‘Limitless’, reached its limit

‘Limitless’, reached its limit


Respecting Mother Nature when boating is a fundamental prerequisite, and a captain shall always be alert that a happy day boating can quickly become a disastrous boating day. Preparation, experience, awareness and control are the tools needed to command your vessel. 


But on this day, the stage was set for the plastic fantastic Limitless. She encountered a beach doing nothing but being a beach, a jetty doing nothing but being a jetty, yet the sexy 70 foot Sunseeker Predator was about to entertain onlookers for pretty much two days.


It started out just wrong, and got even better when the big white whale approached our Mordialloc pier with pace. She thrust into reverse with bubbling mounds of white foam slapping up its bum pulling the big boat to a rapid stop. From my perch I excitedly reached for the big eyes thinking we might well be sitting front row to see some serious expensive crunching take place (All the better if it is not your expensive crunching).


Up in the helm area, which looked somewhat like a spaceship control centre, I could see the small heads bobbing around inside, a head out the window, directions being given to the crew, a person sent to the foredeck and a fair bit of pointing to a fella on the pier. Now I understood it – they were planning to collect groceries from that fellow holding a couple of green Woollies bags on the end of the pier! Brilliant! This could be a costly pick up.


Fishermen at the end of the pier looked perplexed by the intrusion and I was certainly now turning pink with excitement – the big white beast’s tactic looked to be an approach from the upwind side of the pier with a nice 15 knot westerly pushing her onto the pier – oh no! no! no! I thought, but at the same time yes! yes! yes! this was to be a thorough bust up. Polished Plastic versus a slimy old pier – the battle was about to begin although I already knew who would win.


Like a sumo posturing to wrestle a large rock, the Sunseeker went forward, then suddenly into reverse, then forward and reverse again but more quickly with more white stuff now surging and bubbling all around the boat. The Pier did nothing. The fella on the pier held station with arms stretched out over the railing, groceries swinging.


Approach, withdraw, approach, and another withdrawal – then silence as the frothed up white water gained a chance to settle. The little heads in the cockpit got together and then the tender locker opened. Ahah, plan ‘B’. ‘Launch the luna lander to get the groceries’! Geez this was getting interesting, particularly with the stern of the boat facing into the wind. Captain also dropped the anchor with the boat (I was thinking the wrong way around) arse about, but we all remain open to learn new tricks. The luna lander copped some nasty waves rolling into the stern hatch pushing it all about the place then finally she was launched. I noted during the kerfuffle the anchor chain looked a little vertical for my liking. Didn’t really look like it had set. With Plan B now in operation my excitement began to dwindle, could it be possible that this would all be over when the crumpets and jam were safely on-board?


Yes, no, yes? Crumpets made it aboard, the anchor never set, yes she’s on the beach!


I called a short time out to phone about 50 of my closest friends, then regained focus. Stuck at first on the second sandbar then slipping to the first sandbar, the passengers were now conveniently much closer for observation. They looked well dressed, hair straightened or gelled, wearing designer sunglasses and a ciggy or two held as you do. They appeared unaware of the peril, perhaps thinking they had landed on a sunny Sardinian beach. Not much was going on for a while until the luna lander made tracks to the Aspendale beach. By now a crowd had gathered, news reporters, Police, locals, parking officers, dogs barking at it, children squinting and pointing at it and out of an Uber dropped a hired Master V skipper who was transferred aboard. Let’s just call him ’Scapegoat’ for now.


With a skipper aboard not much was likely to change because they were stuck aground. Gen set running chuffing out white smoke I guess because its raw water intake was stuffed with sand or it was partially out of the water or both, but hair straighteners, coffee machines, ice makers and fridges need to run! Right?


Police arrive… in the biggest boat they have. Attempts over hours pulling the bow, left, then right over and over with two broken tow lines fail – but one last go as the tide began to drop after high, the big white whale was afloat between the bars. Fists on the aft deck punched the air, spectators seated row after row on the sandbags cheered. I was not so confident. The police boat towed Limitless north between the first and second sandbars looking for an escape channel, but as saved whales sometimes do, Limitless headed back to towards the shore and beached itself again. Instinct I guess, it just wanted to die that day.


Sunset came, police boat left. The luna module came to the creek and we chatted. I recognised a mate was the driver and he was freezing. We got him a jacket, dried him and warmed him up - bailed out the tender boat and I guess this is when we got involved. He was ashore to receive several Uber deliveries. Toilet paper, dog food, drinking water and a bus load of KFC. I skipped the ‘luna lander’ jet powered tender which was a horrible poorly maintained thing back out to deliver the supplies. Now dark and a considerable shore break beating against the side of Limitless we did the transfer of supplies and took off the Master V skipper. Approximately 6 persons remained on-board for a very unpleasant night as waves crashed and broke over the big beached whale while she lay stranded on her side. Returning to the creek we copped several waves flooding the tender. I briefed the two others aboard if we overturned to swim to the beach and not towards the pier but it all worked out.


Sunday morning we launched a better RIB to do the ferry trips to Limitless – still stuck on her side, morning light catching the still choking gen set smoke. The Master V skipper returned with a couple of proper Maritime fellas from Baghwan Marine based up in the Yarra. Plan was to return with a 350 ton barge to persuade Limitless to return to the sea on the next high tide. Later that day the impressive big barge arrived with a support boat, a crew of fellas in yellow hard hats, divers and heavy duty equipment. Able to access the shallow water around Limitless we delivered tow lines and the Baghwan crew to prepare them for the tow. All was in place but for the owner to accept the conditions of an email that I gather had to do with damage and likely cost to commence with the ‘salvage’. All in place the show began. 350 tons vs 60 ton. The large barge was anchored 300 meters to sea. The tow line tensioned on a massive scale winch used for towing ships. The line lifted from the water over its entire length. A man in a hard hat was stationed in the bow of limitless reporting over the radio the creeks and groans from the fibreglass shell. All the rest hid protected in case of something breaking. There she sat, not an inch of movement… but over time the crew knew that the action of the waves would wriggle the boat enough for the tow line tension to do its thing – and it did. She then gently slipped forward towards freedom and away from today's patient crowd. It all looked controlled and gentle enough although underwater stabilisers had dug into the sand and didn’t fare so well. 


Towed a distance out to sea, Bagwhan Marine sent a diver below in a full suit with air lines attached. An underwater camera mounted to his helmet relayed live images to a screen as they checked for damage. This was a serious professional operation with a second diver ready to assist if required. Some fuel escaped into the sea from a bilge pump but that was swiftly dealt with. A well executed salvage was complete and the powerless carcass was then towed to the Yarra for monitoring overnight.


A few days later she was towed to Martha Cove for slipping and many weeks of repairs followed. In a way, she found a new limit but an expensive way to find it.




NIGEL Abbott 



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