"When the Wind Blows"


From a cocaine drug boat in the Cayman Islands to a cyclone in the Coral Sea.

The story of When the Wind Blows

In the Cayman Islands our long working hours were amply offset by the sub-tropical climate and outstanding leisure-time activities. Night scuba-diving on wrecks and colourful reefs was unbeatable for its thrill and beauty. Water sports and yacht club sailing possibilities were myriad as also were the very fine dining opportunities and the social life. Tough, indeed, but someone had to work there.

Life was coasting along comfortably until one fateful day our lives changed irrevocably. Robin saw a notice in the local newspaper for a confiscated drug boat offered for tender by the government. He fell in love with the 55-foot monster yacht, caught carrying an illicit cargo valued at US$170 million. Flippantly, I suggested that he submit a bid, never believing that he’d be successful. It was a bitter-sweet surprise to me when we became the owners of the 40 tonne ferro-cement sailboat. Now I would have to learn to sail, as Robin intended us to go cruising…

 Languishing in Drug Alley

These are the stories of Orca's escapades in the Cayman Islands, Cuba and Panama; through the Panama Canal to adventures across the South Pacific Ocean to Australia. It concludes with our struggle and Orca’s death throes in Cyclone Justin.

There are a colourful and eclectic mix of characters involved, including wandering hippy line-handlers who "help" us through the canal; a multilingual alcoholic cannibal in the Bay of Cannibals; a Scotch Whisky-demanding officious bureaucrat on an outpost island; a traditionally built lady looking for big knickers, and a crew member from hell.

Cyclone Justin

In spectacular fashion our voyage terminated in an air-sea rescue in the Coral Sea where the rescue helicopter crew made their aircraft perform impossible feats in horrendous weather to pull us from the ocean on the end of a wire. Orca, was abandoned eight nautical miles from the reefs where she would soon founder.

For their bravery, the rescue crew received commendations from the Australian Government and bravery awards, endorsed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

They were also awarded Helicopter Association International’s "Salute to Excellence, Golden Hour Award" for the most outstanding helicopter rescue of its kind world-wide, during 1997.

Awards for Heroes

Rescue Crew Officer Angus McDonell: QES Senior Pilot Capt. Peter Hope: Aircrew Officer/Winchman Ian Callaghan

The Pilot of the US C130 Hercules and his crew were decorated by the US Navy for their "Outstanding aeronautical skill and professionalism—in keeping with the highest tradition of the US Navy."

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 © Maggi Ansell 2015