LUCKY BREAK: Fishermen (from left) Keith Vowles, Lee Strachan, Neil Vowles were rescued off Caloundra after their boat sank.
LUCKY BREAK: Fishermen (from left) Keith Vowles, Lee Strachan, Neil Vowles were rescued off Caloundra after their boat sank. Warren Lynam

Fishermen swim for their lives after freak wave sinks boat

THREE fishermen were forced to swim for their lives after their tinnie capsized and sank off Caloundra.

A Caloundra Coast Guard crew found the men, battered and bruised, clinging to the side of a passing sea kayak.

Brothers Neil and Keith Vowles were fishing with their cousin, Lee Strachan, on his 4.7m boat when the accident happened.

They were fishing on the reef between Kings, Shelly and Moffat beaches when a wave caught them by surprise.

"WE went out for a little bit of a fish past the bar and I got snagged," Neil Vowles said.

"We were actually concentrating on getting my snag out when a wave hit us from behind."

Mr Strachan powered up the boat's 90 horsepower engine but the vessel was already on an angle and he couldn't stop it from tipping.

Mr Vowles said the trio spent the next 20 minutes trying to right the boat, but when it started to sink they began to swim to shore.

None of them were wearing lifejackets and all were fully clothed.

Mr Vowles said they all suffered cuts and bruises trying to stand against the waves that smashed against them on the shallow rock reef.

"I got a few cuts on the bottom of my foot. My brother, he's got pretty big cuts all down his shins," he said.

The trio had been swimming for about 20 minutes when a lone sea kayaker came to their rescue.

Neil Vowles said the man gave him his life jacket and they clung to his kayak until the Coast Guard arrived.

A Caloundra Coast Guard member said the men had drifted about 750m with the outgoing tide.

"We couldn't find the boat but we picked up a lot of their gear that was left," he said.

"They just drifted off and the kayak fisherman just happened to be there, so they were lucky."

He said the water conditions were choppy and big waves were common at Brays Rock. Searchers had failed to find the sunken boat last night.



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