One Missing Boatman Washed ashore alive. - PPSP
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One Missing Boatman Washed ashore alive.

 

John Johanssen one of two men who were blown adrift in an open boat when going from the pilot steamer Victoria to Queenscliff last night was picked up on the back beach at Rye this afternoon, alive. He says that his companion Robert Williams was washed out of the boat last night and drowned. 

Johanssen was wandering about the paddocks of Portsea today when found. He was thrown into the sea when his boat smashed up on one of the reefs half a mile out from the back beach at Rye shortly after 9:00 am today. He was badly bruised.

Out in Gale 

How a boat was washed away from the ship  

According to later details supplied by the men of the Victoria. Williams and Johannsen tried to get back to the Victoria before they were swept away. Their shouts were actually heard on board. They were apparently unable to make the jetty against the north wind. In the effort to get back they came within 20 yards of the pilot ship and their cries were heard above the roar of the storm. 

The men on the Victoria were not sure that it was their boat because it carried no light, and they concluded that if it were their boat the two would be able to get under the lee shore.  

As it turned out it was their boat. The men were apparently unable to light their lamp because of the wind. The two were members of the crew of the pilot steamer Victoria.  

Williams was mate of the steamer he has been in the pilot service for 40 years. He’s a widower and a few years ago refused an offer of retirement. 

The rescued man, Johannsen, has a wife and two children his home is at Springvale he has been 15 years in the service. 

Boat adrift 

At 8:00 PM yesterday the pilot steamer was off Queenscliff. Captain James of the pilot service arrived by the evening train and lit a flare on the pilot jetty, as a signal for the boat to come ashore and pick him up. This signal was answered by the Victoria, Williams and Johanssen put off in the boat. The boat did not reach the jetty, and the waiting pilot thought that the mate was waiting for the tide to change before making attempt to land. 

The pilots team Akuna came in from outside the heads about 11:00 PM and it was then discovered that the boat and its occupants were adrift. A diligent search was made inside, but without result. 

The pilot boat then signalled Lonsdale Light to report the mishap, requesting that all shipping be warned to keep a sharp look-out for the missing boat, as it was thought that it had been blown out to sea. 

A request was made for the services of the lifeboat and the Defence Department’s searchlights. These services were immediately made available. The searchlights made a thorough search under the guidance of the pilot service and continued until day-light, but nothing could be located. 

The lifeboat continued to search until 9:30 AM but he could find no trace of the boat or its occupants. 

For 7 1/2 hours nine men in the open motor lifeboat helped the three pilot steamers – the Victoria, the Akuna and the Rip in the search. They returned at 9:30 AM deadly tired, with red and swollen eyes and salt-soaked skins, their search had failed. The pilot steamer Rip returned at 11 from its search around the bay shores. 

The Victoria moored inside shortly after 12 and the Akuna took up her station outside. The Balranald, which came through this morning, kept a watch from Cape Schanck to the Heads without success.  

Blowing Hard 

It was blowing hard from the north over a strong ebb tide, when the little boat left when the little boat left Victoria, which was anchored about 1/4 mile from the jetty. Both men- Williams especially- had done the trip so many times that there was no thought of danger.  

Sounded Wreck Bell 

Captain Banks was on the jetty with Mr C Graham, the carpenter.  The guiding light in the pilot station was burning behind them.  They could see a few feet into the blackness. They did not know that the boat had put off. Those on the Victoria did not know that it had not reached the shore.  Graham went to bed at 11:30 leaving Captain Banks to wait alone.  

Immediately it was learned that there were men missing, signals were sent to at Lonsdale lighthouse keeper. This was between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. the lighthouse telephoned the lifeboat’s chief Mr. E. Rogers who hastily dressed and sounded the reck bell.

 Very dirty outside  

We went out 15 miles and swept down to Cape Schanck reported one of the pilots from the Victoria when he came ashore this afternoon. We moved all over the place but did not see anything.  The Akuna went out to the west also without success. 

 

Herald 19th of August 1927