Complete design wanted for Karuah boat ramp after Wayne Patterson forced to swim for his boat

Onlookers feared Wayne Patterson might drown as he clung to the back of his boat on the run-out tide at Karuah in May.

Mr Patterson was on a day off from his job at the Karuah RSL Club and wanted to go fishing with his mum.

But the bow line snapped after he had launched the 4.2 metre aluminium Quintrex.

It was a situation regular users said would have been avoided if authorities had built the facility they wanted. What they got was a design short a few of the desired components that Port Stephens Council said will come in time.

“The boat took off and there was no pontoon to stop it,” Mr Patterson, also known as ‘Crab Stick’ said.

“They need another pontoon right up along the boat ramp because if you’re by yourself you’ve go no chance.”

It was only the third time he had taken the boat out so he emptied his pockets and swam off after it.

“I got to the back of it eventually but [exhausted] I thought there’s no chance I’m climbing in.”

So the boat continued to drift.

It wasn’t until the craft had gone under the Karuah Bridge that fellow boatie Ian Wilson was alerted to the drama, the call coming up from people on the shore.

Mr Wilson unhitched a small tender boat to retrieve the stray vessel.

“I got to it but it wasn’t until I got it back to the jetty that I realised Crab Stick was hanging off the back,” he said.

“I thought it was the radio or something I could hear but two blokes helped pull him out of the water.”

Mr Wilson lives in Dungog but uses the Karuah boat ramp because it's his closest salt water facility.

The existing gantry “wasn’t perfect” but had been “made worse” when moved further East around the corner from the boat ramp.

“What we wanted was a floating pontoon all the way to the high tide level so you can walk with your vessel all the way,” Mr Wilson said.

Mr Patterson’s mother had watched the drama unfold.

“Mum’s 78,” Mr Patterson said.

“She was pretty stressed and started yelling out to a couple of blokes.

“There’s no way I would do what I did again.

“It was the hot topic for six or eight weeks here at the club and they started calling me blue swimmer.”

Port Stephens Council said it had consulted with the community in June 2016, and produced the final plan a month later, with a view to carry out more improvements as the funds became available.

"The works included relocating the eastern pontoon to align with the outgoing tidal flow and installing a modified deck to allow access to vessels at water level," the council's assets section manager John Maretich said. 

"The current design was chosen as it allows for future improvements to the boat ramp as funding becomes available through grant applications to RMS."  

The $600,000 project was completed with $400,000 in funding from RMS.

In addition to changes to the eastern gantry and pontoon, the project has provided more car parking spaces for vehicles and trailers.