Which Skipper are You?

  • Grant Dixon

There is a well-known truism in boating circles: there are only two types of skipper, those that have hit rocks, and those that are going to hit rocks.

Aaron Mortimer and the Mariner Marine Insurance team know that it is not just rocks that unfortunate, unlucky, or just plain inattentive helmsman will hit. Aaron says he could retrospectively produce a weather forecast based on his claims in-tray.

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“A case in point was New Year’s Eve, December 31. For the plethora of craft moored around Waiheke Island sheltering from the southwest wind and looking to celebrate the arrival of 2023, the crews would have hit their bunks confident of a good night’s sleep,”

Aaron says. “They didn’t know there would be a 180-degree north-easterly wind change in the early hours, causing havoc in the crowded anchorages as people moved to find calmer spots.” Aaron says there was a ‘fair bit’ of carnage as anchors dragged, warps were caught in propellors, and people scrambled bleary-eyed on deck to seek alternative shelter while negotiating other vessels.

“These things happen in boating, and those who are insured can, in most instances, quickly have things put right.” Playing bumper boats in the darkness, while not much fun, usually results in only minor scrapes to the vessels and the odd dent in skippers’ egos.

Any easy fix. What is a little more serious is when a boat is a total loss, seriously damaged, or holed; the worst scenario being a fire on board. “We can help from the get-go, assisting with salvage, tows, and, if appropriate, organising repairs.

We aim to get the client back on the water as soon as possible with minimal stress.” Many of the incidents are preventable and come as a result of carelessness. “People might get excited at the prospect of a day or two on the water and forget the basics like bungs or opening engine seacocks in their rush to get underway.

This is sometimes the case with new owners who have yet to develop routines for pre and post-boat ramp or marina berthing activity.” Aaron recommends inexperienced skippers and crews undertake a Coastguard course, starting with a day skipper. “Not recognising the various markers and the particular hazards they point to is another regular cause of claims. Knowing the safe side of passing a cardinal marker is quite important!” The same applies to bar crossings.

If you are not sure, don’t go before seeking advice or arranging to follow another experienced boatie out. Personal Watercraft (PWCs) are growing in popularity, and these are often being ridden by inexperienced, first-time owners. “They are exciting and fun to drive, but they are also quite lethal in inexperienced hands due to their speed and acceleration”.

Often, friends and family will join up on several skis and be running closely side by side or following behind one another – a potential recipe for disaster, says Aaron. “There are no brake lights or indicators, so the riders need to be aware of what is happening around them, leaving enough space for avoidance manoeuvres if necessary – as you would driving a car on the motorway.”

“Just like on land, those at the wheel on the water do not always get it right, and that is where we step in as insurance providers, to make it all good again.”


March 2023 - Grant Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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