THE captain of the ship that rescued six men off the coast of Port Campbell on Friday night has praised the skipper of the sunken vessel for his composure in the face of potential disaster.
Grant Dunoon, of Balwyn, and his crew on Trybooking.com were able to pluck the six sailors of Inception from the ocean in horrendous conditions about midnight on Good Friday.
Mr Dunoon said Inception captain Jeff Dusting did a great job to ensure none of his crewmates drowned during the two-and-a-half-hour ordeal.
“Jeff was very calm,” Mr Dunoon said.
“I would praise him for number of reasons — he remained calm, gave directions, made sure they were chained together with their lifelines and instructed them to hold their lights up when they going over waves.
“And the sign of a good seaman and a gentleman is that he was the last one to come on board our boat. (He) made sure his crew was safe first and that’s something.”
Mr Dunoon said conditions were horrendous.
“We were experiencing 40-50 knots constantly with gusts up to 70 knots. We were hit by a few gusts that rolled the boat right over so the top of the mast either hit a wave or just skimmed it. It was like someone with a high-pressure hose spraying you at a distance of two feet from your face.”
Trybooking.com was alerted that Inception was in trouble just before midnight but did not know the crew was already in the water, he said.
“We set a course for where we believed they were but once we got to that location there was no boat. We started a grid search, just tracking back and forth. We started to hear whistles because we were downwind ... we were looking like mad and then we spotted a light.”
But even though the men had been spotted, the hard work wasn’t over.
“We set up a procedure to try to recover them (and) we were very conscious that if we got it wrong and slammed the boat into them it would have knocked them out and then we would have had a problem.
“As they came to the back of our boat we could throw a rope to them and pull them onto the back landing. They were physically exhausted. One of gentlemen we pulled on board was suffering shock, big time. He was unable to move at all. I think most of them threw up from the salt water and the physical exertion.
“They were totally elated, ecstatic. They couldn’t thank us enough.
“We were saying, ‘you guys would do the same for us’. To me it was not a case of saving lives — it was just inevitable we were going to rescue these guys, I thought. At no stage did I think ‘we’re not going to find them’.”
Trybooking.com, named after Mr Dunoon’s business, received a hero’s welcome when it sailed into Port Fairy on Saturday.
“The amount of support we got was great. One of the wives came up to me and thanked us — she was so appreciative. Those guys went through a horrific ordeal.”
Mr Dunoon said he hoped to see the Inception crew again soon.
“It was a great experience for us. While there were lives on the line, we were delighted to be part of that rescue to achieve that outcome. I think the gods were looking down on us. It was magic to see it happen.”