Many of you will know me as a locally based charter operator. However, there are a few things many of you won’t know about me and my maritime career to date. During this career, I have seen many things on the water in the capacity as a Charter Operator(Warfish), a freight boat operator (Waka Kai), a Coastguard crewman (Whitianga Coastguard), a Maritime Patrol officer (Tauranga Harbour Patrol) and more recently as an engineer upon my return to New Zealand Defence Force assigned to the Royal NZ Navy (Devonport).
A lot of the things I have seen and experienced, some of them very recently, still raise questions in my mind as to the mentality or lack of intelligence (in most cases) that is a regular occurrence. I have listed ten of these occurences, not in any particular order, but I do scratch my head, (often in amazement, but more so in disbelief), at several instances that could have potentially ended up as a fatality or multiple fatalities. All of these scenarios are 100% fact.
10) During a night patrol in Tauranga finding 7 vessels (in one night) fishing with no lights whatsoever- not even a hand held torch. One vessel had five people on board, no life jackets, but did have work Hi Vis vests on (makes the bodies easier to find I suppose). We also stopped three vessels speeding, with no lights, no radar,no idea what was in front of them.
9) During a day patrol, finding a Stabicraft 1410 dinghy with no less than eight people on board, all wearing life jackets and all fishing. There was physically no room for anyone to sit down.
8) Delivering orders into Tairua when the bar was at a Level Two (workable but with caution). While crossing the bar, a launch did a U-turn less than five metres in front of us with dad and three small kids, no one wearing life jackets. They were very lucky they timed it just right - two seconds either side - and we would have had a rescue on our hands and more than likely, a fatality.
7) Doing safety checks while on patrol, having skippers take several minutes to try and find their life jackets to show us (to prove they carry one for each passenger). This happens regularly. The jackets, if not worn, should be at arm’s reach. Chances are you won’t have time to put your own jacket on, let alone anyone else’s, during an emergency. The most recent was a skipper that had his wife and four kids on a tender in a strong current and no life jackets anywhere. This guy was on a yacht he had just sailed across the Pacific, so even experienced skippers are capable of becoming complacent.
6) Pulling over a jet ski doing donuts and high-speed tricks around swimmers at a boat ramp in Tauranga, to find the driver had a four-year-old girl on his lap, with no life jacket, while doing this.
5) Attending several rescues to vessels where the skipper has next to zero experience on a secondhand vessel they have just purchased and doing a maiden voyage from Auckland to Tauranga (Yes, it’s happened more than once).
4) Attending a situation where a skipper had his boat on the rocks, on an island. He had run out of fuel; no VHF, no anchor to stop the boat from ending up on the rocks, two small kids, a dog and a very grumpy wife. Luckily, someone on the mainland spotted him waving the torch on his phone. There was no reception where he was stranded (It was a winter night as well).
3) Coming back from a charter, pulling up to a vessel catching some really awesome fish during a local fishing competition, in the marine reserve (They pleaded ignorance).
2) During the first lockdown, operating Waka Kai as an essential service (travelling up and down the coast seemed almost apocalyptic - no other vessels in sight etc), and almost running over divers (no floats and no flags) coming through the Wigmore passage. Luckily, we always slow down to the speed limit coming through there, but many boats don’t).
1) Pulling over a tender at night; no lights, drunken skipper and passenger refused to stop and took off up the harbour (between two harbour tugs berthing a massive container ship), before making their way to the marina and boarding a vessel that wasn’t theirs and wondering why they were in a great deal of trouble when we (and the owner of the vessel they boarded) caught up to them once they had sobered up very early the next morning (body cams are wonderful things).
So, you may find some of these occurrence quite hilarious, but it’s easy to see that if things went wrong on a couple of them, for whatever reason, the results would have been catastrophic. Too many people drown in New Zealand. The ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is a killer on the ocean and that’s a fact. Every day on the water is different, every hour on the water can be different also. Be careful out there. If in doubt, don’t go out.
Regs Tony Warfish Charters/ Aeropacific GSE :0212985750