Hell in Australia, The Mick Skrijel Story

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needed a lot of electronic instruments for my boat. They were a sonar, radar, automatic pilot, 2 way radio, and power steering. I purchased all of this from John R Holmes Company in Mt Gambier (Taylor Marine). You buy equipment from choosing it from a brochure and equipment is delivered to you a month or so later. A month later, the equipment arrived in boxes and the contract that I signed was for me to install the equipment and for me to provide a place where the equipment can be installed and for them to install it and connect it. When they came to install the equipment and he started unpacking the boxes, I noticed that equipment wasn’t new. I immediately rang the Manager, I believe his name was Trevor Wilson and he assured me that the equipment had never been on any other boat and that the equipment was just used in a demonstration and that I had a new equipment warranty on everything. I believed him and there wasn’t anything that I could really do anyway, I had already paid the money. When the equipment was installed, the only thing that he could make work was the radar but nothing else. 2 days before I was to leave from Portland to Sth End, the technician came again and said that everything works but that I’d have to be out at sea to check the equipment. I told him that we could go out to sea and test it but he said that he can’t do it because he gets seasick. For 2 days after we started the trip on approx 180 nautical miles between Portland and Sth End, where I was fishing. Heading towards Sth End, we encountered vicious gale. The winds were blowing head on at 220km’s. With 2 engines running flat out we were hardly going ahead. The swell was running at 3-5 meters and every roller was a breaker. We were hit with an enormous wave about 50 nautical miles from Sth End when my deckhand broke his leg. I tried to send a pan signal. There’s 2 signal that you can called when out at sea. A pan is when you need assistance but you’re not in life or death danger, Mayday is life and death. Just out from Portland, I found out that sonar and automatic pilot were not working. Echo sounder was working only in very shallow water up to 10 fathoms, which is 60 feet. The hydraulic steering had to be spun several times before you could catch a rudder. That’s how the deckhand broke his leg. He wasn’t fast enough to turn the boat to facing the massive wave that was coming at us. Instead it hit us side on and we nearly rolled. I attempted to use the radio to call for an ambulance so that they could wait for us on the jetty. I called the emergency channel. I got no answer. One should know that marine a.m. radios were capable of sending and receiving a signal up to 12.000 nautical miles. It wasn’t a lack of signal; it was the radio wasn’t working. We arrived opposite Sth End very late at night. At the entrance to Ravoli Bay where Sth End was located, there are many reefs where a lot of fishermen have lost their lives. The maritime authorities have installed a beacon to guide the fishermen safely into port. The beacon consists of 2 separate lights, a white light means there’s a safe passage in and a red light means danger. Usually when one sees the light, he automatically checks his compass bearing to see where the point where the light is coming from and you don’t have to watch the light anymore. When a big swell was running, and you were in the trough, you can’t see anything so you rely on your compass. Before your vessel is surveyed, there’s an expert that comes to adjust your compass so that it’s true north. As I was approx 10 nautical miles opposite Sth End, I spotted a white light and I checked the compass. Several minutes later, on the same compass bearing, I saw a red light. I was getting confused. In the next 10-15 minutes, that happened a couple of times. I had 4 people on board so just to be sure, I asked 2 other people to stand with me and check the compass bearing on the changing light. The confirmed that it was the same compass bearing with both lights, which was impossible in normal circumstances. I wanted to anchor there and wait for daylight but eh deckhand that had a broken leg was in too much pain so I had to go in. I disregarded the light and I went very slowly. I can only say with Gods help, we arrived safely as at one stage, we were no more than 20 feet from the rocks. As we seen the rocks from the shine of our navigation lights. When we arrived in Sth End, there were quite a few people there. I was later told that they were betting that we’ll never make it. A week after that, the mystery of the moving light on the beacon was sold. The people that didn’t want me there (drug importers and police) had put a bag over the beacon and they parked 2 cars, one parked forward and one in reverse and they covered one headlight and one tail light on the other car. That’s how I was getting 2 different lights from the same compass bearing. If I was protected by any law, those people should’ve been charged with attempted murder but I believe that they were told off for not succeeding. The next day, I called the company that I bought the electronic equipment from, Taylor Marine and told them that nothing works except for the radar. They said that they’d send somebody, which never happened. I went to the company that I thought I was a member of as I had sent my money and they had accepted. The office was in Beech port. I went to get a freezer cubicle and bait. I went into the office and a guy told me to go to Sth End where there representative would give me a key and bait and as I walked out of the office, the wife of the President of the Fisherman’s Association was working there. Her name was Kaye Fennel. She told me to wait there for a second and she got up and she went into the office of the President of the company. A couple of minutes after she came out and told me to go back in. I went back in and I was informed that I could not get any bait or freezer cubicle and I couldn’t sell any crayfish to them either. When I questioned why they had quickly changed their mind, his answer was that he didn’t want to discuss it with me. I then went to the other 2 companies; I was given the exact same answer. I could see immediately that there was a primary and secondary boycott on my business, which was highly illegal. I found out that I wasn’t able to buy any fuel either as the bowser on the jetty was padlocked and I wasn’t given a key. The fuel system in Sth End and every other fishing port works on an honesty basis. There’s a book and in the book you write the number on the bowser before you start fueling up and you write how many gallons you take and then you write end number when you finish. Then you write the rego number of your boat and you sign it. Once a week, the book is copied by Loraine Watson, wife of Robert Watson, and then we get sent bills to pay for it. Most of the time, the money is taken out by the companies that you sell crayfish to. They paid for diesel and bait. I landed myself in a hell of a predicament. I was a legally fully licensed Cray fisherman. I had also legally fulfilled to be able to sell my catch and buy fuel but that was not happening. The instruments on my boat were not working, even after many, many calls to the supplier to fix them. I asked the companies why I had been black banned. I was told that other fishermen did not want me to sell the crayfish there. So I decided to go and check if that was true. I wrote on the top of a piece of paper, Do you mind me selling my catch to the 2 companies, which I named and buying fuel or not. If you do not mind me doing so, could you please sign this paper? Out of 43 fishermen, I had 40 signatures, which I still have today. I had no choice but to lease the boat in another port, Port McDonald. I was supposed to get ¼ of the catch. The guy that leased the boat from me kept ringing me up and telling me that the instruments were not working and that he called Taylor Marine several times and they never turned up. A the end of that fishing season, I got him to sign a sworn affidavit that he called Taylor Marine several times to repair the instruments, which they never did and that he would not lease the boat again because of that. During the winter, I fished for shark off Portland Vic. Finally after several calls, Taylor Marine sent the same technician. Without looking at any instruments, he gave me a handful of fuses and said, “Here, that’ll fix it”. I was amazed and I rang his boss and he just laughed. At the same time in Portland, Prime Minister Frasier had allowed a dozen or so Japanese squid boats to come and fish off Portland. They had all of their electronic technicians with them so in desperation, when they came into port, I went and got their technicians to come and have a look at my instruments. He couldn’t speak English but there was an interpreter. They came onto my boat and I showed them my instruments that were made by Feruno in Japan. When he seen them, he started laughing immediately. Through an interpreter he asked where is my anchor stored. Through an interpreter, he told me that the only thing those instruments are good for is to be used as an anchor. I knew that I was in a hell of trouble. The letter from Japans manufacturer of the instruments said that those instruments are demonstration models only and they cannot work. I then went and purchased new instruments by borrowing money from the bank. I purchased them form a company in Mt Gambier. The owner of the company was Stacpole.

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