Close Call - Skis Meet Catamaran

Thursday, 01 November 2007 17:29 | Written by 
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Gordon's Bay, Cape Town, South Africa.  Kyle Mahood saw the big 30ft catamaran motor slowly out of the harbor.  "Great," he thought, "they're coming to help."  But to his horror, he saw the big fishing boat rapidly accelerate, heading directly for them and he realized that the skipper hadn't seen them. 

Theo Conradie's surf ski
Kyle Mahood & Theo Conradie with the wreckage of Theo's ski (Pic: Theo Conradie)

Training Paddle

Kyle and his friend Theo Conradie had been for an evening paddle from Gordon's Bay in the direction of the Steenbras River mouth.  On the way back, the southeaster had picked up and had kicked up a 2ft chop.  In the rough water, Theo, a newcomer to paddling, fell off his ski near to the Gordon's Bay harbor entrance.

When he saw that Theo was in some difficulty, Kyle paddled across and came alongside his ski, holding it steady.  Theo boosted himself onto the ski and, draped across, paused to catch his breath.  At that moment, Kyle saw the catamaran come out of the harbor entrance.

Sunset Cruise

Alan du Plessis, owner of the catamaran, was heading out of the harbor for a sunset cruise.  "It was such a nice evening," he said, "that I called my girlfriend, got a bottle of wine, and we headed out for a sundowner."

The boat had just been put back into the water having been on the ramp for a few days for maintenance.

"When we got out of the harbor," Alan said, "I opened her up to give her a bit of a run."

"Maybe they can help"

Kyle watched the boat as it turned towards them.  He thought that perhaps the catamaran could come alongside and it would be easier for Theo to get back on his ski its lee.

Then to his horror, the boat was coming straight at them at high speed and he realized the skipper hadn't seen them.  Some youngsters on the upper deck were screaming and thumping the deck.  In an instant the boat had smashed over the two paddlers and they were left floundering in the water behind it.

Theo Conradie's surf ski
Where he'd been sitting... (Pic: Murray Williams)

"I just didn't see them"

"My girlfriend and I were looking through the windscreen", said Alan, "when we heard the kids thumping on the deck.  I thought that perhaps they wanted me to slow down while they climbed down from the bridge.  Then I heard the thump as we hit the skis.  It was so quick."

"I just didn't see them in the water," he said, "until I turned around and saw them behind us.  I got the fright of my life.  I just didn't even want to look."

Apart from a few bruises, the two paddlers weren't hurt.  But both skis were cut in two - at exactly the point that Kyle had been sitting.

Alan turned his boat and went back to pick the two paddlers up.  "The guys were badly shaken," he said, "and were swearing at me like crazy.  I couldn't blame them.  I'd told them if I'd been them I'd have wanted to floor me."

"What can I say," said a still obviously shaken Alan, "it was a freak accident.  All I can say is that it was a combination of the boats being low in the water - especially with one of the paddlers lying on his boat; the fading light conditions and the chop on the water.  I just didn't see them."

"I'm waiting for their phone call," he added, "so that I can arrange for the insurance to pay for the damage."

Lucky escape

"We were hit by the right hand hull," said Kyle, "and I dived off my ski so that I was on the outside of the hull; Theo went between the hulls.  How the props missed us I just don't know."

The two men had flares and cell phones with them and Kyle immediately called the NSRI - but Alan turned and picked them up.  "I'm just thankful I wasn't using an ankle leash," said Kyle.

"Freak Accident"

"This was very much a freak accident," said NSRI spokesman, Craig Lambinon.  "Alan du Plessis is an extremely experienced skipper and is very highly regarded."

"We would appeal to paddlers to be as visible as possible," he went on, "to take care near harbor entrances and to be aware how difficult it is to see surf skis, especially in low light conditions."

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