Was the Nina seaworthy?

By Mike Barrington

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The search for the schooner Nina has been called off.

It is presumed the classic yacht, which left Opua with seven people on board on May 29, sank in a storm it was battling on June 4 when its last message was received.

The seaworthiness of the 85-year-old yacht is now being questioned.

And the owner of another overseas sailboat has been stopped from leaving the Bay of Islands because his yacht is considered unsafe.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre formally ended the search for the Nina on Saturday.

On board the 21-metre schooner when it left Opua were Americans skipper David Dyche III, 58, his wife Rosemary, 60, their son David Dyche IV, 17, Evi Nemeth, 73, Kyle Jackson, 27, Danielle Wright, 18, and Briton Matthew Wootton, 35.

The last message was Was missing Nina seaworthy?

If it [locator beacon] had [been on] we'd know where they were within 10 to 15 minutes.Deane Ingram, Maritime New Zealand regional compliance manager received from the Nina when it was 685km west-northwest of Cape Reinga, in 8m swells and winds gusting to 110km/h.

Nine searches were carried out for it, but even an air force Orion was unable to find any signs of the yacht, its liferaft or debris.

Experts are now saying the schooner was unseaworthy and that skipper David Dyche III did not favour modern technology.

The yacht had no long-range radio and Maritime New Zealand regional compliance manager Deane Ingram confirmed its emergency locator beacon had not been switched on.

"If it had, we would know where they were within 10 to 15 minutes," he said.

Experienced bluewater sailor and former Hamilton mayor Russ Rimmington has been reported as saying the Nina looked good above the waterline, but when it was moored at Whangarei its hull had appeared warped, and it was considered the boat would have failed the Maritime New Zealand inspection of all New Zealand-flagged boats leaving the country.

Meanwhile, American Sean D'Epagnier has dry-docked his 8.2m yacht Alexandra at Opua for a seaworthiness inspection.

Mr D'Epagnier, whose visitor visa expired in February, was too busy to comment when the Northern Advocate called to see him on Saturday.

He has told friends he wants to sail for the Pacific Islands, but has been told by Maritime New Zealand he must check metal around the Alexandra's rudder and replace the mast light.

Immigration NZ is letting him live on his boat while repairs are carried out.

Some of Mr D'Epagnier's friends believe Maritime NZ is making an example of the American overstayer, but other yachties see the move as a positive step toward ensuring foreign yachts are seaworthy before leaving so the Nina tragedy is not repeated.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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