Reunion an emotional roller coaster
FOR the record, Allen Southwood would like to state he believes Cyclone Ada was a category 5 storm and not the category 4 commonly reported after she touched down in the Whitsundays in 1970.
"You only have to look at the coconut trees around the islands… there wasn't a green leaf on a coconut tree to be found" (after Ada hit), Mr Southwood said.
Reports were coming in of a storm but only moderate winds were expected in the Whitsundays.
Despite the low risk to the boat Empress Mr Southwood made his way to Shute Harbour to secure her moorings and watch over her as he wasn't insured. He was resigned to sleeping on board.
At around 9pm Mr Southwood experienced firsthand the destructive power of Mother Nature.
He pointed the bow of the Empress toward the mooring and steamed at full power to alleviate the strain on the anchor rope.
After a long night the Empress lay stricken on her mooring, her batteries full of water.
The Wanetta survived the storm and was commandeered by John Spackman and Billy Williams AKA Captain Seaweed.
"Billy said 'go down into the engine room and see if you can keep us from sinking'. I got down into the engine room and it was filled with paper that was blocking the bilge pump that was running off the engine," Mr Southwood recalled.
Mr Southwood managed to keep the Wanetta afloat and together they rescued survivors, including Kaye Cronan.
Mr Southwood said the survivors' reunion on Saturday and the recounting of his story for the book Cyclone Ada Marine Crew has been an emotional "roller coaster ride" but was glad for the closure that telling his story brought.