Boaties, including man 87, survive shark-infested waters
A GROUP of boaties are lucky to be alive after their vessel capsized in shark-infested waters off the coast of Townsville.
One of the lucky survivors said a "freak wave" hit their boat, before they were forced to cling to the side of it in Cape Cleveland, an area renowned for shark sightings.
Four people were on board at the time of the capsize, including an 87-year-old and 67-year-old man, with one of them saying they were "lucky to survive".
It's understood the group came to grief when they were hit by the wave about 4pm on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Queensland Police Service said they were notified of an overdue boat on Wednesday night around 11pm. A search was launched for the vessel by Townsville Water Police around midnight, but they were unable to find the boat or the occupants.
The search recommenced again early on Thursday morning by both sea and air.
The four people were located by Townsville Water Police around 7am on land near Cape Cleveland.
Ray Peet was on the 7.3m vessel and said the incident gave his family a mighty scare.
Mr Peet, 67, was on the vessel with his father, son and his son's mate.
"We were coming back from Broadhurst (reef) … about 4pm (Wednesday) and got a couple of freak waves and they flipped the boat upside down," Mr Peet said.
"We eventually got to shore about 8pm (Wednesday) near the lighthouse at Cleveland and stayed there the night. Police picked us up this morning (Thursday).
"We are very lucky to survive, especially the turnover. Dad's 87 and has a pacemaker.
"We're very lucky it worked out all good in the end. The boat's a write off but that's okay."
Officer in Charge of Townsville Water Police Sergeant Matt Pegg said the four people clung to the boat's hull for a while after it capsized, before two of the men swam to shore.
"Two of the gents swam to shore on to rocks in an attempt to seek help near the lighthouse," Sergeant Pegg said. "The boat then drifted ashore around 4am with the other two men still hanging on to it.
"They are very, very lucky. The 87-year-old was in good spirits, he had some injuries but he'd been through a very torrid ordeal out there. It's a fantastic result we could find them safe and well."
Local fishing charter guide Eddie Riddle said the fishermen could count themselves extremely lucky to survive the ordeal unscathed.
"There's a lot of sharks in that water. Just trying to stay calm would be very difficult," he said. "Unless you're living under a rock, you would know about all the sharks that are in those waters, and it would have to be playing on your mind while being in the water.
"It's a good outcome for those guys obviously and they are lucky."
Mr Riddle said anglers heading to offshore locations such as the reef needed to follow all the right safety precautions.
"There's not a fish out there that's worth your life," he said. "A spot like Broadhurst (Reef) is popular when the weather is good, but the calm spells can turn nasty very quickly.
"There's no taxi ranks out there for you to get a lift home.
Sergeant Pegg said to check safety gear is in date and accessible with the holiday season approaching.
Originally published as Boaties, including man 87, lucky to survive shark-infested waters