31["Luggers in the Gale", Broome Chronicle (WA), Saturday 30 March 1912]



Mr. Alfred Saunders, in charge of the 'Donna Matilda' (Mrs. Rodriguez's) relates his experiences in a narrative which gives some idea of the time spent by luggermen at Condon and elsewhere along the coast while the gale was at its height--

Tuesday, March 19th.--Half way between First Wash and Solitary Island got three grs. of shell until midday, when the water got dirty. At 1 p.m. hove up; strong east wind; put like h__ for Banningarra; let go about 5 p.m., about 3 miles north of Creek; strong N.E. wind blowing, with a big sea--50f. high; spent a rotten night--had everything cleared off deck, main sail and gaffs taken down and hatches battened down; sewed pearl in handkerchief and tied it round my neck; I saw several boats drifting, and at about 8.30 p.m., the cutter 'Kooki', belonging to Pardoo Station, which was anchored close to me--too close to my liking--broke her chain and started to drift towards Mount Blaze. I stood by with diver, tender and crew all night; two big waves got the lugger broadside on, and made things very uncomfortable for a few seconds; about 1 a.m. one of Tommy Clarke's luggers was drifting towards us, we all shouted out and they managed to get their jib up just in the nick of time.

Wednesday, March 20th.--Big sea with N.E. wind, strong; 11 a.m., hove up and made for the Creek under double-reefed mainsail and jib; just before heaving up big sea caught Valodora taking away dinghy, dress, starboard rail and bulwarks; heard afterwards from "Bob" that he lost a basket containing 1 cwt. of shell, together with his cabin awning; the Volodora and Aurora both lost their anchors heaving up. I got well up the Creek and made fast to the mangroves; put out three mooring lines for'd and 3 aft., also put two anchors with two fathoms of chain aft and for'd. About 26 boats here; lugger Elsie, belonging to the estate of the late Jack Johnson, got foul of the mangroves about quarter of mile from entrance to Creek and bumped two small holes in her bills; glass not too low but not working; went out to Mt. Blaze at low water in company with Frank Levy, The Irish Count, Frank Leivgui, A. Ferguson and John Serrie, to see if we could find trace of the Voldore's dinghy; found Pardoo Station's cutter up on the reef, broken in half; there were two gins dead in the mangroves; there were two white men and about seven binghis about before the boat struck the reef; one of the binghis that was saved said that the skipper had the jib and mainsail, as well as the engines, going, but the sea was too big for them to go about, and consequently they were washed about 50ft up on the rocks; we had a look around the wreck and found three life buoys in the cabin, so we came to the conclusion that they did not have time to put them on. After the cutter was wrecked two of the binghis went off to the station and brought the sulky along to take the two white men back to the homestead, they were both much cut about the face and legs. The Elsie belonging to Messrs Ward and Price, also B194, which were anchored close by us on Tuesday night are missing; the skipper of the schooner 'Jenny' reports that at about 10 o'clock on Tuesday morning he sighted a dismasted lugger, about seven miles abreast of Mt Blaze, it may be either the Elsie or B 194. Passed an uncomfortable night.

Thursday, March 21st,--10.30 a.m. Just heard that Bob's dinghy has been found undamaged. Thompson on the 'Kooki' knocked about the head and body on the reef; according to the Binghis the Aurora got into a nasty place in the mangroves yesterday and they are going to try and kedge her off this tide. Decided to go into Broome as soon as the weather clears; glass fair but not working; uncoupled pipe and hung them up on the foremast; sent tender and crew to cut mangrove; at 5 p.m. crew return with half a cord of firewood.

Friday, March 22nd.--Weather still unsettled, big sea outside.