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June 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Aussie Liveaboard Gives Divers a Wild Ride

from the June, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A cook who made bad food went ballistic, punched the skipper and had to be tied down by the crew of Cairns-based liveaboard Taka in February. Then his father ran the boat onto a reef. Cairns travel agent Lucy Elliott and her boyfriend, commercial diver Shane Ashwell, told two Australian newspapers the voyage was a “trip from hell” but Taka’s marketing manager John Brown told Undercurrent the two were just taking revenge because his company refused to comp Ashwell’s flight from Perth after already giving Elliott a free trip.

Elliott and Ashwell said the 41-year-old temporary cook served meager meals and after the guests complained, the captain gave him a dressing down. In reply, the cook knocked the skipper unconscious in the wheelhouse. He then allegedly threatened the crew with a knife but they got him tied to the deck for five hours as the Taka headed to Cooktown, where the cook was handed over to the police. Brown says it’s true the cook hit the captain but the image of a knife-wielding cook breaking several of the captain’s ribs is false.

The saga continued when the cook’s father, Taka’s engineer and relief skipper who had recommended his son as a stand-in cook, replaced the injured captain. Just as things were calming down, the boat got caught in a squall, ran onto a reef and was stuck for five hours. The Taka again returned to port to report the grounding. Brown denies Elliott and Ashwell’s claims that the boat hit the reef at full speed, saying a swell came from behind as the Taka was pulling up anchor and put the bow on the reef. The Maritime Safety closed the case, and Taka suffered no damage. Brown says, “We offered Elliott and Ashwell a full refund and they chose not to take it, deciding to talk to the press instead. But they did 14 dives on the trip, and everyone else wrote on their comment cards that they had a good time.”

As for the cook, he was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm, possession of a knife and creating a public nuisance. However, when he failed to appear at court a few days later, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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