SINKING BOAT: Rescue crews work to salvage Felix after she started sinking during last Tuesday's wild storm.
SINKING BOAT: Rescue crews work to salvage Felix after she started sinking during last Tuesday's wild storm.

Sailing visitors blown away by help

WHEN Ben Everts and Helen Rutledge sailed to Bundaberg last week, never did they imagine a severe storm would unleash its fury right on top of them.

The New Zealand couple said if it wasn't for the help of the Burnett Heads community, their Lagoon 400 Sailing Catamaran could have very well sunk to the bottom of the Burnett River.

"I have never not had faith in human nature, but this has absolutely reinforced it,” Mrs Rutledge said.

"We feel overwhelmed by the support and are really humbled by it all.”

The sailing pair were docked at the Bundaberg Port Marina for the Down Under Rally welcome week with 40 other international yachts when wind gusts of more than 130km/h hit the area last week.

They described it as a "very intense, quick storm”.

"It all happened so quickly, the line snapped on our boat and we went across the fairway and hit another,” Mrs Rutledge said.

"The damage to our boat was caused by us hitting the pier - it was quite a substantial hole and that's when we knew we were sinking.”

Mrs Rutledge said her husband was able to anchor the vessel, Felix, while she radioed in for help.

"We called VMR and then someone from the Lady Musgrave Experience also came out as well as a couple of people from the Bundaberg Port Marina,” she said.

"They managed to tow us to a little beach.

"By the time we got there the boat was 80% under water.”

Staff from Boast Hair and Beauty gift Ben Everts and Helen Rutledge with vouchers after their sinking boat ordeal.
Staff from Boast Hair and Beauty gift Ben Everts and Helen Rutledge with vouchers after their sinking boat ordeal.

Now, the couple remain in Bundaberg while the damage to their boat is assessed.

It is not yet known whether Felix is repairable, but Mrs Rutledge said the experience would not hamper their sailing journey.

She said the generosity they had received from the community had made their travel woes all the more bearable.

"The Lighthouse Hotel put us up for a week for free, we were given pamper vouchers from a local business and Baltimore's told us to pop in for a coffee or food at any time,” she said.

"There have been so many other people and businesses that have reached out to us, offering up their homes, services and more.

"Also, if it hadn't of been for Geoff at the Bundaberg Port Marina, our boat would be on the bottom of the Burnett River.”

The couple said they would continue their stay in Bundaberg before hopefully setting sail again soon to continue their trip around Australia.

"We have been on this journey since the beginning of May,” Mrs Rutledge said.

"We thought we would spend two or three years sailing Australia.”



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