Beating the Black Dog on the Water

Courage comes in many forms. Following active front line tours with the Australian Defence Force in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, avid fisherman and boatie, James Prascevic, turned to boating to confront his biggest demon of all – depression.

Having been medically discharged from the Army after a career spanning 9 ½ years, James found his life changed for worse when he became a civilian. Post-traumatic stress disorder manifested itself in bouts of depression and alcohol abuse.

"About the only time that I felt okay when I was on the water fishing off Lorne," James said.

"So to help myself, and create some awareness of the very real problems of depression in the community, I decided to do a trip from the mainland of Australia to Tasmania and return. If the publicity of my trip helps just one person, than I will be very happy."

Aware of the project, Survitec Australia stepped in to assist James with a kit of safety equipment. This included a Crewsaver CWX 150 inflatable PFD, Kannad Sport+ GPS enabled EPIRB and a Kannad SafeLink Solo PLB. In addition to the support of Survitec Australia, James had on board a host of other boating organisations as well as the Black Dog Institute, a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

So, in his secondhand 4.55 m aluminium runabout powered by a 60hp Suzuki 4 stroke outboard, James diligently prepared for the trip and set off from Lorne on the morning of October 29th. On board was 265 litres of fuel, a bunch of satellite phones, 20 litres of water, 3 days rations and the goodwill of the relevant authorities.

"It turned out to be a whole lot easier than I ever envisaged on the trip south," James said. "I landed at Smithton in Tassie at low tide. It took a bit longer than I had calculated but everything went well."

The return trip was a bit tougher. After a few days of rest and some minor repairs, James departed Smithton at 6:00 am and landed back at Lorne at 5:30 pm on the same day. Between Tasmania and King Island, James experienced some big 4 meter swells, but again the trip went smoothly.

Throughout his hours on the water James wore a dry suit with his Crewsaver PFD donned the entire time.

"The Crewsaver was great. I never felt restricted by it. In fact it was a great comfort to have this on at all times. I kept the Kannad PLB in the pocket of my dry suit all the times, and the Kannad EPIRB Sport+ was fixed to the boat in its bracket."

"The hardest part of the trip for James was the preparation. Once on the water he found it easy and just wanted to keep going.

And keep going he will. Following a surge of national media attention on his return, James is busy working on a documentary film and book. He managed to raise some funds for Black Dog and he continues to get the message out to others like himself who are suffering from PTSD.

"People have to be aware that this is an illness, nothing to be ashamed of. I just happened to become sick as a result of my military service. The key message that I promote is to not be afraid to speak up and get some help. I continue to get some great help, and right now I'm doing okay."

James Prascevic has conquered Bass Strait as one small step of his recovery. The next challenges are already being lined up. There is a trip down the Murray, a circumnavigation of Australia and then to complete the emotional journey, a trip from Darwin to Timor.

Wherever James Prascevic happens to head on the water, meeting his challenges, Survitec Australia will be there supporting him all the way.

Survitec Group in Australia (RFD Australia Pty Ltd) is primarily involved in the supply, service and project management of marine, fire, life support and gas control equipment to Government Departments and major corporations in the region. In the marine segment Survitec Group services recreational boating as well as the defence, shipping and aviation industries. Major brands distributed include: RFD, Toyo, DSB, Lifeguard, Beaufort, Plastimo, Kannad Marine, Comet, Hammar and Compact.

For further information contact;

Mark Barker
Managing Director
Survitec Group

Phone: +61 2 9330 7000
Fax: +61 2 9330 7098