Friendship survives boat smash

By Kristin Edge

Dan Peters' fishing launch has been smashed to pieces but his friendship with the mate who steered the 14.6-metre vessel on to rocks off Northland's coast remains intact.

Yesterday a salvage operation using a barge equipped with a crane was to haul the submerged motor and diesel tanks from the bottom of the ocean after the launch Southern Comfort struck trouble about 10pm on February 8. A marine insurance assessor was also on site and would consider whether the owner would be paid out or pay the salvage costs.

Nothing remained of the wooden hull, with most of it ending up in pieces on the beach in the Mimiwhangata Coastal Park.

Life rings were discovered further south at Ocean Beach, near Whangarei Heads this week.

Dan Peters, 61, has owned Southern Comfort for 20 years, and for the last two has moored the launch at Tutukaka Marina and has travelled from Auckland for gamefishing.

Last week he organised with four mates to spend the weekend marlin fishing.

Mr Peters said they steamed north and were looking to anchor in Whangaruru Harbour when he became sick.

"I've never been sick before so it was real unusual," he said.

"I suspect it was food poisoning."

He had the boat on auto pilot and his friend went up to sit in the flybridge. But before he could return to take over the controls Southern Comfort ended up on rocks near Otawhanga Island in the Mimiwhangata Coastal Park.

"He'd taken it off autopilot and was doing the steering and by this time it was dark," Mr Peters said.

"There were rocks all around us and we couldn't back out. I checked for leaks and then made a mayday call."

The life raft was inflated and he rowed two of his friends to shore. He returned to the boat and by that time a launch and a crew with the Whangaruru Coastguard had responded to the call for help and had the other two friends with them. Eventually coastguard took all five men to Whangaruru.

Mr Peters was emotional as he described his loss: "She's been destroyed ... it's gut wrenching. I spent so much time and money on her over 20 years and now it's all gone."

Last September he had dropped the insurance to $60,000 cover due to increasing payments following the Christchurch earthquake.

While the boat was insured, the gear on board was not. That included dive gear, about $40,000 of fishing lures plus rods and reels.

Then there were personal items such as photo albums and treasures he had collected from his sea adventures. He said the boat had a kauri hull and been built in Whangarei and launched in 1984.

Northland Regional Council (NRC) deputy harbourmaster Chidambaram Surendran had been notified of the stricken boat and on Saturday had sent a vessel capable of cleaning up diesel spills to the site. It was reported up to 900 litres of diesel was on the boat. Mr Surendran said by the time the NRC boat arrived the diesel had dispersed.

- Northern Advocate

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