There are two sides to every story.
What the reporter told us:
We were anchored in a creek in a river estuary and had taken alongside an accompanying boat for repairs to their anchor winch. Both boats, motor cruisers of around 12m in length, were well fendered.
Whilst anchored, we noticed a pilot boat heading in our direction at some speed. The pilot boat made no attempt to slow down and passed us at a distance of 20m at an estimated speed of 12 knots, creating a wash 1 metre in height. The wash threw both boats violently together, damaging the rubbing strake of our boat and bending and ripping out the accompanying boat’s stanchions. In addition, four of the fenders burst.
I immediately called the pilot boat on VHF asking for them to stop and come back and assess the damage. The pilot boat asked where we were and identified itself. The pilot boat returned to our location and I asked for their company name and insurance details. I was given the name of their company and was informed that they had to maintain speed due to the strength of the wind – they were, however, apparently able to hold station 4 metres from us without any problem. After a brief exchange the pilot boat circled us a couple of times and then another crew member appeared in an aggressive manner and proceeded to inform us the incident was our fault for not fendering properly. When challenged about their speed he declined to comment and proceeded to insult us at which time our skipper lost his temper and swore at the crew member. I tried to calm the situation and then the pilot boat circled us again. A crew member appeared from the pilot vessel’s wheelhouse with outstretched arms shouting at us that we could do nothing to them at which point they left. Upon checking our AIS, they did not show up.
The reporter wrote to the managers of the pilot boat who requested that a report be submitted for evaluation. CHIRP also wrote to the managers. The operations manager promptly responded by telephone and advised CHIRP that the facts were still being gathered from the reporter, the launch crew and the local Vessel Traffic Service but initial indications showed discrepancies between the three accounts. Subsequently, the reporter failed to respond to CHIRP’s request for an update on two occasions but the operations manager for the launch responded by telephone and advised CHIRP that the incident was closed and whilst there were still discrepancies between the different accounts, the pilot boat operators had agreed to pay for the repairs to the motor cruisers as a show of good faith.
Situational awareness is essential. All seafarers, whether professional or recreational, need to be mindful of and considerate towards other boat users at all times.
Whatever the situation there is no need for aggressive behaviour or abusive language, it is unnecessary and invariably counterproductive.
The willing engagement by the operations manager with CHIRP was noted and is encouraging.