I was the yacht’s owner. I told him that the owner was just starting to drive away at that moment. He told me that the yacht could not stay there beyond the next day. I suggested that he quickly ring Claude, but he refused. I told him that I understood that the yacht could not be moved for about a week. We both then spoke with Pete Patterson, Claude and Samuel’s friend, who was parked nearby.

I rang Claude and told him what the officer had told me about the yacht having to be moved by the next day. I also emailed a friend who lives on the edge of the marina to ask her if the yacht could be moored at her pontoon. I received a call from her that night, saying that the pontoon belongs to her two neighbours, not her.

I discussed the possibilities with her two neighbours, but they were (rightly) not keen to assist us. I had to let Claude know that my idea had fallen flat. I also told him that it had been suggested that he try pleading clemency with either of the two nearby yacht clubs. Claude told me that he would be riding his motorbike from Huntfield Heights to Yongala that Monday night. He said that he would bring a 4WD and large trailer down to the yacht on Wednesday 19th August.

On that Wednesday, Claude informed me that a suitable trailer had still not been organised. SA was experiencing bad storms about this time. I went to the boat ramp on Thursday 20th August and found that the yacht was (irreparably?) damaged, leaking and leaning up against the pontoon. I took some photos of the damage to share with Claude, his family, and Colin James from The Advertiser.

I reported the damage to Claude when I got back home. I suggested that we needed to salvage whatever we could from the yacht ASAP. Claude agreed and gave me his permission to retrieve whatever I could for him. I did just that, gathering up some 3 batteries, 4 lifejackets, a raincoat, numerous fittings, hardware and tools.

It was at this time that I met Bob Finnie, the original owner of the yacht. We had a chat about the yacht’s demise and past history. Bob offered to assist me with any details about the history of the yacht, which he said had been called “Dolphin”. He told me that he himself had paid $5000 for the yacht.

The latest update, written by Colin James, regarding the demise of the yacht was reported on page 15 of the 21st August issue of The Advertiser.

I returned to the boat ramp on Friday 21st August to find Claude and his two sons, Samuel and Jared, dismantling the yacht’s keel in the car park.

 (21/8/20)

The yacht itself had already been broken up (chain-sawed?) and loaded onto a trailer. It was a sad ending to the whole affair.

 (21/8/20)

The fully-loaded trailer was spotted at a Clare service station later that day, presumably during refuelling of the car for the trip to Yongala. A photo of the yacht on the trailer was posted on Facebook. It seemed strange that people were still taking photos of what was left of the broken-up yacht as the remains were taken up to Yongala.

Just as Claude was thinking that his nightmare was coming to an end, the wheel bearing on the trailer seized on the way home!

Several Facebook pages (or groups) were regularly featuring photos and videos of the yacht during the month-long attempts to save it. Debate around the issue sometimes became somewhat heated, leading to some people being banned, comments and discussions being deleted, and whole Facebook pages having to be shutdown it seems.

Some five anchors had been used for the yacht after it had been towed to North Haven by the police rescue team before ending up on the beach there after breaking its mooring. One anchor was lost in the middle of the bay, whilst another anchor was lost close to the outside of the southern Outer Harbor breakwater. A third anchor was lost close to the beach when one of the helpers mysteriously cut it loose during an attempt to tow the yacht away. Two other anchors were being used to keep the yacht moored close to the beach, but the yacht was positioned parallel to the beach. This allowed waves to crash over the side of the yacht and enter the hull through the broken windows of the cabin. The hull soon filled up with water and caused the yacht to sit on the seabed. Whilst Claude and Samuel attempted to bale the water out of the yacht, they made use of the two anchors to try to sit the yacht upright. When the fire boat arrived at the beach to tow the yacht away, Samuel came across the anchor that had been cut loose earlier. He brought that one to me on the beach. He then brought the other two anchors to the beach. I had to leave the beach whilst the fire boat was attempting to tow the yacht away. This meant that I also had to leave the three anchors laying on the beach. These were apparently collected up by some volunteers for return to Claude.

A Go Fund Me page set up for the rescue of the yacht had raised $1000 by 18th August. The eventual total would have been used to offset any expenses incurred by Claude in his attempts to save the yacht.

ABC Radio was reporting updates on the story at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-18/rescued-adelaide-minnow-awaiting-trailer-after-mfs-intervention/12569114?fbclid=IwAR15r-llV22o–HwlVq43TbOMJPPJGBmaBthh05HcuFBxQBHVKFNANtOB74 on 18th August. Links to earlier reports can be found on this page.

I had wondered at times how Samuel had been able to devote so much time to helping his dad out with the yacht. He either did not have a job or he was taking lots of time off of work, I thought. I later found out that Samuel had initially lost his job, but just as Claude and his sons were leaving the marina with the demolished yacht on Friday 21st August, Samuel received a phone call offering him his job back. A case of good timing.

As for my personal involvement, I have stated both on radio and in the newspapers that it had been a great adventure and well worth the effort. On Saturday 22nd August I was told by a relative that my name had been mentioned on Radio 5AA during a report about the yacht – something like “one of the volunteers who helped in all attempts to rescue the yacht was Steve Reynolds, who went every day, often taking coffee and cake for the owners”. Well that is what I was told, even though I never actually took any cake along with me.

I have kept a file of all of the newspaper reports about the yacht that I found in The Advertiser. What may have been the final newspaper report about the demise of the yacht appeared on page 22 of The Advertiser for 22nd August. The accompanying photo lifted from Facebook (taken by Antony Bird?) showed the remains of the yacht loaded on the trailer, ready for transporting up to Yongala (for firewood?).

The carload of gear that I salvaged from the broken up yacht at the marina was kept in my carport after undergoing a little maintenance and tidying up. Claude said that it would get picked up within two weeks, which pleased my wife no end. That meant that it would be gone just in time for Father’s Day celebrations at my home. True to Claude’s word, after a little prompting from my wife and I, Samuel called in to pick up all of the gear. I was not able to be there at the time, so I left it in my yard where Samuel would find it all. It was good to return home to find that it had all been picked up. There was, however, a lovely surprise gift bag left in the yard for me. The gift bag was overflowing with lots of goodies, plus a thankyou card from the Evans family. I was truly embarrassed by their generosity in relation to the help that I tried to give them regarding the efforts to save the yacht. I rang Claude to thanks his family for the lovely gift bag.

 

THE HISTORY OF THE YACHT

I read on Facebook that the yacht was called “Aratika” and that it was built in New Zealand in 1946. A friend suggested to me that the yacht was a Herreschoff 28 (H28). The Marine Safety officer at the North Haven boat ramp on 17th August agreed with that. He said that the wheelhouse (cabin) was an addition and the wooden deck had been fibre-glassed over. The yacht was said to have been 28-feet long (hence H28?) and weighed 3 ton.

(1900s)

When I met the original owner of the yacht at the North Haven boat ramp on 20th August, he told me that the most recent name for the yacht was “Dolphin”.

According to Wikipedia, Aratika is an atoll in the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia, 35kms from Kauehi Atoll. Aratika is 20.8 km long and is 10.7 km wide at its maximum width. Said to be “butterfly-shaped”, it has a land area of approximately 8.3 sq.km. The main village there is called Paparara. Aratika has appeared in some maps as “Carlshoff Island”.

Also, according to Wikipedia, the MV Aratika was an Interisland Line ferry, taking passengers between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand. It was replaced in 1999 by MV Aratere. The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage says that Aratika means “direct path”.

According to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathanael_Greene_ the H28 was designed by Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. Herreshoff “(March 18, 1848 – June 2, 1938) was an American naval architect, mechanical engineer, and yacht design innovator. He produced a succession of undefeated America’s Cup defenders between 1893-1920.”

Also according to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor#Anchor_as_symbol, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff’s son, L. (Lewis) Francis Herreshoff, also a yacht designer, designed an anchor. His design is said to be “essentially the same pattern as an admiralty anchor, albeit with small diamond-shaped flukes or palms. The novelty of the design lay in the means by which it could be broken down into three pieces for stowage. In use, it still presents all the issues of the admiralty pattern anchor.”

SOME FUNNY STORIES

When the yacht’s rudder was accidentally knocked off of the yacht by the excavator from A.Haros & Sons Earthmovers, it was placed behind a small tree near the car park, along with some lengths of tow rope.

 (13/8/20)

One of the visitors, aware that it was made of Huon pine, placed the heavy artefact into the back of his 4WD vehicle, thinking that it would make a great tabletop. His plans were thwarted when Claude arrived and asked what had happened to the rudder. The visitor ‘confessed’ that he was keeping it safe for Claude. The tow ropes in the photo had already disappeared completely.

On Friday 14th August, Claude mentioned to me that he and Samuel had to resort to wearing their ‘naughty’ bathers/board shorts. I wondered just what he was referring to at the time. I later discovered that Claude’s bathers featured a picture of a man’s genitalia on the front of them. This was not quite clear in one of the photos that featured online. Samuel’s bathers were hidden by my wet suit which he was wearing.

 (14/8/20)

I asked Claude at some stage what he was going to call the yacht, apart from the obvious. He replied something about “frozen nuts and ….”. I could only suggest that something shorter might be more appropriate.

When Colin James first interviewed Claude, Claude said that he was 45 when asked about his age. He had apparently forgotten that he was actually 55.

Like Claude’s age, the reported age of the yacht fluctuated between 70 and 75 years.

One visitor told me that a past heart attack prevented him from helping us. I told him that I was helping so that I would not suffer a heart attack any time soon.

The day that I met Bob Finnie, the original owner of the yacht, he told me that he already knew who I was, then asked me for my autograph (thanks to my newfound fame).

Rick Nank shared one of his photos on Facebook, saying “Courtney Bird who was inspirational to all with her give it a go attitude. Photo is Courtney and Steve giving their all.” The trouble is that Courtney was not even featured in the photo posted. I made up for it by posting another photo featuring Courtney.

One day I was on the beach whilst Claude was busy chatting to someone on the phone. He suddenly said to me that the person wanted to speak to me. I thought that he said that it was the Coast Guard on the phone. I thought to myself, “Now I’m in some kind of trouble”, but it turned out to be someone from the ABC in Port Lincoln who wanted to interview me about my involvement.

As I was preparing to leave the car park on 5th August, I discovered that Courtney Bird had the same colour and model car as mine – a sunflower shade Hyundai Accent, both 6 years old. The next evening, I parked my car next to hers and told her to make sure that she got into the right car afterwards.

 (6/8/20)

A cyclist turned up on the beach with bagpipes the day that the council and contractors were there. He did not take too much persuasion to play a few tunes on the bagpipes, much to the amusement of onlookers who appreciated the entertainment.

 (12/8/20)

It is disappointing that some online reports spelled “dinghy” as “dingy”.

 

A SIMILAR STORY?

Just when I thought that the dust was settling on the yacht story, a similar incident occurred in South Australia. The same day that Samuel Evans came to pick up from my home the gear that I had salvaged from the yacht, two men were attempting to sail an old wooden boat from Coffin Bay to Goolwa. They had left Coffin Bay the day before and were happily motoring along until the boat’s propeller was damaged when it hit something hard on the first day.

The two men contacted a friend via mobile phone the next day to report that the damaged propeller would slow down their progress. Any contact with the boat was lost after that, causing some concern after a couple more days without any further news about the men’s predicament.

The alarm was raised on Father’s Day (6th September) and a major air and sea search was launched the next day. The search, involving both the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Royal Australian Air Force, lasted three days and covered an area larger than 100,000 square kilometres. The search was called off late on 9th September when there had been no sign of the missing men or their boat. The search was said to have been South Australia’s largest ever maritime search.

Just when it was thought that the two missing men must have perished at sea, they were able to renew contact with the land. They were able to be ‘rescued’ off the coast of Salt Creek the next day, something that they insisted was not needed.

What made this story similar to Claude Evans’ story is that one of the men dreamed of being able to sail on an old wooden boat (at Goolwa). He had bought the 33-foot long, solid jarrah boat for $8000 after seeing it advertised on a Goolwa supermarket noticeboard. The only catch was having to sail it from Coffin Bay.

They had done very well to sail the boat all the way from Coffin Bay to Salt Creek with a damaged propeller. One blade had broken off of the four-bladed propeller and the boat was restricted to motoring at half-speed (2 ½ – 3 knots or 4.5 – 5.5 km/hr). The good news to this stage was that nobody was hurt in the process during this, or Claude’s, incident.

That particular yacht, however, was still making news several days later because the owner was living on the Margrel at Victor Harbor and the yacht became grounded at the Granite Island causeway at low tide one day.

A couple of days later, it was reported that the owner of the Margrel was missing again. He had apparently sent out a distress call on the morning of 22nd September, saying that his yacht was taking on water near Granite Island. He used his phone to call emergency services just after 5am.

Police, the water operations unit and sea rescue volunteers all began searching around Granite Island, but the rough conditions forced all of the rescue boats to return to shore. The searching continued from the air, but no trace was found of the man and his yacht.

 

A happy ending

Just when I figured that this would be the end of this story, I received a call from Colin James informing me that Claude had now been given a moulded plywood and fibreglass yacht by the boat broker who had sold him the inflatable dinghy. I then discovered that the Save The Boat Facebook page was now operating under the new name of “Lochnager”, the name of Claude’s 25-foot new yacht. (The page has since been closed down.)

I also found out that Claude and his family were invited to lunch by Jacqueline Heffernan, the Commodore for the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia. They surprised Claude by presenting him with a social membership, the club’s flag (“burgee”), a baseball cap and a few other goodies.

Claude & family with Jacqueline Heffernan, Cruising Yacht Club Commodore

I heard that Samuel had been able to take the new yacht on a trailer up to Yongala where Claude is now able to work on the yacht. The trailer was apparently modified so as to take the yacht. The yacht is a Top Hat 25 which, according to https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/top-hat-25, was originally designed in 1962.

Now that some 12 months have passed by, I rang Claude for an update about the progress on the new ‘old’ yacht. He told me that there was ‘a lot of rot in the yacht’ (poetry unintended). He said that he hadn’t made much progress because of the high costs involved in renovating the yacht.

 

Claude with “Lochnager”

(Photo taken by Victoria Evans)

I had no idea until now that The Advertiser reporter Colin James was a Walkley Award-winning journalist. Colin had been awarded the 1994 Walkley Award for Best Coverage of a Current Story (Print) for “The Hindmarsh Island Bridge” in The Advertiser.

The Walkley Awards are presented in Australia annually to recognise and reward excellence in journalism. They cover all media including print, television, radio, photographic and online media.

Only a few of the hundreds of photos taken during the attempted rescue of the yacht at North Haven beach in 2020 are shown above. Many more photos can be seen at https://1drv.ms/u/s!AptZwqUs2pz0gcd-xcLL3zbYGD4BYQ?e=Pmd700 .

My thanks go to people who provided additional photos for this article, and also to (the now retired) Valdman for his cartoon from The Advertiser.

3 thoughts on “How a man’s shattered dream still ended happily”

  1. Pity about that lost dinghy outboard motor. Ideally it should be found and removed from the sea bed because of its polluting effects and perhaps safety risks for other vessels. But I will leave it at that, and I realise that it would not be the first outboard motor to drop off a small boat. One intriguing question remains unanswered:- Steve, was the owner generous in advertising a free 2nd (or 3rd or etc) hand yacht? Or was it a case of (*) “I’ll try giving it away, someone might be delighted to have it, and the alternative for me is going to be costly anyway? ”
    (*presumably perfectly legal, and not unreasonable, nor a cynical action…And as the saying goes, “Let the buyer beware”,which does apply here in the sense that while boat had an asking price of $00-00, the cost of collecting it meant that the buyer knew an actual $ outlay was implicit.)

  2. Steve, another thing… I am a little bit surprised at how the (mostly staffed by volunteers and probably always lacking proper funding for much more important missions) marine safety and rescue services don’t feature more prominently in your otherwise very detailed article.
    Regards,
    David.

    1. Thanks David. Claude was let down by people on multiple occasions. The authorities tended to just put hurdles in Claude’s way. In answer to your first question, handing your problem items on to another unsuspecting person is becoming popular.

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