11 hours in crocodile and shark infested waters
TWO young kayakers spent 11 hours in crocodile and shark infested waters after their vessel was swamped between Lucinda and Pelorus Island.
Water filled the vessel manned by a 19-year-old Grace Thong and 20-year-old former Mareeba State High School student, Brock Hawke about 1pm on Saturday - they were well short of the Pelorus Island.
They abandoned ship and Ms Thong wore the only life jacket on board as the couple tread water, trying to make landfall.
Battling through a strong current and wind, they made for the jetty at Lucinda but missed it by 200m.
They went on to endure another 11 hours in the water until midnight when by chance they washed up on the rocks of Hinchinbrook Island about midnight.
Meanwhile on the mainland the alert was raised about 5.30pm on Saturday that the two kayakers were overdue.
Senior Constable Nick Swan from Townsville Water Police said that sparked a massive air and sea search operation
That search was hampered by atrocious weather conditions which included 45km/h winds and 3m seas. It was called off at 1am, to start again at first light.
The duo was eventually found in part thanks to a methodical search method by the crew of Townsville Volunteer Coast Guard.
Coxswain Michael Dunkley led the expedition and began searching the stretch between Lucinda and Pelorus Island, working north because of the southerly wind.
A fortuitous encounter with Mr Hawke's brother, who was also searching for the couple, provided information about the duo.
Water Police then advised the Coast Guard to check the coast of Hinchinbrook Island and the crew searched near George Point.
"We had to launch our zodiac vessel because of the shallow water," Coxswain Dunkley said.
Two of the crew volunteered to brave the rough water.
Within 20 minutes they sighted the missing couple but were unable to land because of the weather.
The Coast Guard radioed the Water Police and the Queensland Government Air Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to the island at 9.30am.
By 10am they were at Ingham Hospital where they were treated for minor abrasions and dehydration. Hospital staff confirmed yesterday they were in a stable condition.
Queensland Government Air Rescue Helicopter senior aircrew officer Dan Hoare said it was a positive outcome after the helicopter conducted two unsuccessful search sorties the night before.
The Bulletin understands the couple was advised four times not to attempt the expedition because of the bad weather.
Sen Constable Swan said the duo had a lucky escape.
"At the end of the day this is a good outcome that we've located them but it could have quite easily ended up in death or serious injury."
He said the rescue highlighted the need for people to check weather conditions and carry emergency equipment during voyages.
"The probably should not have gone out in those weather conditions, especially without an emergency beacon like an EPIRB.
"It's not a legal requirement on a kayak but it is your responsibility to make sure you travel safely."
Ms Thong and Mr Hawke declined to comment.