Court told luxury yacht had ‘more hits than Elvis Presley’
THE skipper who was drunk and had sex with a stewardess while taking a luxury boat from Brisbane to the Gold Coast "looked like death" the morning after the vessel collided with boats and ran aground, a court has been told.
Cheya Veronica Handley, 26, pleaded not guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court to two counts of risking the safety of a person or commercial vessel.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Hunter told the court the Crystal Blue was involved in a number of marine incidents between Brisbane and the Gold Coast on March 3 last year.
Jeremy Piggott, also known as JJ, was skipper and Handley was the stewardess when the boat ran into another vessel, a channel marker, ran aground and drifted in circles, the court was told.
"The skipper was heavily intoxicated and so was Handley," Mr Hunter said.
"There was a period of time where the two were engaged in sexual intercourse."
Piggott, 46, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of master recklessly contravening his duty to ensure safety of vessels, marine safety equipment or operations.
He was fined $4000 and placed on a good behaviour bond for two years.
The pair were bringing the luxury boat back from a four hour charter in Brisbane where guests had partied with topless waitresses.
The former owner of Crystal Blue Grant Wharington said he ordered Piggott to the moored luxury yacht at Marina Mirage after noticing a number of scratches on both sides of the boat on the day after the incident.
"(Piggott) looked like death, he looked like he had a huge hangover," he said.
"All he said to me was, 'I thought we might have hit something'."
Mr Wharington said the boat looked like it had "more hits than Elvis Presley".
He told the court he spoke to Handley about her talking to Marine Safety Queensland investigators about what happened that night.
"It would have been pretty obvious that we wanted to know what had gone on," he said.
"She knew we really liked her working for the business, we wanted her back but we weren't going to make it easy. It would have been pretty easy (to know) what we wanted."
Mr Wharington said MSQ marine officer Steven Knowles told him Handley's statement was needed and it would be good for her.
"(Mr Knowles) said to me that their intention would be to give her a slap on the wrist," he said.
In the interview with Mr Knowles, which was played to the court, Handley said the vessel grounded multiple times during the night. She said just before 3am she went onto the bow with Piggott where they had sex while the boat was adrift.
"He was using the remote (to drive the boat) while you guys were being intimate?" Mr Knowles asked. "Yes," Handley replied.
Handley said in the interview the collisions did not happen while the pair were having sex.
The court was told the owner found an empty bottle of vodka on the Crystal Blue the next day.
"I doubt we had that whole bottle and it could have possibly been from the charter," Handley said.
She also told Mr Knowles she had four or five vodkas when the boat hit the moored vessel minutes after hitting the channel marker.
She said JJ did not stop and she did not know why he did not stop.
Handley later told the court she felt coerced by her boss to do the interview with marine officials.
Handley said her boss, Mr Wharington, told her she needed to talk to marine investigators to keep her job.
"I felt pressured and coerced into it," she said.
When asked by defence barrister David Funch, instructed by Howden Saggers Lawyers, who she felt coerced by, she replied her boss, Mr Wharington.
Handley said she had been told she lost her job and she thought by giving the interview she might get her job back.
"I wanted my job back and I got told the interview was nothing to do with me and it was do with a case against JJ and so I could get my job back," she said.
Under cross examination by prosecutor Jeffery Hunter, Handley told the court she only had two conversations with Mr Wharington about doing the interview.
Handley also told the court her other boss David Fisher also encouraged her to do an interview with marine officials.
The trial continues.