Lost yachtie lived for 'dream' boat
Charlie Gallagher's love of the sea became a family affair, which included his "mistress", his beloved yacht, Mrs Jones.
He died on Saturday despite a desperate bid by crew member Jo Ivory to save him after he was swept overboard by a large wave near treacherous Cape Jackson - the headland that juts out into Queen Charlotte Sound.
Mr Gallagher was recently separated from his wife Sue, who said that Mrs Jones was the yacht her husband had always dreamed of, and sailing was a passion she had learned to compete with.
The couple's four children were gathering in Nelson, including eldest son Tim who works in the superyacht industry and was returning from Europe, Kelsee, who has recently graduated from the NMIT superyacht course, Ross, a student at Canterbury University and Abby, who is studying viticulture in Blenheim.
Mr Gallagher, 52, was not wearing a lifejacket or harnessed to the 11-metre Elliott racing yacht when he fell overboard in heavy seas, about 2pm on Saturday.
Ms Ivory, an experienced coastal and offshore sailor, was sailing with Mr Gallagher from Nelson to Picton, and did everything she physically could to save him.
Mrs Jones was launched in Auckland in early 2006 and delivered to Nelson where a champagne launch was held, Mrs Gallagher said.
"The yacht was exactly what he wanted. He loved the designs of Greg Elliott.
"She was named after the song Me and Mrs Jones, because of the ‘thing' he had going on with her.
"It was always Charlie and Mrs Jones," Mrs Gallagher said.
The Dunedin-born couple moved to Nelson from Auckland around 22 years ago, which allowed Mr Gallagher to further develop his new-found passion for sailing.
He had bought his first trailer sailer in Auckland and towed it to Nelson, where they moved to raise their family.
Mrs Gallagher adopted his love of sailing, but never liked racing, except for the occasional times she took the helm for the Tasman Bay Cruising Club's annual ladies' race.
"I tried to share his passion. I joined the cruising club committee and I loved that and the people I met there."
Family holidays in Abel Tasman National Park, and socialising with other yachties at Anchorage, were among the best times.
"We had lots of times in Anchorage. It was special to us," Mrs Gallagher said.
The couple's children grew up with the Nelson Yacht Club's learn to sail programme, and the elder two who h graduated from NMIT's superyacht crewing course, have careers in sailing.
The tight-knit Nelson yachting community was in shock at the loss of a "great guy" and very experienced yachtsman.
Two of his closest sailing companions, Adrian Mullan and Dave Pinker, were currently overseas on a yacht delivery trip.
Long-time sailing buddy Mark "Howdie" Howard, who has sailed with Mr Gallagher for around a decade, said of his friend and his yacht: "That boat was him. It was his dream.
"He just loved being at sea on it. He knew how to handle that boat and I would have gone anywhere with him. He was a safe skipper, but a wave can hit anywhere, any time."
Mr Howard said Mr Gallagher was also a "good mate".
"We had a lot of fun, not just racing but on delivery trips around New Zealand."
Mr Howard crewed on Mrs Jones on the 2009 and 2011 Coastal Classic race from Auckland to the Bay of Islands.
"We had a great trip on that last race but on the way back we got stuck for a week at Mangonui [in Northland].
"We had a lot of fun sitting there all that time," Mr Howard said.
He described Mr Gallagher as having a "heart of gold", and many mistook his sometimes gruff manner.
"That was just his outside persona.
"He's been great to me and my family. He was always there to give good advice."
Auckland yacht designer Greg Elliott, who designed Mrs Jones for Mr Gallagher, said it was a tragedy he could not quite believe.
"He was a fantastic client to work with because he knew what he wanted," Mr Elliott said.
"He was great to deal with and such a happy customer when he sailed that boat out of Auckland," he said.
He described Mr Gallagher as a "larger than life" character, whom he admired for following his dream.
Mr Elliott said "plenty of people sit on their hands and do nothing", but it was fantastic someone like Charlie had the passion to push on and commission the boat of his dreams.
"This is a tragedy I can't believe but you take your life into your own hands and you need to take precautions to stay alive," Mr Elliott said.
- © Fairfax NZ News