Watch: Fishing vessel runs aground on Canterbury beach


Recreational walkers along Waikuku Beach were confronted by an unusual sight early on Tuesday morning - a well-known clam dredger high and dry on the beach.

The discovery near the Ashley River Mouth drew several responses. "Karma", was how one passerby described it, while others questioned the crew's ability to get it back into the water.

Just after midnight on the morning of Tuesday, a stray line fouled the propellers of the clam dredger Storm Cat while it was operating off Waikuku Beach.

The Storm Cat and Cloudy Bay Clams operation has, in recent years, been the subject of criticism from locals and surfers at the small beach-side community.

Locals say the clam fishing practice, which operates close into shore, impacts the local topography, spoils fishing along the coast and disrupts recreational activities.

The master of the vessel, Chris, who did not want his surname published, said as soon as the line fouled he shut the motor off, dropped the anchor and turned into the surf.

"But the anchor dragged and with no means of steering the vessel we were turned around and beached which was the best outcome."

A stray line fouled the propellers of the clam dredger Storm Cat. Photo: John Cosgrove
A stray line fouled the propellers of the clam dredger Storm Cat. Photo: John Cosgrove
However, Chris says it was fortunate the anchor did drag as the conditions at the time and, at sunrise, were too dangerous to get a diver safely into the water to clear the fouling.

"By turning off the motors, I stopped any damage to the vessel's engines and cooling systems.

"I didn’t want sand and rocks ingressing and wrecking it and possibly causing an environmental disaster.’’

In his 15 years as a master of vessels, Chris says this is the first time anything like this has happened to him.

"Stuff happens. It’s the nature of the business dealing with nature where we are not in control of it, no matter how much we think we are.’’

The clam dredger owned by Cloudy Bay Clams, has been working the area immediately off shore from Waikuku Beach since December.

Once ashore, the crew secured the vessel and slept aboard it until first light.

At dawn the tide had dropped sufficiently for Chris and his crew to inspect the safety of the twin-hulled vessel, checking for any leaks or damage, unfouling the propellers and preparing for the next high tide to attempt a refloat of the vessel

"It’s a very study boat, we suffered no damage and there were no leaks.

"Maritime officials came out early in the morning and cleared us, so all we can do now is wait for the tide to come in, and the trawler to arrive to pull us back out."

Cloudy Bay Clams managing Director Isaac Piper says the crew had done everything correctly and now they were waiting for high tide to refloat the boat.

An investigation has been launched by Maritime NZ.

A Maritime NZ spokesperson confirmed that a “clam boat grounded at about 1.30am on March 19”.

“Those on board were able to safely get off,” the spokesperson said.

“This morning, Maritime NZ sent investigations staff to the scene to start inquiries. The investigation into the grounding is ongoing.”