Nothing like a sailor’s life

AS A boy Ken Watson grew up with a view of the harbour from his front door on top of Auckland Hill.

There was something about the water that called to him, and when he was 12-years-old the sailor had his first taste of life at sea.

The young Mr Watson was instantly taken; the salt spray on his face, the challenge of reading the tides and currents.

His father wasn't a sailor, but he found others as passionate as him who helped guide him and teach him the ropes.

By the time Mr Watson was 13-years-old he had earned enough money from his paper run and pocket money to buy his first boat.

It was 1955 and it cost him £30.

Since then Mr Watson has spent more time on the water than on land, his wife says.

And now he's preparing for another adventure at sea.

This Restless made the journey south ahead of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race.

This will be the 40th year Mr Watson has competed in the annual event after his first race aboard Wistari in 1968.

"I had 23 races on Wistari," Mr Watson said.

"Eventually I got bored of the same boat and switched to Restless."

In fact Mr Watson helped build the Restless when she first came to town.

"It was just a shell and the crew worked hard sanding it back to a fine finish."

The Restless, as it is today, was meant to arrive in Brisbane earlier in the week, but the trip didn't go according to plan.

On Sunday the crew sailed as far as Gatcombe Heads before the sail ripped and they were forced to turn back.

This time there's an extra sail on board.

It wasn't the first time Mr

Watson didn't make it all the way.

In 1972 a cyclone began lashing the Queensland Coast just as the 308 nautical mile race started.

Tropical Cyclone Emily formed on March 27 and crossed the coast just to the south-east of Gladstone on April 1.

The cyclone was severe causing severe waves and huge seas, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

It claimed the lives of eight seaman in three separate incidents off the southern and central Queensland coast.

Mid-race amid the raging sea and howling winds, Mr Watson's crew were faced with a difficult decision, attempt to finish the race or take the Wistari ashore to safety.

"We had reached Tin Can Bay and had to find a way to get over the sand bar."

The crew were lucky as there was a fishing vessel still out that guided them to safety.

"There's something marvellous about being on the water," Mr Watson said as he looked out over the water by the Gladstone yacht club.

"I love having the ability to read the tides and ride the waves.

"It's not always that way, but even the rough times are all part of sailing."

The Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race started in 1949 with seven yachts sailing the 309 nautical miles north from Brisbane.

To date the most successful participant is Noel Patrick, Mr Watson's mentor, aboard Wistari which won the race four times between 1971 and 1982.

The 67th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race will start in Brisbane on March 25, Good Friday.

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