Monday, February 7, 2011

A Miraculous Escape

As our Premier, Anna Bligh has said, 'we dodged a bullet'. But, 4 days after Yasi hit the coast just north of Townsville, I feel as though the bullet came so close that I'm bruised and battered. We evacuated from Anima the night before Yasi was due to hit. All our family phoned me and were so worried that they made me promise to leave the boat with plenty of time to spare. We moved into our family friend, Carden's house in a suburb about 15 minutes drive away. We had a few car loads of our most essential belongings with us and had said goodbye to Anima. We worked so hard at getting ready and the build up to the cyclone was so intense that I barely ate or slept for days (note to self, this is not an ideal way to end up with a flat stomach!).

On the morning of Yasi (Yasi struck at around 11pm that night), I looked on the latest BOM cyclone map and saw with horror that she had been upgraded to a category 5 - the highest rating. Suddenly I wasn't just afraid for our boat, I was worried about our lives. We prepared Carden's house as best we could - taping up all of the windows, getting rid of everything from her yard, filling water containers, securing windows and doors. Then, we took what now became the essential belongings (a few bags and food) across to the house next door which was built much stronger. Then, we waited. As the storm raged outside, we felt increasingly secure in our shelter. It was actually so sheltered that we couldn't hear the 50metre tall Eucalypt trees crashing down outside. Sleep was fitful as I got up every hour to look outside, check BOM on my phone and try to film the progress. Rene slept like a log because he was extremely tired from moving all our junk.

*The morning after*

We got up at first light and went outside to the verandah. The flood water was 1 metre from us, many trees were down, green ants were everywhere (having been flung from their usual homes up in the trees!), leaves were everywhere and the wind was still howling. Within an hour we had a phone call from one of our fellow marina friends - they had stayed within walking distance to the marina and were down there - they could see that our boats were all OK!!!! I didn't believe them at first, but then we got another two calls, all from yachties telling us the good news! WOW. 
We woke to this outside the morning after cyclone Yasi - it didn't have water in it the day before.
All of the signs outside where we sheltered were bent up.
The storm surge was less than the predicted amount here in Townsville. Our friend Andy worked out that if the cyclone had travelled further south for another 20 minutes, our marina would have ended up like the one at Cardwell. We got very very lucky. It was very very close.

The marina at Cardwell just north of here. All of the boats were thrown onto the foreshore.
It was quite a few hours before we could get down to the marina ourselves. We had to help Carden clean up her yard first and the wind was still too strong to drive safely. Carden's place did OK, she'd lost the roof over her skylight, the TV aerial was ripped off (it was hanging just 5cm above her car!), most of her trees were damaged and her pool was now green with leaves. The power was (and still is) out, and so the drive down to the marina was made more difficult because none of the traffic lights were working! The marina only sustained minor damage. Some of the pontoons are broken, some of the pile-ons are missing their caps and one finger came close to breaking away from the land. A few boats had also copped a bit of damage - the vast majority of these being boats that hadn't been adequately prepared by their owners. A small army of yachties braved the gale force winds in the early morning to tie up some of the boats that were only holding on with one rope (all the others having broken). We had one rope that had broken due to the violence of the wind. But, because we'd used 20 ropes to tie ourselves in, Anima was still very secure in her pen. Someone's broken solar panel was on the pontoon directly beside us, as was all sorts of other junk and lots of leaves from the park. Miraculously, our boat is still afloat!!!
Rene helps Carden drag a broken branch from her yard. He's pulling it with her car!

Anima still alive! Just below her name is a box jellyfish - my first sighting.
The clean-up post cyclone Yasi has been difficult. I'm exhausted beyond the limit of what I've ever felt. I have my appetite back but I'm still not sleeping properly. I'm no longer afraid of all of the things I used to be. I'm now only afraid of cyclones. I don't know how I will cope if another one threatens us. I've just lost a week of my life to Yasi - preparing for her, worrying about her and then cleaning up after her. There is still so much work to do on Anima, Townsville looks very different and requires a lot more work and I'm struggling to get much done. Cyclone season goes for another 3 months. I never want to live in a cyclone-prone area again. Others have not been nearly as lucky as us. I feel so sad for all of the boats and their owners who were up in the Cardwell marina. I feel so sorry for everyone who has had their house damaged or ruined. Miraculously, no lives were lost! I also feel for our parents and friends who had a sleepless night during Yasi. The media had hyped the cyclone up so much that everyone was in a bit of a frenzy. Thank you so much to the multitude of messages, texts and phone calls that we received throughout this ordeal. It made a big difference to have everyone's love pouring out towards us.

We were in the hands of fate and have been thrown another chance. For a few days leading up to and during cyclone Yasi, I'd had to say goodbye to my home and dreams. Now that my home is still afloat, I can go back to our original dream: sailing through South East Asia with Rene. Luck or fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it, has allowed us to continue and so I'm now more sure than ever that I want to do this. Sure, sailing is hard work; it's difficult and being on the water doesn't come naturally to me. But, I will try not to complain or be afraid so much when we set off again in April. We've survived the biggest cyclone this area has seen in hundreds of years. I've been through a massive journey and have come through the other side more determined than ever.

This is the moment when I realised that we'd survived Yasi.


  1. You have a lovely way with words Cerae. I was enthralled by your account and the pictures. What a Journey you two have had in the last week! xx Rog

  2. Glad to hear you guys and Anima made it through safely and very moved that it has made you grown and resolute.