Home > General > Talking of people getting nervous on yachts.

Talking of people getting nervous on yachts.

In about 1970 I was 3rd Mate on a Union Steamship Company of NZ  ship called the Ngahere. Late one evening we had sailed from Newcastle New South Wales for Auckland fully laden with steel products. I was keeping the 8-12 watch and at about 2200 sparks brought a radiogram into the chart room, these were quite common and usually consisted of weather reports, navigation warnings etc. This particular one however was a distress signal from a yacht purportedly  in trouble and sinking. I plotted the position given in the signal  I think it was within about 20 miles of us. Having done that I went back into the wheelhouse and practically the first thing I saw (as my eyes readjusted to the dark) was a white light bobbing in the darkness less than a quarter of a mile away. I called Captain Keyworth (who had been mate on the barque Pamir  when she had been confiscated for the duration of the war by the New Zealand government). He came up to the bridge, we switched on the deck floodlights and steamed dead slow ahead to a position a few hundred feet to windward of the light. The ship then drifted slowly down on to what turned out to be a yacht of about 40 feet in length. As we got closer we could see and hear the yacht’s crew waving and flashing torches at us. The wind was only about force two or three and the sea was slightly confused due I think to the effects of current and the fact that we were at the edge of the continental shelf.
[A ‘More’ tag has been inserted for you, Jazz – it saves space on the front page – see FAQs. – Ed.]
As we drifted the last few feet onto the yacht one of her crew members was in such a hurry to abandon ship that he took a header over our bulwark (we were pretty low in the water) and nearly knocked himself out a hatch combing. The remaining three crew members were also pretty sharp about getting off the yacht.

I had a birds eye view of this from the bridge and could  hear the Master’s commentary on events. He was less than impressed at what appeared to be the abandonment of a seaworthy yacht in not very bad weather and the fact that no attempt was made to secure her, the cabin lights were left on, the hatchway was left open, and the sails and running rigging left loose.

The bosun wanted to salvage the boat by hoisting her aboard or by putting a’ prize crew’ on her (one of whom would be him of course) and sail her back to Newcastle.

Capt Keyworth (rightly) refused both these suggestions because  Ngahere was a crane ship and cranes are designed to work in calm conditions alongside a wharf not topped at sea where there would be all kinds of slewing forces and  there were  problems attached with allowing crew members to leave the vessel to salvage something as insignificant as a yacht. The salvage from such a venture would not be sufficient to cover the risk and Insurance implications..

The ‘survivors’ were led up to the bridge and  Capt Keyworth enjoyed telling  them what he thought of them.

The voyage continued uneventfully and our ‘passengers’ languished in a spare cabin drinking DB Export  which they bought off the chief steward. In Auckland there was brief flurry  from press and radio and that was it.

Categories: General
  1. February 12, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Interesting series of posts, Jazz and well written.

  2. boadicea
    February 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I take it the yacht was left to drift? More money than sense comes to mind, but no doubt the Insurance Company coughed up.

    Thanks for the post, Jazz.

  3. February 13, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Good stories jazz.

  4. jazz606
    February 13, 2010 at 8:03 am


    Yes we wondered what happened to her. As far as I know she was lost.

  5. oldmovieguy
    February 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Many years ago a friend of mine invented a gadget that was taken up by a big American company who wanted him to fly to New York to sign a deal which would have made him a multi millionaire.
    He refused to go citing a morbid fear of aircraft so they sent the company’s ocean going yacht to collect him. Half way across the Atlantic an aircraft crashed on the boat. 😉

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