Since the last issue weather and water conditions have been perfect on the mid north coast of NSW, so my son

and I have made the most of it, spending every spare moment on the water fishing and spearfishing. We have especially enjoyed the run of mackerel and dolphinfish (mahi mahi), which often takes us a very long way offshore, sometimes up to 40 km.

One such trip a few weeks ago did not go to plan. We were spearing dolphinfish some 30km off the coast when we decided to move to a new location, but as luck would have it, the motor would not start. Our local petrol station is notorious for having water in their fuel, due to very old tanks in the ground. I normally do not buy my fuel there but got lazy and paid the price for it. So there we were, 30km off the coast and drifting at about four knots. I unscrewed my fuel filter and discovered rusty water, not a good sign. I shook it out, refilled it with clean fuel and repeated this process three times. Due to an airlock in the motor, it still did not start.

To my relief, there was a guy from our local town, also spearfishing out there. What followed was a good reminder of how things don’t always go to plan. I rang him on his mobile number, but no answer. He was about 1.5km away, so I tried my air horn. I think he must be deaf because he did not hear that either. I tried my heliograph (mirror) but I think he might be blind also. I called him on my UHF but he obviously did not have his on and I was unable to alert anyone else.

I told the boys to hold up the V-sheet. He would surely see that, but again no response. We were drifting further away in the current
so I decided to let off a flare. This would surely

alert him? Three flares later, still no response and it was time for plan B.

At the start of our ordeal, I noticed a container ship in the distance but I thought they were too far away. But to my surprise they must have seen our flares and ended up coming within 100m of us. The crew of the Chinese container ship all ran to one side and stared at us as they cruised by doing about
25 knots. They must have had a tight schedule! I tried to radio them but they had no interest in a breakdown and my guy from town disappeared into the distance as well.

I had no choice but to ring marine rescue but they had several jobs on and would be
at least 2.5 hours away. I turned the key in frustration and the motor fired up. I could
not believe it. I cancelled marine rescue. Very relieved, we headed for home. We broke down two more times on the way home but repeated the steps with the fuel filter and managed to eventually get back to shore.

I reflected on my day later that afternoon.
I knew that my flares had alerted the ship and reassured myself that if we were in the water
or in a life-threatening situation they would have stopped to help. Or would they? I did have my EPIRB to use if all else failed, but was reluctant to do so in our situation.

Things don’t always go to plan on the water, even if the weather is good and the seas are calm. Having a full compliment of marine safety equipment is essential. Each item has its place in ensuring survival and you never know what circumstances you may need to confront.

So always be prepared and safe boating.

P.S. We did still manage to get a 10kg dolphinfish.