Boats Sunk at Airlie Beach

Over forty boats, yachts and catamarans were sunk, run aground or damaged around the Airlie Beach foreshore on a single disastrous night in February 2008. A family of six had to be rescued by three brave police officers as their uninsured family boat sunk under them on the rock wall near a major Airlie Beach resort in a terrible night of storms. Over thirty European backpackers had to be lifted to safety by helicopters as their cruise boat Romance was washed ashore on nearby Hook Island, and pounded by waves. The dramatic helicopter rescue of the tourists in the Whitsundays made National News around Australia.

Viewing The Boat Wreckage

A low pressure area, not a cyclone, caused recent (February 2008) wild north winds and resulting lively seas which broke around 40 boats from their moorings in Pioneer Bay. I was up early to shut my door against incoming rain. From our balcony we could see one boat being pounded to pieces against the walls of the Port of Airlie marina construction site. When I went for a walk on Airlie Beach, I could see five boats on their sides on the beach, and two in the mangroves near the sailing club. I did not then realise that there were two more boats actually sunk near the mangroves. There were another two on the rocks near Airlie Creek. Another boat was tossed high from the water, and wedged on the rock wall at Airlie Beach Lagoon.

For the first time in ages I could see a half dozen youths out surfing the small waves into the Western end of Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach virtually never has waves, which usually makes Airlie Beach useless for surfing.

Next day we drove over to the Abel Point Marina, and walked the boardwalk at the ocean front. We could see one vessel sunk on the rocks at the marina entrance. There were four or five boats run aground or sunk on the rocks below the boardwalk. A salvage barge was next to one. People were clearing up the scattered debris all along the foreshore.

On land, a large crane had hauled one damaged yacht out of the water near the volunteer rescue boat ramp.

At the Cannonvale beach there was a solitary boat stranded on the beach. We could also see several boats aground in the mangroves.

See the Avalook photo album of boats sunk or damaged around Airlie Beach, all taken during a walk along the Airlie Beach and Cannonvale boardwalk.

Whitsunday Times reports on boats sinking.

Were Boats Insured?

Annecdotal and newspaper evidence is that a number of destroyed boats were uninsured. This included boats on which entire families were living, with the loss rendering these families homeless.