A Cruel Sea

31.08.2011

tags: police, sea, maritime rescue,

discussion: 0 comments

By Retired Chief Inspector Gordon "Boot" Wellings, New South Wales

From the September 2011 issue of The Australian Police Journal

On Friday 7 June, 1974, the two owners, Solicitor Adrian Wedgwood (the son of Lord Piers Wedgwood, owner of the famous Wedgwood crockery and dining  settings company), aged 26, and Labourer Raymond Kruger, also about 26, loaded a dog of unknown breed; four passengers, including a female student, Hong Ja Jin; labourer Brian Kennedy; hospital attendant, Ian Wilkins; and methods engineer, Derek James Catterall – all in their 20s – onto the Votan for a weekend of sailing practice and leisure.

No-one on board had any sailing experience. Adrian Wedgwood and Ray Kruger had only purchased the ketch in December 1973 and, for practice, had been taking the ketch for weekend day trips preparatory to travelling to Sydney Harbour where they intended to permanently moor it.

Once underway that afternoon, they proceeded under power to Refuge Bay in Cowan Creek, where they moored the vessel over night. It should be noted at this time that the auxiliary engine gave no indication of unreliability.

On the morning of Saturday 8 June, 1974, they sailed out of Broken Bay and out to sea. They described the sea at the time as “slightly choppy” with moderate winds of 10-15 knots. Ray Kruger stated that on the Friday, when they read the weekend forecast, there was no indication of bad weather.

By about 1230 hours three of the crew were sea sick. Kruger later told police that at some time between 1230 to 1300 hours he discussed with Wedgwood about returning to Broken Bay, so they would be there by 1630 hours. About 1400 hours, he later told police, he was below deck and overheard some talk between Adrian Wedgwood and those on deck that they had altered course and were heading back to Broken Bay.

At around 1500 hours, Adrian Wedgwood went below and told Ray Kruger that due to the wind, they were making very little headway. After some discussion, Wedgwood and Kruger decided to drop the sails and rely on the auxiliary engine. They managed to start the engine however it ran for only a short time before it cut out. Eventually they were able get it running and make reasonable progress for about another 40 minutes. They managed to get inside the outer boundary of Broken Bay just off Lion Island, when the engine cut out again.

In an effort to keep moving, they put up the sails and tacked south towards Sydney, and then back towards Lion Island. By this time the seas had become choppier, and darkness was fast approaching. For some reason they decided it was more prudent to head out to sea for the night, rather than undertaking the numerous tacks and jibes that it would have taken for them to get back inside Broken Bay.

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