BERNIE Katchor was travelling north with his wife and grandchild in their 43-foot ketch, Australia 31.

Then wild seas and wind gusts to 60 knots brought that to a shuddering halt about 6km south of Rainbow Beach early yesterday.

Tin Can Bay Coastguard got the call about 2.30am and headed out with a four-person crew, only to find they had troubles of their own as conditions worsened.

Rough weather forced them to take shelter in the lee of Double Island Point where they remain stranded this morning.

Cosatguard commander Harley Moss said the crew were all experienced, but two of them were badly sea sick.

They were, he said, safe but not comfortable as seas of about 1.5m drove under their 12m twin-diesel Noosa Cat, Cooloola Rescue.

"The skipper told me he could not see his hand in front of his face outside as rain and gale force winds tore up the ocean just beyond their comparatively sheltered anchorage," he said.

"They're in about 10m of water and they are better off just staying put until morning," he said.

"He told me that just around the corner there were these gigantic things called waves and the winds were blowing at 61 knots.

"So putting your nose out into that when you don't have to would not be wise.

"Even where they are it is gusting to 50 knots or more."

The would-be rescuers are waiting out the rough conditions in a vessel which, while well-equipped for rescue work, is not fitted out for too many overnight stays.

"They haven't got any real food - a couple of packets of soup and some muesli bars - and they haven't got a stove or any way of heating water," Mr Moss said.

"But we have a very expert skipper and three excellent crew.

"They say they'll assess their situation in daylight and see whether they are able to attempt a bar crossing some time during the day.

"When that happens we have the Sandy Straits Coastguard vessel, Pride of Maryborough, which will come down and stand-by in case they are needed to assist our vessel.

"They'll go to Way Point 3, which is the beginning of the bar and so there will be a rescue vessel to help our rescue vessel if it gets into any trouble.

"The bar is very rough at the moment," he said.

Meanwhile, on shore (almost), Bernie Katchor is guarding his yacht.

"The police came and got my wife and grandson and they've been ringing up to make sure things are okay.

"They do a good job don't they," he said.

"I'm the nightwatchman, until the blokes from Rainbow Recovery can get a security guard down here.

"They're arranging all that for the insurance company.

"They'll come and put the yacht on a truck and we'll save it that way," he said.

Meanwhile, he is getting used to life at an angle of about 35 to 40 degrees, as the Australia 31 leans over on its keel.

"We've lived on this boat for 20 years," Mr Katchor said.

"We've been based in the Caribbean and in South America and Canada.

"We're bird watchers and we go wherever they are, especially third world countries, because they're cheaper."

Gympie Times

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