Episode 16: Mark Stephenson Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Thanks for agreeing to have a chat to me. I was hoping to chat to you for about 30 minutes, it might be a little bit longer but I publish the Ocean Sailing Podcast and we’ve got thousands of listeners across Australia and clearly, a lot of people were quiet dismayed to see the video that was on YouTube that showed some pretty horrific stuff happening. So I wanted to have a chat with you about that. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, pretty impressive videos I suppose. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And the sound as much as the pictures was horrendous, so we’ll just back it up, so what’s your role at Mersey Yacht Club? 

Mark Stephenson: I’m the commodore.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how long have you been in that role? 

Mark Stephenson: A year. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s good timing. 

Mark Stephenson: It is, yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so how long have you been involved in the club itself? 

Mark Stephenson: Well I’ve been in the committee for about 10 years and a member for about 18, 19 I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how old is the club? 

Mark Stephenson: I think we had our 83rd or 82nd AGM just last week, or a couple of weeks ago. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Mark Stephenson: It’s about that old yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, I’m based in Southport Yacht Club and that’s just having it’s 70th birthday and we thought that was a lot, so 83 is right up there.

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how many members do you have in the club and how many yachts normally sail out of there? 

Mark Stephenson: Hang on, I’ve got the members here. We’ve got about 200 members about 50 of those are just sort of social members. So that’s 150 senior and active members. We’ve got about 50 boats I suppose without counting them, but then there’s all sorts of everything from trimarans, racing trimarans, down to, you know, there’s motor boats and everything between, trailer sailors. Racing wise, we don’t get a huge fleet. Have half a dozen boats. So we still have races and we have combined races with other clubs up and down the coast to build up the race fleet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how many clubs are there along the coast within sort of sailing reach of where you are? 

Mark Stephenson: Well there’s Leeuwin Yacht Club about 10 miles west and then there’s another one about another 30 miles on. They just send trailer sailors up to the races there and then the Tamar River is about 20 nautical miles east and there’s — up there that that river is about 30 miles long and there’s about three clubs up there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay so for our — we’ve got listeners across Australia and about 59 countries now around the world, so do you want to explain geographically where you’re located if you’re explaining to a lay person? 

Mark Stephenson: Yes well Tasmania’s sort of shaped like a triangle and we’re in the middle of the top section. There’s a slight V on the northern edge of Tasmania, we’re about in the middle where the ferry boats from Melbourne to Tasmania ties up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so you face north and I guess you’re exposed to what happens in Bass Strait sometimes depending on weather direction. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, once you get outside the river, you’re just in Southern Bass Strait and there’s almost always a swell. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and what sort of racing do you do there? Do you have just sort of twilight racing in the river, or do you do ocean racing as well? Or what sort of racing is sort of popular there? 

Mark Stephenson: Mainly just around the buoys, we just set up the standard Olympic course up, the old triangle, sausage, triangle and then we have a few races up or down the coast, one way or the other depending on things and then there’s the Melbourne to Devonport race once a year held in conjunction with the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria. So that’s sort of the 180 nautical miles across from Port Philip Bay and then there’s a couple of races that are sort of between us and the Tamar River, there is one going that way and one coming back. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and how long are those races? 

Mark Stephenson: Oh that’s just your 20 something miles. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay great and so if we can go back to that storm that sort of hit you around the 6th of June, what stage did you realised that the marina might be in trouble? 

Mark Stephenson: That’s a good question. We had moorings dragging all over the place and we’ve had to happen about five years before. Yeah, five years. We lost 11 moorings and we just recovered the boats and sorted all that out without much problem. This one that was happening but on a much greater level and to be honest, I was on the other side of the river on the commercial wharf helping to tie up boats and you look up and there’s the pontoon going past. 

But everyone says they have never seen the river like that. People that have worked on the river for 50 plus years, they’re all going they have never seen it like that. The water was just flowing so fast and upriver, there was a railway bridge that got knocked out. They say three road bridges got knocked out. But I was talking to a guy from the council up stream, and he said they’ve got 14 bridges to replace. 

So they’re obviously smaller bridges but there was all of that and some of those bridges were just the old timber ones, you know that are made out of logs essentially but a bit more modern than that. So all that rubble was coming down with all the trees and cows and containers and so on. So the water wasn't just flowing fast, it was full of stuff. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah and often the debris in the river from that kind of stuff does more damage than everything else going on to everything it hits on the way past. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it’s like in Bundaberg a few years ago, you see someone and you think, “Yeah, you could probably just stem that,” but then you get clobbered by a container and it’s all over. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Exactly. Yeah exactly. I mean I watched that YouTube video and the sight was pretty sickening but the sound was even worse. 

Mark Stephenson: It was like a waterfall, wasn’t it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh it was horrendous and then you could hear people’s gasps in the background as well. 

Mark Stephenson: And all the — when it went and it started pealing boats off the pontoon and all that crunching noises and yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So are there any estimates to how fast the river was actually flowing? 

Mark Stephenson: There’s been a few estimates and our sort of race boats, it’s got twin 60 horse power outboards. It was up on the plane and sort of being essentially stationary, so what’s that, 15-20 knots? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah. So there’s incredible force and I think when the Brisbane River broke a few years back when they have to release the dam, I think that floated about 12 knots and that carried hundreds of meters of piers and pontoons out the river out into the open sea. So if you are talking about 15 to 20 knots potentially, that’s a hell of a lot of speed and a lot of force. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and that would have been in spots as well. There was a bit where it was like being in the rapids. When I was on a boat that we were towing back in and it felt like being in the rapids. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and how many people were out in the water trying to salvage or save or secure boats when you had that going on because that’s pretty dangerous stuff. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, we had our race boat out there and our work boat. But this was sort of a big diesel job. It’s not really up — it doesn’t have the speed but it’s got more pull. So they were out doing what they could and the port, the commercial port has a 300 horsepower workboat and it was doing a few things as well until it got too much hay in the sea water coolant and it had to stop. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. So hay in river that had been washed down. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it was just grass and the hay bales going past and just stuff, yeah, sticks. But it would have been the hay getting into the coolant I would imagine or grass. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it was not really designed for all that stuff floating on the surface. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So which direction was the river flowing? Is it flowing from land out to sea or where was it? 

Mark Stephenson: It is, yeah because it rained a lot the night before or the day before as well and it obviously did — the catchment area picked up a lot of water and it was just all running back out into sea. In hindsight, you could take your boat out the river and you would just anchor a mile up the coast and you’d be fine because it was all normal out there. It was just this torrent of water. The catchment areas is where it can be large and the dams have been low and they picked up about 10% water levels in that one weekend, even though it wasn’t really in the catchment area. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. So those images of those boats and marina pontoons breaking free, I mean what happened next and where did that all end up? 

Mark Stephenson: Actually with the people on them, there were people on the pontoons and some of the safety issues, at some point we should have said, “You can’t go on there anymore,” but people still did and then when it started to go, there were people just trying to save their boats and a lot of those get carried out and some of them got picked up by the tug boat, the port’s tug boat, which was out there and some managed to sort o get their engines going and get their boat out of trouble and tied up to the wharf. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. That’s pretty significant in river flowing at that speed with all the debris in it. 

Mark Stephenson: Once it — so where the Yacht Club is the shallow section, it’s a bit narrow and it’s only about about 200 meters across. It’s a big shallow. It’s only about probably five meters at sort of high water springs but once you get out into the shipping the turning basin, that stretches to 12 meters. So the water slowed down a bit when it hit that area. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: All right, okay. 

Mark Stephenson: It still had the debris of course but yeah, so that would have been just a little bit slower there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So in terms of your members, did you have anybody that was injured or that ended up in even in a worse position? 

Mark Stephenson: No, we were lucky. There was a couple that were on boats that they got picked up that we were quite worried about, but they got — one was on the pontoon that sort of as it went, he got on the biggest boat that was there even though it was locked up and then the pontoon sections all got caught on the Spirit of Tasmania and then the tug boat tried to pull the pontoons free but that didn’t worked and so the tug boat picked up him. 

And the club race boat picked up another guy out there somewhere. There was just so much going on. It was sort of — I was sort of, you know, you’re there tying up a couple of boats because they’ve broken loose and come over your way and then you could see the race boats buzzing to and fro and you think, I was thinking, “How do you prioritise what you’re doing?” And he said, “I’m just picking up people.” Fair enough. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow and when you’re in a landscape that’s just moving and changing by the minute, it’s not like you can just tick everything off one after the other, can you? 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, you can’t objectively sit back and think about it and do the priorities. You just sort of do something, do what’s next that you can see and hope that it’s not the wrong thing to do. And I know it’s a bit easy to dwell on that. The guy driving the club’s race boat. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So do you have volunteer marine rescue or coast guard type facilities down there for this type of situation or is this a just a once in 50 years event type of scenario? 

Mark Stephenson: There is a volunteer coast guard but they’re over in the Leven River, which had problems of their own and they’re just volunteers and they wouldn’t have a boat that would be up to it. They used to have a big RNLI life boat, but they couldn’t afford to run that so they had to sell it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, yeah it’s unfortunate. 

Mark Stephenson: That’s the kind of thing you’d need really. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well especially something that’s robust where you’ve got the force of the water as well as the debris, it’s got to be able to handle bouncing off every so often. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So what was different about this particular storm to what you normally get? 

Mark Stephenson: There’s just more of it I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Just a lot of rain? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah just a huge amount of water. It’s been classified as a national emergency, which hasn’t helped a lot of the farmers and that with their insurance yet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Does that categorisation change how insurance is handed out?

Mark Stephenson: I think so, I hope so. I’m not sure. You sort of don’t pay a lot of attention to how these things actually work until you are in the middle of them. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, they’re hard to plan for and to put into perspective for our listeners, that covered a massive area of the country. I don’t recall on my time seeing a front that sat all the way from probably south of Tasmania all the way up to north of the Sunshine Coast. I mean you’re talking about, I don’t know what that is, maybe two and a half thousand kilometres. 

It was a massive, massive area of rain and the rain that fell was just as incredible in Queensland. Not as extreme as you had but certainly the rivers were brown for days afterwards by the time the hills emptied out of all the water that fell. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. We’ve got — the river is still not clear enough for divers to go down. We’re sort of just waiting for that to happen and the ports raking the channel, the fairway, on low tide, on out going tide to try and get some of the silt to move out because they reckon there’s next half a meter of silt in the channel. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right. Well and then if you end up with any sunken debris, you’ve got suddenly all these high spots that you didn’t used to have in the bottom of your river. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, I think someone said there was a couple of boats in the river, so like sunken boats, but we’re not — there’s not exactly word of that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So how many boats were lost, do you know? 

Mark Stephenson: It was about 15. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow. 

Mark Stephenson: That includes three that are sort of on the hard, but written off but so some — one’s still one of the beach outside on northern Tasmania. This ferro-cement yacht just lying there and one sail people decided to burn because it was an old timber fishing boat. They couldn’t get it back in the water and couldn’t get it onto a hard road or anything like that and there’s a handful that are still missing. 

They’re just missing and there’s some we saw sink. We had a short section of pontoon that was sort of across the current so you could walk from one arm to the other and two boats sort of just went under that and popped up on the other side and just went down again and then another boat broke off and just went off with it’s bow pointing in the air. So we know those ones sank and others are just not about. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So they’re either on the bottom somewhere or they’re out in the Tasman Ocean right now heading somewhere. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, there was one that we kept getting reported on every few days someone would report it. And you think, “That must be that one still out there.” It’s an old knotting 23 Huon pine yacht, not worth a huge amount of money and not insured that was on one of the moorings and I think it still had its mooring hanging off the bow because it would have come up and been blown onto the beach a lot sooner. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh because it’s dragging with all the weight kind of thing. 

Mark Stephenson: Well once it got out into the deep water, it would have just been hanging there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Adding a bit of a weight to the bow no doubt. 

Mark Stevenson: Yes and we just thought that won’t last long because it’s an old strip planked boat and the seams above the water line won’t have been taken up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh right and then the weight on the bow just starting to drag them down and it’ll also start to fill pretty quick, bow first I guess. 

Mark StephensonStephenson: Yes, I heard a security about a sunken boat off the low head light, at the most of the Tamar River, a yacht with a mast. I thought, “I reckon that’s that one,” because she was the one they’d been reporting and anyone else with a mast has been accounted for or is gone sooner than that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So how would you describe the impact on your club and obviously on the yachts and on people’s lives with what’s happened? 

Mark Stephenson: I think we’re bouncing back fairly well. Virtually everybody has got damage, broken pulpit, or a stanchion’s missing and things like that. So we’ve all got jobs to do to fix them and quite a few of the ones their insurance has paid out, so they’re looking at buying another boat. Some already have and also I’d want to think about it for a while myself, but anyway. Yeah so most are bouncing back without too much grief. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s good. I guess what’s been physically involved in the initial clean up that you had to do so far in and around the club itself or in and around the local area? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, because of all the — we lost a lot of moorings and most of the moorings are privately owned so everybody sort of had to sort out their own mooring and we had 13 boats on the western wharf and 19 boats on the eastern wharf. Wo we had to sort — and the port was going to want the western wharf area fairly quickly. 

So we just had to start moving them back and without a marina or with more than half our marina gone, you’re there — some people had to come out straight away on the slip way because they hulled under the water or just on the water line so that meant you put another boat in their spot on what’s left of the marina and a neighbouring, one of the Tamar Yacht Clubs, actually Tamar Yacht Club, they’ve got a large marina. They’ve said that anyone who wanted to go over there there, they had three months free to stay in their marina. So I think only one person took them up on that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a kind offer. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it was good and they’re just sort of coming back and being on the slip or being taken, one’s been taken home to get to be repaired. It’s just one boat at a time and there’s only one still, ewe haven’t contacted the owner yet to find out but it is still sitting in the port area but no one seems to be minding so it can stay there at the moment and lots of moorings were lost. 

A lot of them were just dragged off and we manage to, there was a big tangle of four moorings with boats attached and we took the boats off and then the port used their crane to pick them up and put them on the wharf and said, “You come and get them.” So we didn’t lose those four moorings, so there’s four boats that are happy. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s good, and how much does a mooring typically weigh? 

Mark Stephenson: They’re usually railway wheels, so there’s one wheel is 300 kilograms and two wheels are 600 and sometimes people use crusher jaws that are about 800 kilograms. One 800 kilogram dragged down the river. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, that’s a lot of weight to drag across the river bottom. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah but it’s sort of not much more than what say 12 to 15 people put them on a yacht, the yacht’s not going to sink is it? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah but it’s got a yacht attached to it, it’s got all that extra surface area, yeah. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, I think the old one that was bobbing around probably only had one railway wheel and that’s enough to hold in most situations. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Most, except the situation. 

Mark Stephenson: If you had two tons down there, it just would have sunk your boat. The force couldn’t break the line or drag the mooring, the boat would have gone under with the weight of trees and 12 to 15 to 20 knots of water. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, it would just drag, just drag, just drag and the sheer force would have pulled it under. I guess it’s good to have a bit of a governor like that that’s got a little bit of give.

Mark Stephenson: We had a couple of boats that were their noses are just under water and water was lapping on the bow and that was earlier in the day and the work boat went over and cut them off and brought them on the pontoon. Actually one of them was on a spot that his wife said, “I don’t like it there.” So we moved it on the shore wood side of the other pontoon and where it was. Yeah, it would have been crushed or carried away if it hadn’t stayed there. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well tat’s pretty fortunate, a big treasure to be saved the first time and then lost the second time in a different location. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah there was one guy who's like that. His boat had dragged and it was out of sea and we would be doing what we could. So he got the surf club to take him back to his boat and they thought it was only a couple of kilometres out so off they went and then they saw the boat, which was probably this other one that we’re talking about. 

We know because that’s another two kilometres out? No that’s not it. Oh no there it is out there. So I reckon it was about six kilometres out and he doesn’t think the surf club would have normally gone six kilometres out. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right, they got they got there faster though, they’re committed so they kept going looking further. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, anyway he bought that back in and he tied it on our courtesy pontoon which is in front of the club and downstream of the marina and when the marina went, it was the third boat, there were three boats in a row on the pontoon and the first boat, a yellow one got sunk, the second one got scooped off and then it just gave a little glancing blow to this boat, and you thinking, “Well he could have lost his boat twice in the one day.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Oh, what are the chances? Oh my goodness, that’s a stroke of luck. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and then his boat’s fine. It’s got a bit of paint missing on the bow.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: It’s like a cat with nine lives almost. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So what’s required to repair the damage completely in terms of cost and time with what you’ve got to do? I mean obviously replacing. Do you need to replace all of the marina in terms of the pontoons? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, the pontoons were made out of steel section that was used to a crane and there’s about 90 meters of them and there’ve sort of been 15 to 20 sections and they’re scattered up and down the coast and we’re having trouble with the insurer to either salvage them or whatever but you’d think even if we could salvage them and then you redo all the joints. 

That’s sort of welded with hinges and stuff like that so they could pivot a bit, all engine here and quite up to normal stresses but I think we’ll have trouble getting an engineer to sign off on the design because it’s happened once, they won’t sign off to say how strong it has to be. I imagine — but you’re sort of saying, “Oh you just upgrade that”. 

Instead of having 300 mill poles you have, you’ll have 350 mill poles in the steel ones or even 450. Like for the main ones. I’m sure it can be done but how much that would cost is anybody’s guess and then if we can recover the infrastructure, buying it from the scratch that’s another matter. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And have you got an obligation to clean it up or does insurance take care of that with it being a national disaster in terms of where it sits right now?

Mark Stephenson: I imagine the insurance will have to be involved if we’re ordered to remove them and I think one of them is still afloat but it’s anchored by a couple of sunken yachts near an island that’s just off the North Coast here but I haven’t actually seen that one, that’s what hearsay and you think, “Well if that got lose, that could be then the hazard.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and is there anything else other than the marina that you need to do repair or damage wise? 

Mark Stephenson: No, not really. Now there’s a couple of poles. There’s — the poles that were in this marina section were some timber and some steel and the steel were the older design that you don’t use them anymore. A couple of H beams welded together, and you look at them and you think, “That’s one inch steel, it’s one inch thick for these beams.”

So there were three of them and we know where one of them is. It’s sort of sticking up at low water so we’ve sort of marked that with a float, but we don’t know whether the other one is bent over and it’s just waiting for someone to catch it low tide. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which would be nasty. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, the timber piles are probably broken off where they came out of the bottom or got plucked out. But again, you have to wait till it clears and there’s a couple of divers in the club and they’ll go down and have a look. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Mark Stephenson: But that’s just getting that pile out really, or any others as well. Not a huge jobs but just all those things that need to be thought of and worked towards. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So has your racing come to a standstill in the meantime? 

Mark Stephenson: No, we raced a couple of weeks ago because there’s only one boat that raced regularly sunk — actually no two. And another two have damage but they’re okay. One of them just lost his pulpit in his life lines, another one has been hulled above the water line. So they’re being repaired, but apart from that the racing schedule is still going on. 

Mind you, I think there’s only two races left in our winter series and so then there’s a bit of a break until October/November. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s the fact that you even have a winter series is pretty admirable. I mean it’s pretty cold in that part of the country on a cold day right? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, the winter sailing is actually very nice. You just try not to get wet because the wind is often steadier and it’s — and there are nice sunny days and it’s not that bad but yeah, you wouldn’t want to be getting wet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: No, the water would be pretty cold. I guess so with what you saw, what are the images that are etched on your mind the most? What really stuck with you? 

Mark Stephenson: Well, when I got that call at 5 o’clock in the morning, I went down there and I couldn’t find my boat and so I had that gut feeling of anxiety and whatever and then when the sun came up, when it got light and you go, “Oh no, there she is just sitting in the turning basin,” and the port took her and moved her out of the way. 

I sort of think, I thought that was good for — because one of the guys who lost his boat just disappeared and he hired a plane and flew up and down the coast. A big 44 footer or so. He looked terrible and then a pilot took a photo and we worked out that that shape next to the pontoon section was his boat and then bits of wreckage started showing up on the shore including one of the name boards and then he looked better after that. The uncertainty must really chew away at you and you go, “Okay, now it’s lost now,” and you know it’s lost. You don’t think it’s lost or scared it’s lost or something like that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, and a yacht is like a member of your family isn’t it? It’s hard to explain to somebody, and even though you’ve got insurance you’re still personally attached in lots of different ways and the hours that you pour into it and some of the things you keep on it. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes, well that’s some of the things you sort of think about. The stuff you’ve got on board that’s probably not insured and not really insurable, but it’s all the mementoes or so. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right. 

Mark Stephenson: But you have to take things, the perspective of the few people still lost their houses and so on and it’s just a big toy, keep that in mind. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, that’s right because people lost their lives in Tasmania in the storm and there was a lot of livestock lost as well. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, there were two deaths. One death in Latrobe and two further east I think. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’re right, you have to keep it in perspective. I guess often you see in these situations is amazing how people just sort of muck and get together and help get all sorts of things sorted out and tidied up and what sort of examples have you seen of communities team spirit or club members team spirit with getting in and helping this sort of stuff tidied up and sorted out and helping people out?

Mark Stephenson: Well, yes. It has been a remarkable attendance of people there a lot of the time but yeah a lot of it’s — we’re just there sort of waiting to help people who are already loosing and there’s still on the day there was a lot of that and even a few days after that as we were sort of getting boats sorted out. People were quite willing to help and things like that and it’s still just there. We’re very much a — there’s quite a few members that are just sort of hands on ready to help and do things. They just need to be asked really and not too difficult. You work out which ones they are. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and is there anything else you want to — I mean what would be good to get, and I will e-mail you afterwards, but if you’ve got any photos or any links or any other videos what I will do is I’ll get the interview typed up into what I call show notes and I’ll publish those online on the website as well and with some of the interviews we have added photos of all sorts of things and people love when they see the photos. 

It’s great to hear your story, but I will e-mail you and get you to send me any photos or images or links of those or what have you because that really gives people an appreciation and I’ll dig some stuff out too and obviously that YouTube video online, I will put into the show notes page for the interview as well. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, absolutely. There’s one of the guys at the club trawled the internet and got a hold of every movie that he could find and then he sort of spliced them together. So get this chronological and geographical progression and you can watch it several times because you’ll watch it for each different boat but I’ve got to get a copy of that yet. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay and has he put that online anywhere or on YouTube or has he just got that on a computer at the moment? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, it’ll just be on a flash drive. So I’ll work out what we can do if I can have it. I will find out if it’s online, he’s more of a computer person than I am. I’ll find out if he’s got it anywhere that you can access or put a link to. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah or I can send a Dropbox invite and he can drop it into a Dropbox folder, which will just upload to my computer automatically without him having to try and send it or anything like that. So we’ll work that out. That would be great. That would be fantastic. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And so when do you hope to get your, I mean obviously you’re playing a bit of a waiting game, but when do you hope your marina will be back in working order? Is that sort of before Christmas or do you see that sort of dragging on past Christmas? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, I can see it going on past Christmas yeah. Because you sort of think, everything just takes longer than you expect. If we can get those sections back, the port is happy to lend us or rent us a bit of land for a dollar a month or something like that so we can put them there and even then you get welders on to re-weld all the bits. But then getting the plans I don’t think will be — I think we’ll have to drive some piles. Getting the boat here to drive the piles. Everything just takes a long time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well especially if there’s council permits or marine permits or anything like that involved. It does take time. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, well we’ve got the land, the water area, we’ve got that at least all sorted out and we could argue that we should be able to put back what we had before. It’s just how much beefing up we’d need to do to have an engineer happy to sign off on it because without that on the drawings you can’t start. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, on a different note, I’ve got a large wooden retaining wall that I need to replace at home and I want to replace it with rocks this time because the termites have eaten it and I have to go through council permits because they said, “But I don’t care if you’re replacing it. You are starting all over again so you’ve got to start from scratch whether you’re replacing something existing or not.”

So suddenly you have an extra two months that have been added to the process, so I can only imagine what you have to go through given the extra complexities. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and we’ve got a sub-committee that’s sort of — one of the guys that’s lost his boat is on that. Yeah, we’ve only have one meeting so I don’t know how much has been going on yet with that. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. 

Mark Stephenson: Because otherwise we’ll just end up, every committee meeting we’ll just be talking about it. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah well and the months go by if they are only monthly meetings too. Okay, so Mark is there anything our listeners can do to help in any way or contribute in any way? Is there anything that you need or is there anything they can help with? 

Mark Stephenson: Not that I can think of, no. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Other than visiting the area again this summer and spending money in the local economy? 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, well there’s always that. Well, we’ve still got the, what we call the courtesy pontoon or the visitor’s pontoon and that’s often said that’s about 60 meters long and that’s where most people who just come in to drop in and visit, where they tie up. So yeah, we’re still open for business and the club rooms were not affected. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s great. 

Mark Stephenson: So yeah, all of that, the camaraderie or whatever from that side of it is still perfectly intact. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. Oh that’s excellent. Well that’s one saving grace. I know the Vaucluse Yacht Club in Sydney Harbour, their club rooms were literally smashed to pieces. The waves, you know the extra height of the see, of the tides, and then the swell behind it literally took out the front of their club rooms, which is unbelievable. It was just a mess. 

Mark Stephenson: So Vaucluse, they’re in the southern side of harbour up getting out towards the heads, are they? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I don’t know exactly where they’re located but they are inside the harbour, that’s correct and then Coffs Harbour had 14 metre high sea surges come over their massive boulder wall and literally wipe out their marina and there’s some amazing photos of — there’s a swell that’s coming over the top so yeah, the same storm affected different clubs in different ways. So it’s great that you’re — certainly it’s great that your club rooms are still intact because that would be tough if you also had nowhere to congregate. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and I know just looking, they’re near down on the water, just near the heads, yeah. But then you’d think that’s still quite sheltered, really. It’s around the other side but yeah, they’re close to the water, looking at the photo, yeah. We had — the water was just on the grass at its’ peak and that’s still 20 meters back to the club rooms and downstairs is storage sort of thing so yeah, that wasn’t an issue where we were. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, that’s pretty lucky. Did anywhere any along the river, did it break the banks and flood any of the local areas? 

Mark Stephenson: Upstream it did, yeah. If you sort of drive around there, there’s sort of fences with bits of grass all stuck on the barbed wire and yeah, it broke the banks pretty much because it’s narrower where it has the main highway bridge and then it sort of opens out and then further up, it narrows off when it comes through Latrobe and that bit was all flooded. Essentially it’s a flood line and so that was flooded and then you go down a bit further up. It often breaks the banks up in that area, but obviously not as bad as it did this time. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well, it’s just lucky there…

Mark Stephenson: Because we’re only — we’re less than two kilometres from Bass Strait. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Which is pretty close, I mean when you think of that. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah, so for the water level to rise too much there it’s pretty impossible because it can just run out. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah because the way that… 

Mark Stephenson: But if does get to speed up. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well it’s fortunate all those 83 years ago and I am not sure if that’s the original location of the yacht club, but when they made those decisions, that you weren’t lower and closer to the river given this ability to rise like that, especially in these one off events. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah and as I said, we’ve got a pretty three meter tide range that’s sort of — you always take that into account. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, well those are quite big tides especially if you get a high tide and then a flat on top of a high tide. 

Mark Stephenson: Yes. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, okay. Well Mark that’s been great and thank you for taking the time to talk with me on the Ocean Sailing Podcast and I will drop you a line and we’ll work out how to get some of the other material to post for everybody to view. I’m sure there will be lots of interest in that, and I will send you a link to the podcast when we publish that as well and works with you on that detail but that’s really, really great. 

And thank you. Thank you for appearing and thanks for sharing this story because again, it’s one thing to see a little bit of a tidbit in the media, it’s another thing to hear it first hand from a — especially form a sailing point of view when boat owners are affected quite differently than the people living on the land in these types of situations. 

Mark Stephenson: Yeah. All right, okay? 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So that’s excellent, thank you very much. 

Mark Stephenson: All right David, thank you. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, take care and good luck with getting your marina back and back into shape and everything you got ahead of you. 

Mark Stephenson: All right, thanks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, that’s great. Thanks Mark. 

Mark Stephenson: All right, bye. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Bye. 

Interviewer: David Hows