A QUIET fishing trip at Portland turned into a full-scale emergency for a 76-year-old man yesterday morning after strong winds blew his small boat into the open sea after the engine failed to start.
The Casterton resident was happily trying to hook a few fish when a south-westerly squall hit and pushed him out of the harbour entrance into choppy seas.
Without a mobile phone or marine radio he released three emergency flares to attract attention.
At the same time a derelict commercial trawler, Jumanjii, broke its moorings and was also blown through the harbour entrance. The vessels came within 200 metres of each other before Portland’s Coastguard crew found the small boat and towed it to shore with the elderly fisherman shaken, but relieved.
A Port of Portland pilot vessel towed the old trawler back to a mooring point.
Portland police sergeant Daniel Lehmann said the alert came about 8am after flares were released in quick succession.
Rescue operations were co-ordinated by Water Police officers in Melbourne and an ambulance helicopter was on standby.
“It was a recreational tinny boat about three to four metres long with a small outboard engine which refused to start when the winds hit,” Sergeant Lehmann said.
“He was washed about a kilometre out to sea and was copping the full force of the wind and choppy sea.”
Coastguard commander Michael Krause said the winds peaked at 35 knots.
“His engine may have taken a bit of water when the sea got choppy,” Mr Krause said.
“The Jumanjii was drifting towards the boat and got within about 200 metres.
“We got the call-out first for the trawler then for the dinghy.”
The Jumanjii is a former Japanese trawler which caught fire several years ago and was sold to a Portland businessman who had planned to restore it and run it as a dive boat.
It has been moored in the harbour for about two years and there had been calls for the Glenelg Shire Council for force its removal.
Meanwhile, a surfer who was injured on rocks near Princetown on Saturday morning had to be winched up steep cliffs by ambulance helicopter.
The victim, aged in her mid- 20s, was flown to Geelong Base Hospital with rib and back soreness.
Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said the incident happened at an area known as Cats Bay Beach, Eulong.
“It was a fairly inaccessible area and took a while for officers to walk down to her,” he said.
“Apparently she was surfing and came off her board and hit the rocks. We had several road crews there and the HEMS4 helicopter winched her out.”