Friends raise a glass to ‘saltie dog’ taken by croc
THE shock loss of yachtsman taken by a saltwater croc of Hinchinbrook Island had the tight knit Cairns boating community raising a glass to a highly regarded Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron stalwart.
On Saturday the club's flagpole was set to half-mast and members gathered to share stories and pay respects to lost 69-year-old yachtie Andy Heard.
Squadron commodore John Stewart said boating community had been shaken by the horrific death of Mr Heard.
"It's a real shock, the whole club just feels so numb," he said.
"Andy was probably one of the most respected members in the club and he is respected in the sailing community up and down the coast.
"Everyone says the same thing about him; he's one of the nicest men you ever want to meet.
"If you needed a hand he was always there, with advice on boats, advice on sailing, he was just one of those guys you could always look up to.
"He is going to leave an enormous hole."
Sailing the Hinchinbrook Island area with partner Erica Lang on board their vessel Shiraz, the alarm was raised on Thursday when Mr Heard took the boat's tender fishing and never returned.
A 4.2-metre crocodile thought to be responsible for an attack on Mr Heard was euthanised by wildlife officers on Saturday.
Earlier today police confirmed human remains had been found inside the animal.
Longtime friend and squadron board member Dayna Russell after waiting up all night for news was comforted to receive closure.
"In a way we are kind of relieved they did find his body, but we are devastated for (Mr Heard's partner) Erica and her losing her best mate," she said.
"He was always the first bloke to lend a hand and one of the guys said today he was like a father figure to lots of people in our club, he was the old saltie dog.
"We have put the flags at half-mast and put some flowers out in cheers to Andy and what meant to us."
Mr Stewart said as a yachtsman Mr Heard was "more than competent," highly experienced and "pedantic" with regard to safety on the water.
"He was a very good sailor. He kept his boat Shiraz in absolute pristine condition and there was never anything wrong with it," he said.
"I have heard stories about he should have had an EPIRB and life jackets but it doesn't matter if he had 10 EPIRBs or 50 life jackets it wouldn't have saved him in the situation he was in.
Surviving Cyclone Debbie while in the Whitsundays in 2017 and battling cancer Mr Stewart said his mate Mr Heard's life had not been without adversity.
"He was not 100 per cent fit but still lived life to the fullest," he said.
"I'm not sure if this is one of the last cruises they planned to take but it turned out to be their last."
Originally published as 'It's a real shock': Friends raise a glass to 'saltie dog' taken by croc