Back to Home Page  


 How this story came about... an Introduction...

From The Coastal Passage, edition # 27

Immediately after Cyclone Larry savaged Innisfail last year, TCP organised a van load of relief supplies and bolted directly to the scene. Whilst there, hundreds of photos were taken of the devastation, including the one above. Right after the mission a special electronic edition of TCP was published to the web site. A smaller report was later published in print as part of TCP # 19. Phil Webb, skipper of Triad, chanced by the TCP booth at this years Sanctuary Cove Boat Show and noticed reference to the special electronic edition in one of the back issues being given away at the booth. He contacted TCP to ask for a copy as the edition had been rotated from the files by that time. His request was granted and to the surprise of all, his boat was the (up to then) unidentified wreck featured in the edition.

Because of this referral and a surprising amount of other requests, the “Cyclone Larry Special Edition” has been reinstated for free download from the web site. Click here.

 By Phil Webb, ex Triad owner

TRIAD a Lock Crowther designed Kraken 40 Mark II with 50 foot mast, length over 40ft, beam 29ft.

TRIAD, the well known racing trimaran has won or placed in many races over the years since I purchased TRIAD in 1982 from the owner builder who intended to sail the world, but scared his family on their first outing at sea, so when I bought TRIAD it still had sawdust in the bilge.

Some of the most memorable races have been -

The opening of Newport Waterways Marina complex race with most of the top Brisbane racing yachts and multis competing. From the Brisbane start most of the fleet ran straight downwind close to shore, whilst I hoisted the spinnaker, sailed out in a broad reach to east, gibed the kite and again broad reached to the tripod mark off Redcliffe by then way in the lead, where it was a close reach to the finish with some fast multis closing in on TRIAD but remained in the lead to take line honours and also won on handicap. The official opening and presentation was by Flo Bjelke Peterson.

My principal place of residence was in Cairns, a member of Cairns Yacht Club where every Wednesday and Saturday raced in the WAGS & SAGS in Trinity Inlet. Also Cairns to Mourilyan overnight race where TRIAD was second to SAILMAKER with AGIER 3rd. TRIAD won line honours on the return race, Mourilyan to Cairns. Raced in a number of Cairns to Green Island races and other events with C.Y.C. I was also a member of Queensland Multihull Yacht Club.

I sailed TRIAD from Cairns to Brisbane to sail in the Sandgate Winter Series where TRIAD, Ben Bolt and Cool Change won the teams challenge with TRIAD 4th in the overall placings.

Then TRIAD sailed in all the offshore races at the Whitsunday Sailing Club, one year leading the Winter Series, but I felt I was robbed when 2 mono yacht skippers claimed “points” for other races at other clubs. My investigations suggested one of these mono sailors may not have even sailed his own yacht in those races, but the other chap with points claimed elsewhere beat me for the series win officially by (1) one point.

TRIAD always placed well in the Multihull regattas held at Laguna Quays. Last series there I lead the fleet out to the Repulse Islands and took line honours and won the division, but the handicapper took notice of this and TRIAD was handicapped out of further placings that year.

TRIAD won the multi division at Hogs Breath regatta at Airlie Beach and next year came second.

I have cruised the Queensland coast on TRIAD from Southport to Cooktown many times calling into most anchorages and harbours.

Then in 1999 whilst I was in a Sydney hospital TRIAD was hit at it’s mooring by (as I was told) a jet ski during the Whitsunday Fun Race which left a hole 4 foot back from the bow just a couple of inches above the waterline. With swells, the main hull of TRIAD filled with seawater, the boat supported by the floats so it wouldn’t sink.







 Witnesses advised it was a jet ski belonging to the water police that hit TRIAD. These were 2 new toys for the water police. I was told they first tried them on the Proserpine river before the fun race, there are big crocs in that river if they fell off. Witnesses that were on the barge start boat said that when the large canon fired the rider of one of these jet skis, in shock accidentally hit reverse, almost falling off. According to people at the event, there were no other jet skis on the water this fun race day, even the hire jet skis were not operating, closed for the day due to the Fun Race.

There was a large police boat which witnesses called the “party boat” as there were Qld Transport, Fisheries Dept and other Government people and their friends on this craft. They say it was NOT a dry boat. A number of those witnesses have stated that these people on the large police boat were calling out like children “MY TURN NEXT” to ride the new toys, the police jet skis, doubling up and taking girls for rides. The witnesses said it was the police jet ski that hit TRIAD but no one knows who was riding the it at the time. The police minister Ms Judy Spence was involved but the police dept have taken no responsibility, and NO compensation was paid.

Editors Note; These allegations were never proved or brought to court though the author claims much documented support for the story. The incident was an item of contention in the community with some strong opposing views. TCP has allowed inclusion of these claims as the paper is aware of numerous misadventures of the police that are too similar in character to this account to dismiss it outright. The drunk Bowen cop that rolled the police Ute after leaving a police party comes immediately to mind, as does the very recent report in the Sunshine Coast paper of an alleged drunken party by the cops assigned to “protect” a conference at a Sunshine Coast resort.

At Airlie Beach TRIAD was craned onto hardstand, and years of work went into rebuilding her with another diesel motor/gearbox and some of the decks were replaced. I purchased new winches as whilst on the hardstand, some “nasty person” broke into TRIAD and unbolted and stole all the winches, large Barlow 32’s and 26’s plus other equipment which set back the relaunching.

So after years of work depending upon funds, sometimes doing a couple of months at a time and paying others to help, TRIAD, all resplendent in new 2 pack paint, replacement diesel motor and gearbox and all new electronics, was eventually relaunched May 2005. Then cruised up the Qld. Coast in no hurry, stopping off at many anchorages including Dunk Island.

 I was at Innisfail, TRIAD moored
up in the Johnstone river
when cyclone Larry approached.

 I added heaps of ½ inch chain to the mooring, everyone thought this cyclone would veer south, but it kept on a straigh track to Innisfail increasing in strength as it neared the coast.

I didn’t stay onboard TRIAD. There was nowhere else to go. Late afternoon on the day before the cyclone hit I was offered a jetty opposite, but there wasn’t enough room. The owner later lost his own boat from his jetty where it was blown across river to the bank into mangroves on the other side causing a lot of damage to his large 60 foot power catamaran. It was a write off.



 During the night and early morning we still hoped this cyclone would veer south and miss us, by 4:30 in the morning with wind increasing I picked up friends who did not wish to stay in their old house and made a dash by car heading into town having to drive off road through mud to avoid a fallen large fig tree which completely blocked the road, lucky my vehicle is a 4WD. As we drove we could hear trees crashing behind us. I almost left it too late for this dash to shelter. We crossed the bridge into the main CBD then not long after large trees fell across both sides of this bridge blocking access. We sheltered as planned in the semi underground carpark of a supermarket along with about another 12 carloads of cyclone refugees.

The cyclone was at it’s peak, worst winds between 7 to 8am.

During the eye of the cyclone I ventured out, walked the CBD of Innisfail observing all the destruction.

I had to move the car to another position after the eye of the cyclone as the change of wind direction.After the cyclone it rained heavily which flooded the Johnstone river. TRIAD floated off, was washed from mangroves opposite where it was moored, out to sea, or that’s what I was later told.

Editors note; This is where your editor came in as I took the picture of Triad on page 14 (not knowing the identity of the craft at the time) from flying fish Point soon after Larry passed.

The Army came in with a large 12 person inflatable and 2 large Army ducks. I was promised help but it didn’t eventuate. The army went up and down the river, plus they had helicopters flying everywhere, yet for 5 days I was not even advised where TRIAD was located. Later I was told the army was just there to save lives, but by a miracle no one was killed, or not directly attributed to injury from the cyclone, one person died from heart attack.

People told me TRIAD was washed out to sea, as it wouldn’t sink, not like a mono yacht. Then later I was advised it had floated down to sand banks at the middle of the mouth of the river where people in tinny’s were boarding TRIAD and looting everything they could.

Five days since I first saw TRIAD after the cyclone I managed to fight my way through a jungle of fallen trees in the last 500 metres of still uncleared road to the beach at the end of Coquette Point Rd and walked a long way along the beach at low tide and found TRIAD washed up against mangrove trees on the south bank of the river mouth.

Editors note; The road mentioned above was a jumble of debris. I went as far as I could in an attempt to investigate the wreck but found the way impassable .

Whilst I was there I salvaged what I could carry, though all the expensive items had already been stolen. Whilst there I was watching 3 people in a canoe with a dog. They waited till I left and next morning when I returned the long main sheet rope, blocks etc, had been looted.

Then next day I laid out another new anchor and chain trying to hold TRIAD off the mangrove trees, as TRIAD floated at high tide.

Next day when I arrived I found looters had stolen this new anchor and chain. I guess it was too much for them to leave behind even though they must have seen it was there for a reason.

I undid all mast fittings which by then had fallen into the sand with the step bottom end bashing a hole in the cabin port side. I also took the boom away using a 4WD tractor on the beach.

I paid for a salvage guy in a modified trawler from Cairns to help, but he didn’t listen to me when I said you have to pull the mast out of the way first as the top of the mast was laying in the sand with the bottom step end jamming into the cabin. It was a high tide, and TRIAD was floating and moving up and down in the swells, yet low in the water. His salvage trawler was rolling about in the swells and he was worried of going aground, so all he wanted to do was attach a rope to the new anchor winch I had installed on deck and he tried pulling TRIAD sideways against the mast jammed into the cabin which didn’t work, his rope came off and he gave up, cost me money for nothing.

I had to use a chain saw to cut off mangrove trees and branches stuck on the front deck and in the back hatch. At high tide TRIAD still floated and moved about in swells. Waves broke over TRIAD so all the work was done at low tide attempting to dig out the sand and debris to salvage TRIAD.

The cyclone stripped all trees of leaves which floated down the river and then washed ashore in some places pilled up to 6 foot tall mountains of this leaf and vegetation matter, and it became swept into TRIAD.

I spent days trying to dig this out by hand with a small garden shovel into buckets then carrying it out dumping it over the side but I hardly made an impression, as it was over 3 foot deep inside the main hull, covering the engine room floor up and over the cockpit floor level. In those days I only removed about 6 to 8 inches in the cockpit and above the engine.

Two yacht friends then came to help and that day the winds and tide had blown away a lot of the outside leaf matter. We removed 2 sections of the then 3 pieces of mast which was damaged pulling it out of the sand by the 4WD tractor even though we dug out so much sand from around the mast.

The last high tide for months was due so it was imperative to float TRIAD off next day.

 The Final Chapter...

 As mentioned, often the tides and winds changed the leaf and vegetation mulch washed down.

Next day when we arrived, first I bogged the 4WD tractor up to the axles as the tides and leaf matter had changed again and a further mountain of this vegetation was everywhere, it was so soft under the sand with this mulch like vegetation you could hardly walk as your feet sunk to near your knees.

With 2 yachtie friends plus 6 prisoners on work release we struggled to walk the rest of the way to TRIAD. The boat could hardly be seen, it was covered in this leaf matter, and vegetation again, only worse than before.

We worked hard and dug a lot out, the prisoners did a great job with shovels and by hand until lunch time. We found damage under the wings, where my bunk was, there was nothing. The underwing area collapsed, I’d fall straight through to the sand, or into the sea if the tide was in.

The 2 yachtie friends helped me and I rushed to town buying sheets of ply and sikaflex, screws etc. We worked covering all holes and complete underwing deck until after 4pm with the tide rushing in to complete the fix up job to keep water and leaf matter from coming in again.

Next day I returned and it was all washed away, all the materials and work, money spent, all was wasted. You can’t beat the forces of nature, TRIAD was open to the elements where it was washed up. From then on I concentrated on removing anything I could salvage.

Three times I had approached General Peter Cosgrove who promised help, but unfortunately neither the army, nor any of the other services were able to help in time. The Volunteer Marine Rescue boat was still stuck washed up into the mangroves, where later these mangroves had to be cut down to extract their V.M.R. Boat which was then taken to Cairns for repairs.

At high tides the waves and swells came in over the sand bar, bashing TRIAD against mangrove trees, some large which by then had broken branches, some I had cut off, but the remainder and stumps did all the damage gouging holes into TRIAD’s main hull.

I first removed the drums off the new winches so they wouldn’t be stolen again.

Removing the winches was a tough job. Trouble was I did too good a job with epoxy on the bolts and nuts after previous winches were stolen. So I tried a chainsaw, trying to cut out that section but the original builder had installed stainless steel bars between the ply to strengthen the winch area, which didn’t help the saw’s chain.

I had to chip away at the epoxy to undo the bolts and nuts to salvage the new winches.

Next the whole stern broke off, just behind the rear cross beam. Then the whole bow broke off just under the front cross beam.

Another day I came at low tide to find the whole cabin and roof was wrecked, blown apart like a bomb went off, with the roof upside down lying on the sand.

The centre of the main hull with diesel motor is now buried under sand, cannot be seen. The 2 main crossbeams are still intact which shows the strength of them, even though they have been bashed around, and part of the bow is about all that can be seen of the wreckage.

So this famous racing multihull yacht TRIAD is TOTALLY DESTROYED!!!

TRIAD was uninsured as few insurance companies insure tri’s and ferro yachts.

During the storm, my mooring didn’t move. Basically the front big anchoring bollard on TRIAD gave way, bent large ¾ inch stainless bolts that were through the bollard and deck into an “S” shape and the nuts/threaded part of the bolts on top disappeared.

There were many boats damaged or wrecked by cyclone Larry. A Trawler sunk at the town main jetty. Another trawler sunk in the river, ended up near where TRIAD was moored. A large power cruise boat was washed up over the bank near the town slipway and destroyed. The Mourilyan harbour Volunteer Marine Rescue boat was blown up on shore into the mangroves.

Almost every second building in Innisfail had major damage or roof lost.

The friends I drove to town with for shelter at 4:30am on the morning of the cyclone lost their house, wrecked by the cyclone. They may not have survived if they stayed in that old house.

Then working in mud and debris trying to clean up after the cyclone, I came down with Barmah Forest disease, and, just for a double dose, also Leptospirosis (which can be fatal) this affected me for months where I couldn’t do much at all.

One day I may buy a catamaran to replace TRIAD, not considering another tri due to insurance hassles and cruise further north to Lizard Island or beyond as I intended sailing TRIAD to Lizard Island last year but cyclone Larry destroyed all my plans.


 Phil (at left) pictured at the time of publishing, issue # 27. Phil did find another boat, a racing cat he altered for a bit more comfort.

copyright 2004-2010 The Coastal Passage.