‘LOST AT SEA’

(August 27, 2022) Andrew Kennedy shares a harrowing tale and testimony of God’s caring…

A few months ago Maree and I set out from Victoria for our first big holiday, on what we called ‘Half a Mega Trip.’ Half a mega trip! What’s a half mega? I thought at the time.

Well, mega means huge and colossal so half a huge and colossal must just big, I reasoned. Well it certainly was big! For quite a few weeks we were to travel thousands of kilometres across Western Australia and back, visiting well-known towns as well many off-the-beaten-track picturesque places.

We really enjoyed ourselves and saw lots of beautiful scenic spots. Maree took lots of photos, regularly posting quite a few to friends on FaceBook.

Gregory disaster
We were at Gregory, a small town and fishing port located 7 km northwest of the mouth of the Hutt River, in WA’s Mid-West region when it happened. Quite a small port, Gregory only has a population of around 65 people and some 80 dwellings, most of which are holiday houses.

We had decided Maree should fly back for a much-looked-forward-to couple of weeks with family back home and meantime I was to hold the fort as it were.

Now, in this case the ‘fort’ was the caravan! But to me it was getting lots of fishing done.

But… my desire didn’t quite go the way I planned! My ‘ship’ – my little boat – got lost on the ocean the first Monday night I was on my own. Naturally, it wasn’t my fault! No, truth told, it was. Happened this way…

After heading out through the small gap in the reef I decided to drift looking for fish and all was working well. As friends know, I delight in fishing and enjoyed some four hours catching a few fish. I even had some company – circled and eyed-balled up by a shark!

Came a point when I decided it was time to head in for shore. I thought I had about half an hour of light left but a very heavy cloud darkened, making visibility very poor.

Lost!
I headed in what I thought was the direction of Gregory, which is only a beach with a very low walk-ramp and the town set behind the dunes. Long story cut short I was lost! And within ten minutes near total darkness had set in.

No moon , no stars no town lights to follow,  I motored up and down the coast for an hour but couldn’t even see the beach, just distant glows from inland lights – which I learned later were inland mining stations and not Gregory as I had hoped.

Even if I had found the little town in the dark, I would never have found the gap in the reef!

Turned the engine off to save fuel, I pondered what to do. Tried the old SOS thing with the torch but realised that was pointless, even flares would most likely be wasted and best kept in case of a search (if any). Although I hadn’t brought my mobile as there is no coverage in this remote place, I had an EPIRB – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – but then  I didn’t want helicopter and news cameras.

I had checked the weather before departing and knew a huge cold front was due soon, with damaging gale force winds, along with rapid swell and wave increase (It actually ended up 6m swell!).

So there was only one thing I could do – pray to my loving heavenly Father, almighty God – which I should have done in the first place!

I was led to start up the engine and edge inshore, switching the sounder on and off as I needed to know the depth. But with the small amount of light it emitted I became completely blind in the dark and not able to check for waves hitting reef or shore.

Suddenly…
A heaving wave hit under the boat and I decided to follow it towards shore! I was very fortunate to hit the beach and able to drag the boat up out of the shore break.

Incredibly thankful to be on land, I had no idea where or how far I was from Gregory and my car! I climbed the dunes but could see no town, just very distant mining operations.

Initially I thought to wrap myself in the plastic SOS sheet I carry on the boat… so as to protect me from wind, chill and rain and to try sleeping on the beach until light and then establish my bearings.

Rain and wind started to settle in and I was only in shorts and a light cardigan. So I chose the most likely direction and started walking, wrapped in my ‘Orange sheet’ to keep warm.

Walking was very difficult as I couldn’t see what was in front of me. Full tide lapped up to the face of the sand dunes so that the sand was very soft, and occasionally a large wave would sweep in and saturate me up to my waist!

Five hours later I rounded a bend and was so thankful to see my car! I could easily have gone the wrong direction. Arrived back at the van at 1am, I was a very relieved person, and so thankful to God.

Why am I sharing all this?
Maybe to remind myself to never again make this very dumb mistake of not following safety protocol! And a reminder that on the ocean you don’t always get second chances to correct bad decisions!

My little boat? Here’s how it looked in better days, proudly displaying a large catch.

Truth is that in the end neither boat or huge catch means anything compared to being safe and well.

The boat was now sitting lonesome on the sand dunes down the beach some 10k away and WA was to have an extremely bad cold front that washed out the beach 4-wheel drive access.

When the swell and rough oceans calmed off, I did get the boat back, praise God, but only after four varied attempts.

Firstly, I set off with the helpful caravan park owner to see if we could access the boat from the beach. We only got about 7kms along the shore to find that even though the swell had dropped considerably, the surf was surging up to sheer vertical on the dunes. We couldn’t venture further.

Two days later I parked alone on the beach, sitting on my empty boat trailer and asking God if it was at all possible to get this boat back.

Help from a stranger
Then I noticed a large, powerful, 600cc quad bike approaching. Waving them down, I asked the riders if they’d  attempted the beach access to Shell beach, where my boat rested. Steve and Gail introduced themselves – I was to discover that Steve is the local go-to-guy whenever you have a problem or need help! He said he had heard about the boat stranded on the beach and was going to have a look. Talk about a prompt answer to prayer!

Steve graciously offered his help and after three attempts on two different days we reached the now upturned boat. The motor was broken and all the gear washed along the beach, the hull starting to sink deeper into the sand and, if left for another day, would be unmovable.

We got it upright, and salvaged what we could. Then in two perilous trips we retrieved what was left of my stuff, firstly the now useless motor and accessories, secondly the boat itself. I had felt responsible to remove my damaged belongings from the beach so as not to cause possible damage to marine life and avoid the prospect of people thinking that someone was lost at sea.

Few people are as determined as Steve and he powered through wet soft sand using his incredible experience acquired over the years. Further good news is that I managed to obtain an old but good replacement motor… and the hope of fishing at Ningaloo and Coral Bay continued.

Some major thoughts…

  • I was so grateful and renewed in my belief of the goodness of people. (Life can make us jaded!).
  • I’m so thankful to Steve, also the kind locals who helped… it reminds me that we all need each other.
  • I know that I particularly need my wife as, I confess, I am not trusted to be left to my own means!
  • Psalm 95:5 says, ‘The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land.’
  • So why did I wait so long to pray about it! We must never leave prayer to the last resort!

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Andrew Kennedy’s link:
OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
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2 comments

  1. While very few of us may ever face an encounter of this description, it is true that too often we can leave prayer as a ‘last resort.’ What a faithful God who hears and answers us in our distress.

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