American tourist Levi Verwosetan sat on top of his catamaran for 12 hours after the craft capsized off the coast of Mackay on Wednesday.
American tourist Levi Verwosetan sat on top of his catamaran for 12 hours after the craft capsized off the coast of Mackay on Wednesday. Ashley Pillhofer

Lone sailor rescued off Mackay coast tells incredible tale

A HAWAIIAN man who was airlifted from a capsized catamaran at Cape Palmerston by RACQ CQ Rescue today says he had been living on the vessel for three years.

Levi Verwosetan, 29, said during his time at sea he sustained himself by catching and drying fish as well as eating goats, which he chased down across the region's many islands.

"I've just been wandering this coast for the last three years on my boat that I purchased down in Brisbane," he said.

Cape Palmerston rescue : AN AMERICAN man who was airlifted from a capsized catamaran at Cape Palmerston by RACQ CQ Rescue yesterday had been living on the vessel for three years. During his time at sea, 29-year-old Levi Verwosetan sustained himself by catching and drying fish as well as eating goats, which he chased down across the region’s many islands.
Cape Palmerston rescue : AN AMERICAN man who was airlifted from a capsized catamaran at Cape Palmerston by RACQ CQ Rescue yesterday had been living on the vessel for three years. During his time at sea, 29-year-old Levi Verwosetan sustained himself by catching and drying fish as well as eating goats, which he chased down across the region’s many islands.

Mr Verwosetan said today was the first time during his three years at sea he had found himself in a spot of bother.

AN RACQ CQ Rescue team picked Mr Verwosetan up about 7am, shortly after he activated his EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon).

Mr Verwosetan spent 12 hours "drifting" in open water before he was airlifted to safety.

"After sunset yesterday I notice the boat slowing down and went out on deck and noticed a hatch cover missing allowing water to come in," Mr Verwosetan said.

"By the time I was able to get out of the cabin and attempt to do anything the hull was already full of water.

 

Levi Verwosetan borrowed clothes from his rescuers, crewman Arno Schoonwinkel and pilot Leigh Wilkinson.
Levi Verwosetan borrowed clothes from his RACQ CQ Rescue saviours, crewman Arno Schoonwinkel and pilot Leigh Wilkinson. Ashley Pillhofer

"Before I could do anything the boat capsized. It was under a minute."

Unable to activate his EPIRB in the dark, Mr Verwosetan climbed onto the hull and waited.

"I was on there until these gentlemen picked me up this morning (Thursday). I sat in the dingy for most of the night" he said.

Come morning, the Hawaiian native was finally able to activate his EPIRB.

"The rescue was almost instantaneous this morning. If I didn't have the EPIRB I would still be drifting out there," he said.

As well as feeling relief when he spotted the rescue chopper approaching from the horizon, Mr Verwosetan said he was envious of how "fun" the job of his rescuers was.

"I thought 'that looks fun'," he said.

"It looks a lot better than sitting here being cold and wet."

RACQ CQ Rescue crewman Arno Schoonwinkel said the rescue highlighted the importance of boaties obtaining and using EPIRBs.

 

Levi Verwoset said he was rescued by the RACQ CQ Rescue team in less than an hour after activating his EPIRB device.
Levi Verwoset said he was rescued by the RACQ CQ Rescue team less than an hour after activating his EPIRB device. Ashley Pillhofer

"It is extremely important to have an EPIRB with you," Mr Schoonwinkel said.

"He was out there for 12 hours. Unfortunately, it did take a while for him to activate it because it was dark - but as soon as it was activated we were there in 20 minutes.

"If you don't have that you could be out there for days.

"it is going to take weeks before someone finds your boat."

Although most would find a drifting at sea for 12 hours a harrowing ordeal, Mr Verwosetan was not phased.

Instead, he was looking forward to getting back out onto the water.

"I still love sailing, I still want to go back," he said.

"If I can retrieve the boat I would love to. But otherwise, I don't know - I will work a bit and get a new one."