One of the coolest near disasters ever
Published on February 14th, 2022
When Scuttlebutt shared a video that looked back on the 1974 America’s Cup, it rekindled a memory during that summer for Moose McClintock which would have melted the internet today. But with no social media yet invented, we let Moose tell the story:
As a born and bred Newport native, I was lucky to watch almost every 12 Meter America’s Cup (a little young for the 1958 match but was on the water for all the others), but the most spectacular 12 Meter moment I witnessed was actually at the old Derecktor yard in Mamaroneck, NY.
I was in town waiting to get picked up for a 505 regatta and staying with my college team mate, Ken Legler. We went down to Derecktors to check out the boats being dropped in the water for the Block Island Race, which was taking place that afternoon.
Derecktor had a huge crane that stabbed the sky, and it was picking up boats off the hard and dropping them in on the other side of a huge fishing boat that was in a slip adjacent to the crane. The crane driver couldn’t see the boats splash; he just dropped it in and watched a guy on the dock give him a thumbs up when it was time to raise the hook.
On a dock perpendicular to that of the fishing boat sat the 12 Meter Mariner. It had just been launched, with no rig in it yet, and the fishing boat’s bow flair was overhanging Mariners transom. We checked it out and then went to the other side of the marina to get a better look at the boats getting launched.
While we stood there, another boat was launched, and once again the guy on the dock gave the thumbs up and the hook started to rise. The dock guy walked up the ramp to start the process again, but this time, the hook was a little close to the fishing boat, and since the crane operator couldn’t see the hook, he didn’t notice the hook had snagged the rail of the fishing boat.
As can only happen in a completely unscripted real life disaster to be, we suddenly heard the voice of Mariner’s skipper Ted Turner, yakking loudly in that southern twang as he led a group of reporters down the pier, taking them down to see his new ride, with the whole troop staring at him, enthralled as he rambled on, writing down his every word.
Ken and I looked at them, and then back at the fishing boat which was slowly being lifted out of the water, right over Mariner’s transom. We looked back at Turner’s entourage, now walking down the ramp toward the 12, Turner still obliviously carrying on, then back at the fishing boat, slowly rising higher over the transom.
Ken and I looked at each other, the only people aware of the impending issue, and asked each other if we should say something.
Turner’s group was now right at the boat and we were just about to yell when the weight of the fishing boat won the tug of war with the crane, ripping the rail off the boat and dropping it right on the back of the 12. Turner turned to look as the noise of the rail ripping off made a horrible groan, just in time to see the fishing boat drop.
In what could only be called a weird quirk of fate, the centerline of the fishing boat was about 2-feet aft of the transom of the 12, with the flair of the fishing boat’s bow sliding down on the 12’s reverse transom.
Mariner was violently shoved forward, ripping off its dock lines and sending it up onto the perpendicular dock where its bow climbed a full 10 to 12 feet up before the downward slope of the keel stopped it, dropping Mariner back into the water.
Of course, the place went wild. Turner was screaming, the reporters terrified, the crane driver stunned, and two college sophomores laughing hysterically. If that fishing boat had been another 3-feet over, it would have carved the back of the boat right off and gotten a head start on the transom rebuild she went through at the end of the summer.
One of the coolest near disasters ever.