The actions of a novice boatie in Oamaru have been labelled a recipe for disaster.
Earlier this month, North Otago Yacht and Power Boat Club commodore Kevin Murdoch assisted in a young Gore man’s rescue after his boat sank in Oamaru Harbour.
It was one of the “worst cases of stupidity” he had seen.
At 9am on May 12, the commodore got a phone call from a local fisherman about a partly submerged trailer yacht about 1.6km offshore.
The fisherman, who was notified by the boat owner’s girlfriend, went to assist the man, who was still on board.
When he got there, the yacht’s mast and sails were in the water and its mainstay — which stops the mast from falling backwards — was detached.
After the hapless sailor was escorted ashore, yacht in tow, Murdoch was waiting with questions.
The man said he purchased the yacht the night before in Timaru and at 2am wanted to test it out in the Oamaru Harbour.
Murdoch said the wind was blowing a 30-knot southerly, the “worst time to sail in the harbour”.
Not only did the man break into the yacht club’s ramp, he was wearing only a T-shirt and shorts, with no shoes.
“He had no life jacket, no auxiliary motor, no radio, a flat cellphone, and the boat had a leak. He had never sailed before and he had no local knowledge.”
In addition to a disregard for basic safety, the man had tied the anchor to the side of the boat rather than its bow, pushing it side-on to the waves, and the wire used to lower the centreboard was wrapped around it instead.
“You can’t sail unless it’s down because the boat will go sideways … which means he would never have been able to sail it, even if he knew how,” Murdoch said.
“He did everything wrong.”
Murdoch said the yacht club actively pushed for safety, especially when people became members, by asking if they had the right equipment, such as life jackets and a radio.
“We are disappointed there are people out there like that. It makes us yachties look bad when you get an idiot like that.
“A lot of people have drowned only doing half the things wrong that he did. I don’t think he realised how much trouble he was in.”
Otago Regional Council harbourmaster Steve Rushbrook said this type of incident was not common, indicating most people were cautious and conscious.
There was plenty of information available on the ORC website for those unfamiliar with boating safety.
“We encourage all skippers or boat owners to familiarise themselves with the key safety messages,” Rushbrook said.
This included information on the boating code, which encouraged all skippers to wear life jackets of the correct size, take two waterproof ways to call for help, check the marine weather forecast and avoid alcohol.
As for consequences for the young man, it is the vessel owner’s responsibility to inform Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) of an incident.
However, the ORC notified MNZ of the incident in this instance.
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