AFTER 81 years of sailing the seas, Bundaberg-based yacht Shady Lady has met her final resting place in 600m of water, leaving her skipper and crew with “one hell of a tale” to tell.
In June, old salt Peter Charles, 70, told the NewsMail his upcoming participation in the Darwin to Ambon race would be one of his seafaring highlights – and he wasn’t wrong.
After taking out third in the international race, skipper Mr Charles, along with his crew Catherine and Mark Clancy, set off back to Darwin.
But their plans changed when Mr Clancy headed into the galley to make a coffee, only to find water gushing in.
The heartbreaking decision was made to abandon the yacht and, within 10 minutes, the trio were in a dinghy watching the old girl sink.
“I couldn’t watch it,” Mr Charles said.
“I looked away and, when I looked back up, she was gone.
“After 81 years on top of the water, trust Peter Charles to lose it.”
It took just 30 minutes for the Shady Lady to sink into the depths of the ocean, 290 nautical miles north of Darwin.
The rapid descent of the yacht meant the crew members had only a few minutes to gather belongings including their passports, camera and their lucky rubber duck.
“We lost the trophy and money from the race,” Mr Charles said.
“We lost everything.”
The trio immediately activated an EPIRB when the boat began to sink shortly after 7am on August 13 and spent almost four hours bobbing in the ocean before seeing their first sign of life – a Customs aircraft.
An air sea rescue plane arrived shortly after, doing circuits around the 2.6m-long dinghy until four hours later, when an oil rig support vessel, the Go Canopus, travelling from Singapore to Tahiti, arrived to rescue the crew.
“It was an amazing rescue,” Mr Charles said.
“It was a bit scary when they came up beside us with the big bow wave,” Mr Clancy added.
During their eight-hour wait in the ocean, the trio had a brush with two sharks, one that kept swimming and another that smashed into the underside of the aluminium-bottomed dinghy before swimming away.
Always in good spirits, Mr Charles kept the crew entertained, humming theme music from Jaws following the encounter.
“It was a big nudge,” Mr Clancy said.
“My feet were hanging over the side so I moved pretty quickly.”
The adventure wasn’t quite how Mrs Clancy had imagined her first ocean-going experience.
The sailing novice met the Shady Lady in Ambon following the race and replaced crew member Judy O’Donoghue for the trip home.
“I certainly didn’t expect this much excitement,” Mrs Clancy said.
“We did have some fantastic days of sailing before (the yacht sank), though – it was spectacular.”
After their rescue, the three sailors spent several days aboard the Go Canopus, whose crew dropped them at Thursday Island.
As to how the Shady Lady started to take on water, it’s anyone’s guess.
“That’s the mystery of the day,” Mr Charles said.
“We’ll never know.”
Despite the ordeal, Mr Charles is already planning the next Darwin to Ambon race with Mr Clancy by his side.
And as for Mrs Clancy’s next boat ride?
“I’ll have to think about it,” she said.