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Insun - AC Program

Couple spend cyclone on Hamilton Island

by Dane Lillingstone/Sail-World.com on 16 Apr
Sam Mills and Grace Ewing during their Whitsundays trip. Picture Perfect
Sharon McNally, General Manager of Cumberland Charter Yachts said of the following story, 'Sam and Grace, are not only considered loyal customers, but they have become dear friends too. In very exceptional circumstances, they remained so calm and positive, it was truly a pleasure to meet them both! We are just very sorry we couldn't do more to retrieve their car from the Abell Point Marina car park, prior to Debbie's arrival.'

'Sam and Grace were worried about our boat, whilst we were more concerned about their safety and the car. It was a funny situation. Thankfully everyone is safe and the boat is fully insured. CCY extend huge thanks to the exceptional staff and owners at Hamilton Island. We have offered Sam and Grace a $3,000 charter-voucher towards a return trip, and our very generous Whitsunday Tourism CEO, Craig Turner, has also pledged flights to get the Brisbane couple into the region.'

'Everyone at CCY looks forward seeing the couple on board again soon, perhaps even to the tune of wedding bells,' Sharon said, and then added. 'Hey, no pressure Sam!!!'

As reported in Whitsunday Times: -

From sailing the beauty of Whitehaven Beach to being locked in a cyclone shelter on Hamilton island - it wasn't Grace Ewing and her fiance Sam Mills' first trip to the Whitsundays, but it's just become their most memorable. The couple and two of their friends from the UK began their adventure on board a Cumberland Charter Yacht, but after visiting Cid Harbor, Tongue Bay and Whitehaven Beach, they realised a storm was coming.

'We radioed in to the Cumberland team, who then instructed us to head to Hamilton Island marina,' Ms Ewing said. 'We checked in and they fully updated us on the conditions, when the cyclone was due to arrive, how we needed to prepare, and what we should expect.'

Then on day five of their sailing adventure, the storm began. 'Hamilton Island was more than prepared and ready for Cyclone Debbie's arrival,' Ms Ewing said. 'By noon that day, the marina staff gave us the evacuation order and we were all taken to the Hamilton Island Convention Centre to bunker down for the night. We were supplied with blankets, pillows, non-stop movies, meals, and even a popcorn machine. Finally we could certainly tell Cyclone Debbie was here.'

On day six, Cyclone Debbie had well and truly arrived, as she busted a hole in one of the shelter's doors. 'By this point we had lost internet and phone service so we had no way of knowing where Debbie was or what direction she was going. The strength of Cyclone Debbie became very apparent mid-day,' Ms Ewing said.



'We were all bunkered down in the main movie room, when we noticed a hole in a door had busted through. The staff and security then evacuated us to the front lobby/eating room, but even then we could feel and hear the power of the cyclone. The wind was ripping through the main room and pushing against the fragile doors in the lobby room. My fiance, Sam, joined a group of men in holding up a mattress against the doors until security and staff could evacuate families to one room, and everyone else to the two nearby bathrooms. All we could do was wait, and we waited for nearly five hours.'

It wasn't until day seven, their second night in the shelter, that they could explore the damage themselves. 'Early the next day, we joined our new friends who we met in the shelter and all walked down to the marina to assess the damage the cyclone had caused. We all had moments of shock to see the devastation in front of us, but I want to say the community spirit we felt from this point forward was incredible,' Ms Ewing said.

While Ms Ewing's friends were able to get to the airport and fly home later that day, the couple themselves could not yet leave. 'We heard our vehicle (back in Airlie Beach) had actually been on the (television) news and was inundated with water, so at this point we knew we would need to make arrangements to fly home,' she said.

Ms Ewing and her partner spent the next few days on Hamilton Island enjoying free treats from the island bakery and making friends. 'We were then ferried to Airlie Beach and were kindly greeted by Sharon (from Cumberland Yacht Charters) who first took us to our vehicle,' she said. 'This certainly wasn't the type of holiday we planned for, but really it was an amazing adventure and despite the conditions, we had a really good time!



'We are already keeping in contact with our new friends we would never have met had it not been for Cyclone Debbie and we are already planning our next holiday to the Whitsunday Islands.'

The couple's story even reached Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Craig Turner who said they'd pay for their flights to come back. 'We had Sharon McNally call us from Cumberland (Charter Yachts) and when I heard the story I said, 'you know what? We want to buy their flights, so wherever they're staying in Australia, Tourism Whitsundays is going to pay for their flights to get them back up here and let them have another fantastic experience in the Whitsundays',' he said.

'It's a small thing for us to do. For those people what it's hopefully going to do is have them forever thinking about the Whitsundays and the great time they had. The small things I think are often the most important things.'

Ms Ewing said they may even now be planning their wedding in the Whitsundays because 'after all we made some incredible memories there!' She said she wanted to thank Sharon McNally from Cumberland Charter Yachts, their sail guide Terry Kemp and all the staff on Hamilton Island for their tireless work and positive attitude.

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