It was early evening, the summer of 78/79 and we were motoring against an outgoing tide heading to Herald Island where our mooring
lay waiting. The wind
had all but disappeared with the setting sun as it often does on Auckland
Harbour. It had been a long three years building 'Slocoach,' and now that she was almost completely finished, the time had come to thank and repay all those who had assisted, one way or another, by taking them for a Sunday sail. It had been a beautiful sunny day with a pleasant SW wind
, but now as it was getting dark I was eager to offload my wonderful crew and relax. By the time we made it to Greenhithe Public Wharf where my crew's cars were parked it was after nine o'clock. We said our goodbyes then I pulled away from the wharf.
was just around the corner, not ten minutes away. I had work the following day, so I was in a hurry to get to it as soon as possible, clean the boat up and get to bed
. In my haste I rounded the point to closely and at six knots slid easily into the thick mangrove type mud. Slocoach was a double-ended Tahiti Ketch
(yes an old clunker) which I built by using foam-sandwich fiberglass
. The plans came from the magazine 'Popular Mechanics.'
was long and wide, and as she grounded she must have ridden up at least six inches in the soft mud before coming to a stop. I didn't even attempt to go astern knowing it would be completely futile. We were stuck fast. Instead, I just just shut the engine
down, went forward and threw my heavy anchor
out as far as I could, checked the tide table and went to bed
Of course I didn't sleep well and after a few hours I woke up. It was still dark and I was still half asleep. I jumped out of my bunk and all hell broke loose. Over she went, down and down. Lockers went flying open. Pots and pans were clattering, and still she kept going down. When she finally stopped she was almost on her beam-ends.
I picked myself up and with difficulty made it out into the cockpit
. I could hear the clicking of the crabs as I looked around. We were completely high and dry. The mast
was at an alarming angle. I then realized what had happened. Her long wide keel
was so stuck in the mud, that as the water
receded on the falling tide, and as there hadn't been any movement on board, she had sat there bold upright perfectly balanced like a bird on a wire... Until I jumped out of bed.
Now she could have fallen towards the shore, which would have eased the distance she would have gone down on the sloping mud bank. But oh no 'Murphy' had to be there to make sure she didn't!
PS Later that year I sailed Slocoach across the Tasman Sea, from Auckland
using a plastic sextant