The damage was spread from Pittwater in the north of Sydney to Sylvania in the south. The worst damage was reported in Sydney Harbour where scores of boats were swept onto the eastern shore, particularly around Seven Shillings Beach, Double Bay and Rose Bay.
But the effects of the storm were so wide spread that damaged boats were reported in Port Stephens and as far south as Hobart.
The storm was caused by a large low pressure system that had formed over Bass Strait creating a high concentration of isobars that sent storm force winds into Sydney from the northwest.
At the height of the storm gusts of 65 knots were recorded at Kurnell and on North Head with 59 knots at Fort Dennison in the harbour. The strongest gusts were recorded at around five o’clock in the afternoon whipping up waves of around a metre in the harbour. According to a weather bureau spokesman, one-metre waves in an enclosed area like Sydney Harbour are big.
Club Marine reacted quickly. As soon as the first call came in on the 24-hour emergency line a Club Marine staffer was on the scene at Seven Shillings Beach – one of the worst hit areas. With the height of the storm peaking at around five o’clock that afternoon and the fading light it was considered too dangerous to attempt any salvage that night. But next morning it was all systems go.
At daylight, when owners started to check on their boats the phones in Club Marine’s Sydney office started to run hot and staff were kept busy fielding calls from frantic owners. More claims were lodged in the few hours before lunch than the office normally receives in a month.
Club Marine’s national claims manager, Phil Johnson, flew from the Melbourne head office to Sydney the next morning and with John Messenger of Marinasses, set up an operations room at Club Marine’s Sydney office in Edgecliff. In what could be described as a well-oiled military operation, Johnson and Messenger, with local staff, identified the boats belonging to club members and set about getting them off the beach.
One owner rang Club Marine to advise that his boat was missing from its mooring, to be told that his boat had been secured and was sitting on a safe mooring.
“We mobilised any resource we could to do the job,” said Phil Johnson. “At one stage we had five salvage contractors working with us.”
Club Marine quickly mobilised the resources of salvage operators including Polaris, Ability Barges, Lewis Anchorage at Botany Bay, Pittwater Mooring Services and Waterfront Cranes. Under the supervision of Marinasses staff, John Box and Sven Renow, and Mark Lieberman from IMS Loss Adjusters, they got on with the immediate task of securing the boats in most danger of further damage. Mark Lieberman organised salvage work at Sylvania and then went north to Pittwater.
“These contractors had all worked with Club Marine before and were able to react quickly,” said John Messenger. “It was a case of prioritising which boats were in danger of further damage and moving quickly to secure them. The ones on the beaches also posed a problem. Many had been left high and dry by the wild weather and when conditions calmed down they were well above the high water mark. We had a window of two days where the tides were high enough to get them off.”
John Messenger, who has lived on Sydney Harbour all his life, said that there have been big blows in Sydney before but he has never seen the extent of the damage or the number of boats beached after the August storm.
One owner who expressed his appreciation for Club Marine’s quick actions was Glenn Tucker from Applecross, Western Australia who has a number of boats insured with Club Marine. The Farr 40 that has been bought to compete in the 2005 world championships in Sydney, had been packed with the mast out ready to be lifted by the travel lift and trucked to Perth where it would be worked up prior to the championships. R40 was moored alongside at River Quays when the storm hit. A 45ft cruiser broke loose and crashed into the side of the Farr and spent the next hour pounding the port side of the hull.
As it happened Glenn was sailing on Sydney harbour and was able to get to the boat yard quickly after he was notified of the damage. Glenn arrived around 10 o’clock and the Club Marine assessor, who had already identified the boat as being insured by Club Marine, by midday. The Club Marine assessor quickly approved the quote and work was underway an hour later. Glenn said that he was very impressed with the speed in which Club Marine reacted to get the repairs underway. “The assessor was very professional, he knew the boat, knew what we had to do and the boys at River Quays put the boat in the shed straight away.”
By last light on Monday all except one of the Club Marine insured boats, some 15 in all, were off the beach and secured to safe moorings. Beaten by the tide, the last boat was removed early the next morning.
A week later, claims were still being received by Club Marine. Not all the claims were from owners with moored boats. One claim was received from an owner whose outboard motor leg on his trailerable parked in his driveway had been driven about half a metre into the ground after a tree fell on it.
“Now the job is to get the damaged boats assessed and get the repairs underway,” said Phil Johnson.