Why you don't want to anger the cook offshore


BRISBANE — A “crazed” cook and his inedible food made for the holiday from hell for tourists aboard a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef last month.

Lucy Elliot, 26, and Shane Ashwell, 38, had their four-day trip aboard the Cairns-based dive vessel Taka ruined when the cook allegedly knocked the skipper unconscious and had to be hog-tied by crew members. Mr Ashwell – a Perth-based commercial diver – and his partner boarded the 30-metre vessel on February 20 en route to Osprey Reef when the cook, a 41-year-old Cairns man, allegedly turned violent.

For the couple, who were among 25 guests, the “bad vibes” began when they were each served only one rasher of bacon for breakfast, in the wake of a sleepless night and a suspected attack of bed bugs.

“It was clear he had no idea what he was doing,” Mr Ashwell said. “I knew then that we were going to have (three) days of this shit.”

He had flown from Perth to join his partner for the $1000 dive trip to the Coral Sea’s premier dive site with Cairns-based operators Deep Sea Divers Den.

But the couple never reached their intended destination.

“We were told that on Taka all you did was dive, eat and sleep,” he said.

“Well we never got any sleep, we ate bugger all and we never got to dive Osprey Reef.”

After several guests complained about the meagre meals on February 21, the skipper gave the cook a dressing-down.

The skipper was later found unconscious with several broken ribs in the wheel house.

The cook then allegedly grabbed a knife and threatened crew members, who managed to hog-tie him on the back deck.

Mr Ashwell said the cook was restrained with cable ties for five hours, as the vessel headed to Cooktown, where the crew handed him over to police, who arrested and later charged him.

The saga continued when the cook’s father was brought in to replace the injured skipper.

“I thought it would all finally be over,” Mr Ashwell said.

But the stand-in skipper allegedly ran the vessel aground on the reef – an incident now being investigated by Maritime Safety Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

“The boat was on a 30-degree angle,” Mr Ashwell said.

Deep Sea Divers Den refused to comment.

Dive Queensland president Col McKenzie defended the actions of crew aboard the Taka, attributing the drama to an “unfortunate series of events”.

“This all fell apart because of one staff member,” Mr McKenzie said.

He said Deep Sea Divers Den was the longest-running diving business in Cairns and had an excellent record.

Mr McKenzie said the cook’s father, who worked for the company as a second skipper, had recommended his son for the stand-in cook’s job.

The company has offered Mr Ashwell a full refund for his stay aboard Taka.

“This has come out, because he (Mr Ashwell) wants a refund for his flights from Perth to Cairns and back,” Mr McKenzie said.

Despite the drama, guest feedback forms show most rated the trip as “good”.

The cook, who was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm, possession of a knife and creating a public nuisance, failed to appear in Cooktown Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest.



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