Historic tugboat battles perfect storm to Eden

Allen Rothery wasn’t worried about his own life; he was only worried about the lives of his crew. 

The 69-year-old man from Port Macquarie didn’t eat or sleep for close to 48 hours as he battled what he described as “the perfect storm” aboard his historic tugboat before finally arriving in Eden in the early hours of Monday morning, March 13.

What was supposed to be a relaxing two day trip, aboard the former World War II tugboat Goudie, from Dunalley in Tasmania to Eden turned to chaos when the forecasted southerly winds turned to a gale-force northerly. 

“The first night was beautiful and then it changed, the northerlies pounded us,” Mr Rothery said. “The forecast said 0.5 to one metre waves but it was at least three to four metres and the waves were coming from all directions. It was like a washing machine.”

Mr Rothery said white water was constantly going over the wheel house and the three men on board were doing all they could to carry on. 

The seas pounded the 77-year-old tugboat so hard they caused a leak and the boat filled with more than three feet of water. 

With the main pump broken, it fell on to Mr Rothery to use the manual hand pump to expel the water. 

He pumped water for more than six hours as the other two men navigated. 

It wasn’t long before Mr Rothery realised they were in grave danger and he put out a distress call. 

“We persisted but I was worried one of us would be washed in,” he said. 

At around 11pm on Sunday night the distress call was passed on to the Eden Water Police and they went out in search of the Goudie. 

Sergeant Steven Judd said the conditions were so atrocious that when they finally located Goudie around Greencape they were unable to get close to the boat. 

“We couldn’t get on boat, all we could do was escort them safely back to Eden,” sergeant Judd said. 

They arrived in Eden around 2.30am. 

Mr Rothery said the Eden Water Police were fantastic and that they went above and beyond to help. 

The tug is currently being repaired on the Eden slipways. Once it is seaworthy Mr Rothery with jump back on board for one last journey to Port Macquarie where he plans to spend time on dry land with his grandchildren.