Cost wrangle delays salvage

By Alexandra Newlove

5 comments
The yacht P. Lee Can, now minus its masts, sails and boom, is still stuck on Ruakaka Beach, 12 days since it was beached. Photo / John Stone
The yacht P. Lee Can, now minus its masts, sails and boom, is still stuck on Ruakaka Beach, 12 days since it was beached. Photo / John Stone

It's "unsociable" for boaties not to insure their vessels, Northland's Harbourmaster says, as a boat stranded on Ruakaka Beach enters its 12th day stuck in the sand.

The yacht P. Lee Can beached on Boxing Day with owner Geoff Phillips taking full responsibility for the incident, though he said Northland Regional Council's involvement slowed down the vessel's salvage.

NRC Harbourmaster Jim Lyle said it was actually Mr Phillips' incorrect claim he had insurance which held things up. The situation was becoming more difficult to deal with as the boat became further embedded in the sand and Mr Phillips may end up with a large bill for a salvage if the council has to remove it.

"It's becoming a problem because of the owner's inability to do anything ... If people have large boats and don't have wreck removal insurance that causes a big problems," Mr Lyle said.

"It's all very well to be living on your boat, but who is going to clean up the mess when [it] ends on the beach? It's the NRC and inevitably the ratepayer, which is very unfair."

Mr Lyle said his office had been bending over backwards to help at the busiest time of the year.

"This is one of umpteenth we've dealt with on the beach ... We're already swamped with thousands of boats from Auckland plus it's cruise ship season. This sort of thing you really could do without."

Fuel had been removed and the concrete vessel was in no danger of breaking up, so posed no environmental risk, Mr Lyle said. Mr Phillips said, at the time of the accident, he thought he would be covered by his insurance, though later it became clear he would not.

Mr Phillips said the original tug bill was to be about $4000, which he could have paid.

"Now that it's left there ... Who knows what it's going to cost? They'll charge us I suppose, and take us to court and bankrupt me."

Several people had reported people stealing items from the yacht and Mr Philips confirmed some items had gone missing from the stricken vessel. However another man, James Alexander, posted photos online of himself and his small son cleaning up items that had fallen off the yacht and were drifting down the beach.

The Coastguard had also damaged one of its rescue vessels trying to tow the boat on Boxing Day, said Northland operations manager Daniel Pearce. "Our crew ... made two to three attempts to refloat. On the fourth attempt we sustained some damage to the tow post and as result abandoned."

Mr Pearce said Coastguard's primary responsibility was keeping people rather than property safe, but had offered to help the P. Lee as a goodwill gesture.

- Northern Advocate

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