Chaos as yacht drags anchors at night

Lookout! Issue 28, April 2013

A runaway yacht collided with several other yachts when its skipper decided to move it during a storm late at night, setting off a chain of events.

The skipper had taken shelter in a bay occupied by four other yachts and a catamaran used for backpacker accommodation. Gale force winds and large seas were forecast and, in preparation, the skipper laid out a second anchor and let out 30 metres of chain on each one. He also tried unsuccessfully to secure the yacht to a small yellow mooring buoy close by.

During the night, the skipper checked the yacht’s position and concluded that the anchors were dragging. The beach appeared to be close and, with a 4 metre spring tide expected, he feared becoming grounded.

As he steered the yacht across the bay, the skipper missed seeing the anchor light of another yacht and collided with it.

The skipper decided to move into the middle of the bay by motoring forward, pulling the anchors from the mud and dragging them behind the yacht to the new position, where he intended to raise them and re-anchor.

As he steered the yacht across the bay, the skipper missed seeing the anchor light of another yacht and collided with it.

He kept motoring forward, then lost steerage as his yacht’s anchor chains snagged the ground tackle of another yacht, setting it adrift. The boats swung together and locked. Without power, they drifted down and collided with a third yacht.

Eventually someone came alongside in an inflatable and boarded the runaway yacht, cutting the other two loose. As it motored away to a new mooring, the runaway yacht again failed to see another yacht’s anchor light and hit the vessel.

Once freed, the other two yachts were swept onshore and grounded, lucky to miss some charted rocks and a kayak carrier anchored just offshore. They were also fortunate they grounded an hour and a half after high tide, and so avoided being dumped even higher up the beach. The yachts were beached until the following mid-morning when, with a great deal of assistance, they were able to be launched with the changing tide.


  • Had the yacht’s skipper ensured his anchors were fully secure, he may not have needed to change position at the height of the storm. Although he had tried to take precautions by lowering a second anchor, his main anchor should have been heavy and strong enough that he could be confident of his yacht staying secure in heavy weather.
  • The skipper of the yacht decided to move around a busy anchorage in darkness and at the height of a storm, without hauling up the anchors. As a result, his vessel became tangled and, in the ensuing chaos, collided with other yachts and caused two of them to run aground.
  • The skipper failed to see the anchor lights of two vessels, resulting in two collisions.
    • Apart from the potential for injuries and loss of life in the prevailing rough conditions and spring tide, there was also the risk of sustaining damage to his own and other vessels and being held liable for the repair costs. The damaged yachts’ insurance companies sought and received damages from the owner of the runaway yacht.

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