Less than a month before fishing charter vessel the Francie capsized crossing the Kaipara Harbour bar, claiming the lives of eight men, it had to be rescued.

A Coastguard spokeswoman said it had towed the Francie back to shore because of a "mechanical issue" on October 30.

A fellow boatie told the Herald he had laid complaints about skipper Bill McNatty's competence with the Auckland Harbourmaster and Maritime New Zealand over the past 18 months.

"I told them they needed to do something about him because he is an accident waiting to happen," said Tony Walles, who has run the Kaipara Cat fishing charter for the past five years.


He claims that recently the motor on the Francie "crashed out" on McNatty when he was only halfway across the bar.

The Francie charter boat. Photo / Supplied
The Francie charter boat. Photo / Supplied

He claimed he was aware of at least four incidents where McNatty had behaved recklessly at the helm of the Francie, including smashing into concrete retainer power poles in the Helensville River, running the charter aground and driving too fast in an enclosed area.

On another occasion, Walles claimed McNatty broached his boat twice trying to cross the bar.

Saturday's accident claimed McNatty's life. Six of the 10 passengers on board also died. A further man remains missing.

Maritime New Zealand would not confirm if it had received complaints about McNatty because of active investigations into the deadly Kaipara disaster.

Under the Maritime Transport Act, the agency is responsible for regulating all maritime activity and it has the power to suspend or revoke seafarers' licences and impose conditions on vessels in the interests of safety.

Spokeswoman Sandra Ford said Maritime New Zealand would be "looking at all aspects of the operation, including any background on the operator".

A spokesman from the Auckland Harbourmaster said he did not have any complaints on record about McNatty.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is the lead investigator on the disaster.

Walles labelled McNatty's decision to cross the bar on Saturday "a lack of common sense".

In high swells, "we just don't cross the bar", Walles said.

"Generally the bar is a rough place. It's notorious in New Zealand and the odds are against you."

The Muriwai coast line was dotted with debris from the charter fishing vessel Francie that sank on Saturday 26th November. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Muriwai coast line was dotted with debris from the charter fishing vessel Francie that sank on Saturday 26th November. Photo / Greg Bowker

Rough conditions arise across the bar when water from inside the harbour tries to flow out into the sea and the wind pushes against the tide - this was what created the monster swells over the weekend, Walles said. All skippers know the risks and know the forecast, he said.

But Wayne Bollond, a friend of McNatty's who used to skipper the Francie, said the disaster was nothing more than a "real tragedy".

He said he was a "a good man who knew his craft well".

"I don't think the boat simply rolled over I think something else happened, it could've been a mechanical failure or anything," he said.

"Rough weather doesn't sink boats; it's a combination of things that sinks boats and I'm sure that will come out in the Maritime New Zealand report.

"The age-old story is would you send your family to sea with this man and the answer would be yes. That's about the highest accolade you would give any skipper and that's how I feel personally," Bollond said.