Port of Airlie Marina manager goes above and beyond during TC Debbie

21st April 2017 10:19 AM
Port of Airlie Marina marine and operations manager Clayton Matthews at the Port of Airlie. Port of Airlie Marina marine and operations manager Clayton Matthews at the Port of Airlie. Peter Carruthers

HE RODE out Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie at the Port of Airlie Marina.

Clayton Matthews said he felt as though he should say he was "bunkered down”, seeking shelter from wind gusts reaching 280km/h.

But he wasn't.

He was out in the driving rain and howling wind attempting to minimise the damage to boats in the marina.

Retying knots, removing potential hazards and even chasing down boats that had escaped their berths, Mr Matthews went above and beyond to protect vessels in the line of fire.

The Port of  Airlie Marina the day after Cyclone Debbie touched down.
The Port of Airlie Marina the day after Cyclone Debbie touched down. Peter Carruthers

"I felt an obligation more than anything. A lot of people's boats are their pride and joy, I have lost a few over the years and I know what it is like,” he said.

"For some people it's their homes, for others it's their escape, so you do what you can for people.”

Amazingly, while he was busy securing the property of others, his own racing catamaran, Turning Point, was lifted into the air and became impaled on a big pylon which held the floating pontoons in place.

"Unfortunately being so light it ended up snapping all the lines and flipped up and landed on the dock,” Mr Matthews said.

Damage to the Port of  Airlie Marina.
Damage to the Port of Airlie Marina. Peter Carruthers

Mr Matthews described his effort at the Port of Airlie Marina as "damage control”.

And control damage he did.

Witnesses estimate Mr Matthews prevented between six and 12 boats from sinking or being severely damaged.

"I have had a lot of people offer to buy me a beer,” Mr Matthews said.

Ross Winterbourn is just one of the boat owners that made this offer.

Mr Winerbourn had his 35 foot sloop Bobby D tied up at the Port of Airlie Marina.

Pontoons at the Port of Airlie Marina turned turtle during the storm.
Pontoons at the Port of Airlie Marina turned turtle during the storm. Peter Carruthers

"My mainsail cover broke loose and someone has taken a mainsail halyard down. I presume it was Clayton,” he said.

"Good on the people that do that. Boaties tend to do that, when the sh** hits the fan they help each other out.”

Likewise Whitsunday Times editor Sharon Smallwood said if it wasn't for Clayton Matthews she wouldn't still have her boat.

"Our lines were tripled, but the stern and springer snapped. She was hanging on by the forward line and had already crashed into the boat berthed next to her,” she said.

Clean up at the Port of Airlie Marina.
Clean up at the Port of Airlie Marina. Peter Carruthers

"Clayton got out there and re-tied her in conditions that were barely safe.

"I am relieved nothing happened to him and eternally grateful that he saved our boat.”