Thursday, 18 September 2003 00:00

The Day The Prop Popped!

By Col Gelder

The Red Beanie Boys had been waiting for some good weather (light and variable winds) to come along so they could execute their next attack to salvage the prop of the Moreton Star. The weather forecast finally sounded good so Col organised an air compressor, air hoses and air grinder and then rallied some of the Red Beanie Boys to help with the salvage operation.

Owy, Derek and Maree were all keen to help, so the time was set for a 08:00hr. meet at the boat ramp. Owy arrived at Cols at 07:00hrs. and it was around to Deans Dads place to pick up the compressor. The first thing Owy said to Col was "how are we going to get it on the boat" Col did not realise how big and heavy it was. Col just said "where there's a will there's away". So back around to Cols place to load it on to the boat. It took a lot of huffing and puffing and pulling and pushing but with true Red Beanie Boy determination Owy and Col completed the task.

Off to the boat ramp we roared to meet with Derek and Maree. On arrival at the ramp Owy and Derek started to load Derek's and Maree's dive gear on to the Huntsman while Maree and Col headed around to Megarent to pick up the air grinder. Once Maree and Col arrived back at the ramp it was time to launch the Huntsman. By this stage Col was looking for his first beer and the old saying of "a man is not a camel" saw Derek heading to the esky to grab himself and Col a coldie.

Heading out of Auckland Creek Maree was officially presented with her Red Beanie which she will treasure for the rest of her life. Across the harbour conditions looked good and the Red Beanie Boys were getting excited. Once through the North Entrance it was obvious that it was going to be a pearler of a day so it was full steam ahead to the wreck of the Moreton Star.

On arrival at the wreck there was a small boat with a fisherman and his wife in it and they were anchored right over the wreck so not wanting to upset anyone we anchored close and prepared for the salvage operation. Col geared up and rolled over the side. His plan was to tie the anchor as close to the propeller of the Moreton Star as possible which would enable us to position the Huntsman straight above the wreck.

Mission accomplished the next step was to see if the air line from the compressor was long enough. Col rolled over the side again and dragged the air line down to the wreck. By this stage the fisherman must have got the hint that some serious salvage work was going on and he departed the scene.

It was now time for Owy, Derek and Maree to gear up and do their bit while Col enjoyed a well earned rest and beer. Over the side they rolled, Derek had video camera in hand ready to take some footage of the operation. Col fired up the air compressor and handed the grinder to Owy and then down the trio went to start the operation.

Well what a flop the air compressor and grinder were, they did not have enough grunt to cut the shaft, as soon as Owy tried to put some pressure on the grinder it would just stop. So back to the surface came Owy, who handed the grinder back to Col and then said, "hand me my toolbox will yah". Owy had secretly made up a puller and was going to give it a try. Col was very disappointed so with a tear in his eye packed up the compressor then started to gear up for another dive. Col had decided he would take down a hacksaw and see how much of the shaft he could cut through on a single dive.

Descending down the anchor rope with hacksaw in hand Col meet Derek and Maree who had just started to ascend. Col waved the hacksaw at Derek to show him his intentions but Derek gestured back that the Prop had Popped. Col headed down to check it out but could only see a big cloud of silt which was surrounding Owy. Owy was busy digging away trying to clear as much of the sand and silt away from the propeller blades as he could before he had to head to the surface. Owy signalled to Col that he was going up. Col took over where Owy left off and then started to wind the propeller off the shaft until he also had to head to the surface.

Back on the boat it was all smiles we new that the prop was ours. The celebrations had started. The surface interval was spent telling stories and drinking beers, then it was time to head back down to finally remove the prop from the shaft.

Owy, Derek and Maree geared up and rolled over the side to head down and make their final assault, with a bit more digging and some pulling and pushing by Owy and Derek the prop was removed from the shaft and rolled out on to the sand away from the wreck. Maree had the job of videoing all the action. The shot line rope was tied to the prop ready for it to be pulled to the surface. When Col got back down all the hard work had been done so Col just had a leisurely swim around to use up the 100 bar of air Maree had left in her first tank.

After a bit of a rest it was time to pull the prop up to the surface. Metre by metre it took every bit of strength the Red Beanie Boys had. We sounded off 1,2,3, rest. 1,2,3, rest, slowly we pulled her to the surface. The Red Beanie Boys were stuffed by the time they had the prop on the duckboard. The next few beers did not touch the sides and it was big smiles and roars of laughter all the way back to the boat ramp.

The solid brass propeller from the Moreton Star now lives at Owy's place where it will be cleaned and polished and well looked after. We are sure that in years to come it will be the focus of many a story.

Cheers Col, Owy, Derek & Maree.
Red Beanie Boys Rule.