Ship Stranding On Our Doorstep

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 10 Oct 2011 08:45
Tauranga is in the news in New Zealand - a big container ship is stranded on a reef about 11 miles from the harbour entrance. It's a big ship - over 700ft long and loaded with containers (see below), and it hit the reef at 17 knots, so seems firmly attached! It received quite a bit of damage and is leaking fuel oil. Not a huge amount, but enough to cause a 5km slick and with wildlife reserves all around there is great concern. There is a possibility that the ship might break up spilling all it's fuel oil tanks and causing an environmental disaster. They managed to get another ship alongside today to start pumping the fuel oil off, but had to give up as the weather has deteriorated and will get worse overnight - high winds and a big 3 metre swell are forecast. No one is saying yet how the ship managed to hit the reef. It was in the middle of the night and calm weather, but the seas here are well charted and it was probably more difficult to hit it than miss it. On our electronic charts and chartplotter, reefs like this only appear if you have it on a small range, so zoom out and it disappears. To counter this, we put waypoints on the chart, marked by a skull and crossbones symbol (which we always use to mark dangers, be they pirates or rocks!). Waypoints always show regardless of the range, so it was clearly visible to us when we came past it on our arrival here.  
Not much work on the boat this week. I've had a bad cold and the weather's not been good. It's raining again now and it's expected to continue on and off most of the week. Next week is looking better, so fingers crossed that we might be able to start painting. The weather (and rugby - what a disappointment!!) have delayed progress and we're going to be living in the boat out of the water in the boatyard for a few more weeks yet. It's probably not a bad thing with the ship threatening to leak more oil, as with the forecast direction of the wind and swell, oil may enter the marina and it would not have been good to go back in the water and then get oiled up. We had that happen once in Portugal and it's really messy stuff that sticks to the water line and takes forever to get rid of. And when you scrub you end up taking off all the antifouling - not what you want if you've only just put it on! Living in a boatyard is never particularly easy, but this is probably the best we've experienced. We have water and electricity right next to the boat, so we can easily fill our 680 litre water tanks and plug our 240 volt ring main directly in, and we're less than 50 yards from the marina shower/toilet block. Unlike most other yards that are gravel, this yard is covered by tarmac so it stays pretty clean. It's also slightly sloping so all the run off (rain or from using hoses to get rid of old antifouling) goes into a drain that runs alongside the yard. Just to show how environmentally conscious New Zealand is, that drain is pumped into a big filter tank. From there it goes through 4 more big filter tanks, one after the other, before being allowed to drain into the harbour. Never seen that anywhere else!