Tugboat set adrift and rescued by the tide
BRIAN Burton in his 34 years as a Master Mariner has never experienced a vessel being untied from its mooring by those who shouldn't be touching it - until he came to Ballina.
Mr Burton was understandably upset that the tug Snipe was untied - particularly as it was bringing work to the region.
"We're just so lucky that it's still intact," he said after the vessel was left to drift upstream in the Richmond River.
The Port Macquarie-based delivery captain pulled into Ballina on Wednesday afternoon during the heavy weather and tied the 12m Gold Coast-based tug he was contracted to sail to Woodburn to the boardwalk outside the Ballina RSL Club for the night.
Ballina Shire Council's civil services group manager, John Truman, confirmed the council-managed boardwalk was for pedestrians and "is not a wharf".
But that doesn't excuse the people who untied the tug.
When Mr Burton returned to collect it yesterday morning the six ropes holding the vessel had been untied and the tug drifted with the incoming tide to the northern bank of the Richmond River near Henry Philp Ave where it came to rest.
"We're very lucky," he said.
"If it was an outgoing tide - she may have gone out to sea."
Even with the incoming tide, the tug missed rock walls and a stormwater pipe, and it was lucky it didn't drift further upstream where it could have made its way into the Trawler Harbour.
"It could have caused a lot of damage," Mr Burton said.
Mr Burton said the insured tug's propeller was protected by a casing and an initial inspection didn't reveal any major damage to the hull.
The tug is being delivered to Woodburn where it will have about $80,000 of modification work, including the fitting of a crane, and a complete inspection of the vessel will be made when it is slipped.
It was able to sail yesterday once the tide came in.
The tug, with a 1.4m draught, was tied up at Ballina to wait for the next high tide to sail to Woodburn.
Mr Truman said the boardwalk "is for pedestrians and is not an appropriate mooring site for vessels".
"There are tie-up fittings along the boardwalk and fender rubbing strips; however, these are for short-term access for recreational boats, and not long-term mooring," he said.
Mr Burton has contacted the Ballina RSL Club for CCTV footage.