31 Dec Boat Accident
There have been innumerable problems up at Wedge. Accidents of all description especially boating ones.
One which came close to costing a life happened on a fine January Saturday morning, warm no wind but there was a four foot swell breaking all along the outer reef.
A group of two males and a lad of ten had towed their 18ft Douglas fibre glass half cabin to Wedge for their first visit. The boat was launched OK and they headed out for a days fishing and diving (had a hooka on board, a petrol driven compressor to supply air the diver). On their way out and with a swell breaking all along the reef they were unsure where to cross over the reef.
Luckily, at the same time Norm Macey jnr and Bill Jennings were also heading out for a days fishing. They were hailed by this boat owner and asked where to cross the reef. Norm’s reply ‘follow me’. All boat owners who know Wedge know that breaking out through a swell is a matter of timing and judgement. He then took off, expecting the other boat to follow him. Getting out requires your full concentration so he was unaware of whether the other boat made it through.
One cray boat had not left its moorings along with the rest of the fleet because of a minor repair to their engine. Eventually they left the mooring and as they manoeuvred to cross the reef noticed someone hanging off the buoy that marked the channel. On closer inspection he found the 10 year old clinging to the buoy.
The two males had begun to swim ashore after they had made sure the lad had something to keep him afloat. The alarm was raised and a number of us skin divers went out to the scene to see if we could salvage the boat.
I have always been keenly aware of the strength of the sea but was completely amazed at the destruction of the vessel. We found and retrieved the outboard motor, the hooka, aqualung, fishing gear and some personal items but the only part of the vessel identifiable was a 10ft section of the keel and hull, the boat had been completely destroyed.
The rule of maritime law is unless the vessel is at anchor all other equipment recovered can be legally claimed as flotsam & jetsam. That is not the Wedge way. The motor was dunked in a drum of fresh water ( was eventually found to be not possible to save) The aqulung was returned along with all other equipment ( the aqualung being one fellows Christmas present)
Crossing the reef with any sea running has claimed quite a few boats over the years. Good seamanship and good understanding of sea conditions keeps you safe.