Reckless Captain Almost Sinks Dazzler

Some days on the water you hope you’ll always remember and then there’s other days you want to forget but know you never will. Today is one of the latter as we had a very close call. Actually, this wasn’t just a close call. This was one of those that was so close to the line between going right or wrong that moving just a hair in either direction could have drastically changed the outcome. Today, due to the reckless actions of one completely inexperienced captain we almost lost our beloved Dazzler.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let me start at the beginning. 

Coathanger Bridge. It’s the footbridge that connects the east side of the marina to the west side.

The day started out wonderfully. It’s sunny and cool but very nice outside. We walk into town to run a couple of errands. I had seen a Merino wool T-shirt that I wanted to buy and we needed to deliver some flowers to Vicky who works at the Marlborough Marinas Office. She was kind enough to let us have our Mana Cruising Club membership documents sent to her and we wanted to say a proper “Thank you!” so we picked up a lovely bunch of flowers to show her our appreciation for going above and beyond the call of duty. You know….for doing things the “Kiwi way”.

With our shopping and flower delivery complete we stopped at the Picton Village Bakery to pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. One thing about New Zealand is they have amazing bakeries and it seems like there’s one on every corner. This particular bakery appears to be one of the better ones in the area as there’s a long line waiting to be served. We walked in and the scent of fresh breads, cookies and cakes wafted through the air and wrapped around us like a warm, cozy blanket. There’s just something so comforting about bakeries…they remind me of holidays and family.

While we are paying for our bread and chocolate macaroons (a little extra indulgence) two kiwi couples start to chat us up. I guess our accent gave us away once again. Seems these days international tourists in New Zealand are sort of an oddity what with the borders being slammed shut.

The couples, in their  sixties or seventies are very sweet and very high energy. We chat for ten minutes or so as they ask lots of questions about how we got here and what we’ve done since we’ve been here. They are from Christchurch, here on holiday. 

One of the ladies asks us where we plan to watch the America’s Cup race later this afternoon. We tell her we’re not sure but possibly over at the Oxley Hotel. As we walk out together she says, “Sounds good. Maybe we’ll see you there.”

The marina cat….Just love her!

We just love the friendliness of the Kiwis and the way they are so welcoming. As we walk away we decide that yes, we are definitely going to go there in hopes of meeting up with them again. Next stop….lunch. I’m a firm believer in that you should never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It results in far too much junk being thrown into the cart. Junk that you will eat later and then sadly regret.

We stop at a little cafe that’s right beside the Fresh Choice grocery store. Originally Dan is thinking of a pizza but I am feeling more like a burger so we both end up ordering burgers. Big mistake! Actually more like a GIANT mistake.

The burgers come out and each one is two huge patties covered in melted cheese with bacon and all the normal trimmings. Don’t start salivating yet. These burgers might be big in size but they are not big on flavor. In fact, they taste like a bad meatloaf sandwich served in a high school cafeteria. 

I should have known not to get a burger. I’m not sure why but many places in New Zealand make their burgers adding filler to them rather than just using straight beef. It’s a shame too because the beef here is out of this world. Oh well, I ate part of one patty and some fries and have regretted it the rest of the day as it keeps repeating on me. Note to self: Buy your own meat and make your own burgers on Dazzler and you’ll be much more satisfied. 

I guess the good news is that I’m full and feeling rather bloated from this meal so when we reach the store a short while later I can barely even think of food. This results in a lower grocery bill and less stuff to carry the half mile walk back to the boat. Guess maybe it wasn’t as huge of a mistake as I first thought. 

The Winds Of Change 

Back on Dazzler we note that the winds are really starting to pick up. It’s typical here in the sounds for them to start whipping up in the afternoon. They did the same yesterday but today they are hitting upwards of 30+ knots. Sure glad we’re tied to the dock! I stow our freshly bought groceries while Dan lays down for a nap. Once my chores are complete I sit down to read a book and just enjoy this blustery day. 

An hour or so later Dan wakes up and we sit and chat a while. Before we realize it, it’s 1600. The America’s Cup has started. We look to each other and discuss whether or not we really want to walk over to the hotel to watch the race. After all, the winds have brought with them some rather chilly temperatures too and at this moment we are nice and warm. 

As much as we’d like to meet up with our new friends we decide we’ll stay on board and watch a few movies. Binge watching movies is a luxury reserved for marinas as we are always doing power management when on the hook. Being at anchor means one movie a night period. The shore power in the marina means I can use the computer as long as my heart desires and I can watch movies 24/7. Yes, this afternoon we will enjoy a rare movie marathon. 

It couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes after we made the decision to stay on board that we were looking at the anemometer and saw it register 30 knots! Dan goes out to check our lines and comes back below. He no sooner grabs his iPad and sits down when he hears a noise that has him back in the companionway.

Oh My God He’s Going To Hit Us!

“What the hell is this guy doing?” he asks with intense concern in his voice. 

I jump up and stand behind him on the stairs. We see a guy in about a 45’ sailboat trying to come in and dock behind us where Lutz & Gabi had been earlier that day. The gusting winds are pushing his boat around like a rubber duck in whitewater rapids. He starts into the slip and gets pushed to the port side so he starts backing out. He gets pushed up against the piling that is the only thing separating him from the large power yacht in the slip to our port side. 

This captain clearly has no idea what he’s doing and the last thing he should be attempting in these winds is to dock. Dan and I jump off of Dazzler and get on the dock to try to help him. We’re honestly hoping he’ll beg off and wait for the gusting winds to stop as any good captain would do, but he isn’t going to do that. He’s hell bent on docking his vessel.

He starts coming back for a second try but he’s not giving it enough throttle so the wind is continuing to push him around. There’s a girl on the bow that throws a line to Dan. It’s their bow line. He wants a spring line so he can keep them from going forward and crashing into Dazzler.

When he asks for a spring line she gets the proverbial deer in the headlights look and very excitedly says, “I don’t know what that is. I have no idea what I’m doing.” I’m thinking “Oh Lord” while not even coming close to imagining how bad this is going to get in a matter of seconds.

She’s handing Dan this bow line and it’s all twisted in and around the lifelines. Dan’s trying to get it untwisted and get it on the cleat before we have a disaster on our hands. Finally he gets it, wraps the clean a couple of times and hands me the tail so it doesn’t drop in the water and foul the prop on this 45’ concrete, yes, concrete beast that is heavy as hell.

Dan runs to the stern and takes that line from the captain. This antique, double braid, overused line doesn’t look like it could hang a dead kitten let alone hold this beast of a boat to the dock.

Just as Dan gets a hold of it another big gust of wind hits and pushes the stern of this boat forward in the slip. Within seconds she is sideways….at a 90 degree angle to the dock! The only thing keeping her from crashing into Dazzler is the bow line we’ve tied to the dock and the piling that is next to the yacht on the port side of us. 

Diagram of the Incident

I run to the back of our boat where this guy’s bowsprit is less than a meter away from our stern arch. It’s swinging wildly in the wind and I’m just certain he’s going to hit us. Fortunately Dan short tied the bow line to keep that from happening but at this point I’m not aware of this. Things are happening far too fast for effective communication.

It’s about now that this inept captain decides in his infinite stupidity to put his boat in forward gear. This sends him lurching forward toward the dock. I am screaming for him to stop but he keeps coming. He crashes into a pole on the dock that is bolted into the concrete with four beefy lag bolts. Two of them literally come right up out of the concrete.

Boat of the Reckless Captain

He keeps coming forward and his bowsprit is now pointed directly at the boat across the dock and to our starboard side. It’s not even a meter away from punching a hole in this 80’ motor yacht. The bow of his boat is now just inches from crashing up and over the dock and his stern is about a meter from the boat on the port side. I’m still yelling and he’s still coming. It’s not until Dan starts yelling at him that he actually takes it out of gear.

Get Out Of The Way…You’ll Be Crushed

By this time the girl that’s on board has jumped down on the dock and is standing between their bowsprit and the yacht it is about to puncture. I’m screaming at her now to get out of the way before she gets crushed. She’s got that same deer in the headlight look going. Must be a thing with her. She moves away at the pace of molasses in the winter time. ARGHHH!!!

I’m on the Dazzler side of their bowsprit pushing on it to keep it away from our precious home but also making certain I’m not in jeopardy of being crushed to death if things start moving back my way. This girl is trying to chat with me now asking all sorts of questions. I’m ignoring her because I’m trying to listen for instructions from Dan. As far as I’m concerned he’s in charge of this situation because these people obviously have no clue what they are doing. Someone has to take charge or there’s going to be a catastrophe happen right before our eyes.

Dan is trying with all his might to pull this beast into the dock by the stern line. The skipper jumps off the bow and he’s trying to help Dan pull it in. The winds are still gusting high and fighting the two of them as they slowly inch the stern the 60+ feet around to get it parallel with the dock. I’m still holding off the bowsprit as she turns and praying Dan doesn’t end up in the water between the boat and the dock. The girl is still firing questions at me. ARGHH!!!

This gives just a small view of the aged lines and state of this yacht.

After 15 or twenty of the most intense minutes I’ve experienced to date on this adventure, we finally have this thing tied up. Dan is trying to teach the guy how to tie the lines and is giving him tips on what he should have done and should do in the future. Dan also insists that the guy put another stern line on because the one he’s using could break at any moment. He even asks him how old the line is and the guy says, “Gee, I dunno. Came with the boat.”

While the men are securing the lines the girl is telling me that she’s only been on the boat three weeks and that the skipper recently had a stroke so he’s not very good at communicating. I so wanted to tell her that his inability to communicate is the least of her concerns but alas, as I always say…”Not my monkey…not my circus.”

Just by looking at the boat you can see it is tired and needs a ton of work. She tells me the teak deck is leaking everywhere and water comes into their bunk when it rains. By this time I’m thinking to myself that she needs to run….not walk…as fast as she can to the nearest airport and fly back to a Canada where she came from but again….not my monkey or circus.

Make That An Extra Stiff Drink Please

Once we feel relatively confident that their boat is going to stay put we go back below on Dazzler and I make a very stiff cocktail while we discuss how close we came to losing her. There’s no question that if we had gone to the pub and not been here to help this incompetent captain we would have come home to a complete catastrophe. 

At the bare minimum he would have ripped off our stern seat and possibly the entire arch with our solar panels, wind generator and all the wiring that’s inside. At worst he could have put a hole in the hull and sunk her in the slip. I still get sick to my stomach just thinking about it! There’s no telling how much damage he’d have done to the yachts on either side of us as well. It would easily have been a million dollars or more in damages by the time he finally stopped moving his concrete beast. And the worst part is he’d have done more damage to all of the other boats than he did to his own.

It was not until we got back on Dazzler that we realized we’ve met this guy before. He was on our same dock in Whangerie for a bit last summer. He had just purchased this boat and from all of the questions he was asking it was clear then that he didn’t know anything about boats. 

Here we are in a marina where we should always be able to sleep soundly yet neither of us will sleep well tonight as the winds are still howling and we’ve no confidence in this man’s abilities. Just the poor quality of his lines gives us reason to pause as we are locked in place like caged calves waiting to become the next veal dinner. 

The added acid in the pudding is that we are leaving here tomorrow and this guy will have to move for us to get out in the morning. This literally terrifies me! The marina is very busy with water taxis and sightseeing boats. That doesn’t leave a lot of room to maneuver if you don’t know how to control your boat,..especially one made of concrete that’s 45’ long. If it’s windy it could be a nightmare of epic proportions. Suddenly I’m beginning to regret telling Dan I wanted to stay here an extra day.

Tonight Dan will sleep around the table to be certain he hears even the slightest noise that could indicate there is a problem. As I lay my head down I will be thanking God that the only damage was to some post on the dock and that no one was hurt. We both will sleep fully clothed and ready to jump on the dock and protect our dear Dazzler from the man on the concrete wrecking ball. 

Until next time,


Author: Dan & Jilly

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