Big Aggie Sails Again
Big Aggie left Gulf Harbour for Moturekareka Island early on Saturday morning, soon after Sylvia arrived by car from Warkworth. Over the years, the wreck of the Rewa had been attacked by the action of wind and sea. When Blanco and Sylvia arrived it was high tide and only the two ends of the wreck were visible above the waves. The jagged centre portion lurked centimetres beneath the surface. True to form, Big Aggie was the last to arrive, partly due to Blanco’spoor sailing and partly since, on the way, he and Sylvia had anchored up to do some fishing.
There were several yachts and small launches behind the wreck, among them Firecracker, Chardon, Rupert Bear and Woftam. The yachts were rafted together, their bow lines secured to the wreck itself and their stern anchors streaming aft towards the beach in order to hold the boats steady. The bay was a tranquil and pretty place. The bush-covered hills on the island climbed steeply from the beach, sheltering the anchored boats from the wind.
Blanco had dropped his sails early and was approaching the wreck under power. “Let's have some fun,” he said to Sylvia as he opened the throttle of his outboard engine and Big Aggie picked up speed. He knew full well from the advice in his handbook that he had to go around the end of the wreck not through the centre. The handbook read:‘Yachts drawing less than 1.8 metres may enter the east portion of the bay, holding close to the stern of the Rewa’.
'Just for a laugh', Blanco decided deliberately to aim full speed at the clear water above the submerged centre portion of the wreck.
His action caused pandemonium in the remainder of the Chapman Twenty fleet, who assumed Blanco was unaware of the twisted metal lurking menacingly beneath the surface. The closer Blanco got, the more exaggerated became the waving as they attempted to warn him of the danger. Blanco thundered on, returning the greetings, and smiling to give the impression he thought the crews were welcoming Big Aggie’s arrival.
On Rupert Bear, Bruce’s concern for Blanco rapidly changed to concern for Leanne and himself. He reasoned that while Big Aggie would probably rip her bottom out on the wreck, at the speed she was travelling she would undoubtedly continue across the wreck and smash into the anchored boats - and Blanco was aiming directly at Rupert Bear. On all the boats, worried parents were clutching their children. Blanco laughed, beside himself with mirth at the chaos he was causing. At the last moment, he throttled down the motor, pushed across the tiller and allowed Big Aggie to swing away from the wreck.
“Had you fooled,” Blanco roared with laughter.
“Bloody idiot,” muttered Bruce to Leanne. As the remainder of the Chapman Twenty Association indignantly condemned the prank, Blanco began a long sweep in preparation to pass behind the wreck. Although Big Aggie had slowed down, she was still travelling at twice the speed that anyone else dared approach the wreck.
The combined effects of time and scrap metal dealers had so sadly depleted the wreck that at high tide it was difficult to tell the bow from the stern. Blanco noted children rowing out from one end of the wreck and headed in their direction.
“Blanco's coming in the wrong end,”saidthe skipper of Chardon. “He's coming around the bow instead of the stern.”
“Ignore him,” suggested Bruce. “He's just fooling about again.” To teach Blanco a lesson, the Chapman Twenty crews deliberately ignored him, turning to face the beach, aware only of the gathering din of Big Aggie’s outboard engine as she thundered towards them.
“Leaving it a bit late, isn't he?” speculated Bruce, without turning around. There was a terrible crash as Big Aggie hit an underwater obstruction and reared over it. Everyone turned around and watched in horror. Blanco was coming in around the wrong end. Big Aggie hit another obstruction. The rudder sprung up. Blanco and Sylvia were knocked off their feet.Big Aggie, totally out of control, careered towards the rest of the fleet.
“Abandon ship!” yelled Bruce. But no one moved, since there was no way of knowing where Big Aggie would end up. Fortunately, just before she reached the anchored boats, her outboard propeller became entangled in the stern line from one of the other boats. The engine stalled and Blanco scrambled to his feet. Big Aggie, as if ensnared in a giant elastic band, jerked to a halt, and then sprang sternwards, throwing Blanco onto the cockpit floor again.
“Well you could have warned me!” yelled Blanco accusingly, as he struggled to his feet again. The crews listened in disbelief.