DESTINATION: St Bees Island, off the Mackay coast.
DESTINATION: St Bees Island, off the Mackay coast. Shakira Sellen

Busker fined for his ill-fated 'charter' to St Bees Island

LIKE many seafaring sagas worth their salt, it all kicked off at the local watering hole.

Searching for passage to St Bees Island, off Mackay, on July 4, a pair of hopeful travellers stumbled upon Denis James Kay and another fellow amidst the punters at Sails Sports Bar at Mackay Marina.

While the 53-year-old busker had no recreational or commercial vessel licence to speak of - and few boating skills - Kay certainly had a sense of unbridled enthusiasm.

It had been 15 years since the Slade Point man worked on a fishing vessel and he couldn't tell you the length of a nautical mile, but his soon-to-be passengers, who couldn't afford a proper charter, were none the wiser.

No doubt looking forward to their week away on the pristine little paradise of St Bees, about 50km north-east of Mackay, it dawned on the pair they were in deep trouble the next day, several hours into their trip - as Kay vomited off the side of the boat after sipping from cans of VB with his equally unqualified deckhand.

Come 5pm or so, a few hours since Kay managed to hustle his craft from the marina, conditions at sea had been deteriorating, the light fading and Kay and friend were largely incoherent.

Kay managed to find a light source, which was largely unhelpful, before one of the wayward passengers used her own light to cast an eye overboard and got quite the fright.

Rocks loomed near the boat before the inevitable occurred and chaos ensued.

The craft sustained damage (though, was later salvaged) and began its steady descent into the depths of the big blue, its occupants battling to escape injury or death before witnesses scooped them up.

Soon after, a rescue helicopter served as saviour, carting Kay, his friend and the passengers to hospital.

The events of July 4-5 drew the attention of Mackay police, who breath tested Kay hours later, Mackay Magistrates Court was told on Monday.

Kay blew a blood alcohol level of .143 - nearly three times the legal limit.

Prosecutor Chelsea Pearson read the agreed facts of the case.

She told Magistrate Damien Dwyer that Kay had been asked to provide the length of a nautical mile (seemingly to test his boating knowledge).

Kay told officers a nautical mile was 1000 metres (one kilometre), when it is actually 1852 metres.

Adding fuel to the fire, Kay said he did have a GPS plotter on-board, but he was unable to explain to officers how the device operated.

Facing the court, Kay pleaded guilty to failing in an obligation to operate a motor vessel safely, and to contravening a police direction (he did not attend a police station on time to check in).

Kay, appearing unrepresented, told the court he had lost everything when his partner died in May, and explained his struggles with osteoporosis.

Magistrate Damien Dwyer, quipped "it's no good bouncing around on those waves", and told Kay of the maximum penalty of $60,000.

Still, Kay dodged that impost and was instead fined $4000.

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