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Marina mayhem: Captains reveal their most memorable moments

5 August 2019 • Written by Risa Merl

Marinas provide a safe haven, but that doesn’t mean they are safe from mishaps and misbehaviour. Superyacht captains confess their most memorable marina moments to Risa Merl (names have been omitted to protect the innocent… and the not so innocent).

Captain of a 50m yacht in the South of France

“I worked for one owner who always had different types of people on board, so I was used to that… but one summer day we were moored in the South of France and things got a little out of control. He arrived with his family (normal enough) then they all left for a day on shore. The owner came back in the afternoon, saying his wife and kids were still out shopping (also still totally normal) but he had this woman with him who I’d never seen before and he introduced her as his girlfriend. They spent the afternoon on the boat together, then all of a sudden he shooed her off the boat, and the wife and kids appeared, as if he had choreographed it all. But later I noticed the girlfriend was sitting in the restaurant right across from where we were moored stern-to in the marina.

She was just staring at the yacht while chain-smoking cigarettes and drinking. She sat there all night until at some point the owner snuck out of the boat. This continued for a few days, until one night he didn’t go to meet her, so when the restaurant closed she came really close and just stared at the boat for hours. Then she started talking to the crew member on watch at night. He wouldn’t let her on board, of course, so she started screaming, causing a big scene, and a marina security guard came by. At that point the owner came out to talk to her. She finally went away, and we didn’t see her again for the rest of the summer. There was something very Fatal Attraction about it all.”

Drone disaster in the Bahamas. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Captain of a 65m yacht in Paradise Island, the Bahamas

Drones can be fun, but they can also be a nuisance. We were moored in a marina in the Bahamas when another yacht’s drone flew overhead and hovered right over the sundeck where guests were sunbathing. It wasn’t just passing by, it hovered for a while and definitely overstayed its welcome. The crew were trying to figure out which boat it came from and alerted me, but one of the guests got really upset and started throwing cushions at it. He missed, and we lost a few cushions overboard.”

Captain of a 49m motor yacht in Capri, Italy

“We were in Capri on a charter during the 2006 World Cup. Our guests had gone ashore to watch the final and to allow us to enjoy watching it on board. Italy were playing France, and as it happened we were an Italian crewed boat with a French boat right next to us. We were both watching the game on the televisions on the aft deck and shouting to each other the entire time, it was crazy. Then Italy won! The crew on the French boat immediately went inside and closed all the blinds, hiding in shame. Our charter clients came back, and we were all jumping in the water in our underpants. Then everyone around the marina jumped in and it became a huge celebration – but I had to swim to rescue one of our charter guests because we didn’t have space to put down the swim ladder and he couldn’t get back up from the water.”

"It was a floating dock, so when he hit it, everyone on the dock fell as well, like dominoes." Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Illustration above by Robert G Freeson.

Captain of a 45m motor yacht in Charleston, US

“It didn’t happen to me, but I saw everything. We were in Charleston, South Carolina, and there was a sportfishing yacht coming in like a real hot rod. The captain was standing with his back to the helm, working the throttles without looking at them. It was a beautiful Rybovich sportfisher with a varnished transom, an absolutely stunning boat. But this guy was being a show off, going way too fast. All of a sudden he went to pull out of gear, and he missed. That beautiful transom went square into the dock, and he hit it so hard that he flew over the rail into the cockpit below. To make matters worse, it was a floating dock, so when the boat hit it, everyone on the dock fell as well, like dominoes. I would not have wanted to be him having to tell the owner what happened.”

Captain of a 45m motor yacht in Ukraine

“I ran a boat that the owner kept in Ukraine for a while, and sometimes when we came into the port people would be gathered on the dock, waving – being such a large yacht we were a bit of a celebrity. One day we came in to dock and a very drunk Russian decided it would be a good idea to swim out to us, but my props were still in reverse! He wanted to get on the swim platform and board the boat, but our transom opened up, not down. So, when this guy finally got hold of the transom door, we pushed the button for it to open and it just pushed him into the sea. It’s one way to get rid of unwanted visitors.”

First published in the February 2018 edition of Boat International.