Dodging hungry crocodiles, fending off sea snakes, being hit in the face by flying fish, and battling heavy seas – these are just some of the grueling challenges faced by the crews of two small yellow rigid inflatable boats currently circumnavigating Australia.
Tasmanians Robert Pennicott and Mick Souter are making their 9000 nautical mile marathon fundraising expedition in support of the world-wide eradication of polio. On many sections of their voyage, they are joined by two members of the public, who have donated funds to the cause.
Polio I and Polio II, two 18ft Naiad ribs, left Sydney on June 2 and have since travelled around the Top End, down the WA coast, over to Adelaide via Esperance and Port Lincoln, then Melbourne, King Island and down the West coast of Tasmania.
“The most challenging part of the trip so far was the 26 hours without sleep making the 550km trip across the Gulf of Carpenteria. In the middle we struck 25 knot winds, strong currents and big seas and we were being hit about the head and shoulders by fish all night,” Pennicott said.
“At Anson Bay, 130km south-west of Darwin, we dropped anchor in about 4m of water and thought the tide was well out. We washed up our dishes after our evening meal of tinned tuna. I said to Mick ‘maybe we shouldn’t do that because of the oil from the tuna’ and he laughed.
“Anyway, we checked the sounder just before bed and there was only 300mm of water beneath us. So we got the spotlight out while we moved into deeper water and then saw a smallish crocodile alongside the boat, two bigger ones about 3m away and then to our left about 15m away was a large croc bigger than our boat.
“Being yellow and only 800mm of freeboard at the back, I think we must have looked like a little sand atoll,” Pennicott joked.
So far the expedition has raised nearly $110,000 and donations can be made on the website.
“Polio is a crippling illness and just $10 vaccinates 17 children. Thanks to Rotary’s hard work there are only four countries to go before polio is totally eradicated and this is our chance to wipe this disease from the face of the earth,” Pennicott added.
Follow the expedition and learn more about the cause here: www.theyellowboatroad.com.
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