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Gone in 180 seconds!

Gone in 180 seconds!

“It was all ablaze and we were off in just three minutes,” was how Noel Elliott described the scene you see here. “The most horrendous thing is how quickly all the wiring burns. You’re encased in the stuff, so it’s a bit like being in a single garage with wires in all the roof and wall cavities, as well as the floor. Everything explodes and burns instantaneously.”

Now to put it all into perspective, Elliott is one level-headed chap. He was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal New Zealand Navy and a clearance diver by trade. So when he says, “… It was terrifying, so, so quick and virtually impossible to put out”, you are sort of obliged to pay attention.

Elliott has been kind enough to recount his experiences for us. “I used five dry powder extinguishers. All you get are facefuls of powder and toxic fumes. You cannot see or breathe, and the powder comes back at you with interest. You only get the one chance to stop a fire aboard, so you must do it within about 30 seconds. Otherwise, it is time to clear out. Powder extinguishers are hopeless in an engine room and I now have automatic foam installed,” said Elliott.

“It all started at 0950hrs on Boxing Day, and I wanted to watch the start of the Hobart. So I put the TV on, switched to both banks and that is when it happened,” explained Elliott. A major short circuit had occurred when a cell in one of the deep cycle batteries had collapsed and instantaneously, the whole system was on drain.

“As soon as I saw smoke from the battery isolator I tried to go back to on or off, but it had fused inside by that time and was rendered useless. I heard crackling, came out of wheelhouse, lifted the lid on the hold, and used two extinguishers. The deckhead and bulkheads were all smoking, and I used another extinguisher on what I could see. I then went back down into the engine room and sprayed yet another.

“From there I went back to the wheelhouse, fell into the engine room in the black smoke that was already billowing furiously and crawled aft along the deck, throwing the fuel isolators on and grabbing the mobile as I went. My dog, Tosh, was on the marlin platform already and he then jumped in the tinnie.”

Interestingly, only a few weeks earlier, Elliott had installed a Stainless Steel 4WD style grab hook on the transom to hold the painter to the dinghy. “I reckon that if I had to actually untie the tender, then I would have been right in amongst that explosion,” recounted Elliott.

“You know there is always a silver lining and, thank God, mine came in the form of the team at Pantaenius. They were just bloody brilliant! My previous insurer said they would not be covering anyone in Shute Harbour or Airlie Beach anymore. Pantaenius were happy to insure me on a swing mooring (after survey) and we’re all covered except for a named storm,” espoused Elliott.

“Their rates are not high, and their service is exceptional. I rang them that afternoon and got a call later. Things moved so quickly, I really could not fault them in any shape or form. I’m telling everyone, because it was such a great experience after the most horrendous disaster.”

Pantaenius appointed a surveyor within 24 hours at their cost. They then provided an independent report within days of the incident, so that settlement could also be reached within a few days.

Pantaenius Australia provide sail and motor yacht insurance.