Treacherous waters claim man's life

By Joanne Carroll, Katasha McCullough

The rescued men come ashore at Mechanics Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday
The rescued men come ashore at Mechanics Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday

A man drowned in treacherous seas in Wellington Harbour yesterday and five more were rescued from a similar fate near Auckland by a navy ship.

Police last night recovered the body of the man, who had been reported missing from a dinghy which sank in Wellington Harbour, about 75m offshore from State Highway 2.

Dive Squad members found the man around 5.25pm, two hours after the alarm was raised by the other male occupant of the boat, who had swum ashore.

Meanwhile, one of five men rescued from their sinking yacht yesterday by HMNZS Canterbury says he can't thank his "heroes" enough.

The Auckland men were plucked to safety by the navy and coastguard after hitting rocks around 5.45am at Cape Colville near Great Barrier Island.

"It was scary. We were very lucky to have the navy, the coastguard and the police. There are so many heroes here. We are here doing great thanks to them. I don't know how to say how much I appreciate that," he said.

The yacht capsized moments after the men, none of whom was injured, had been winched off it. The men, from Howick and the North Shore, left Wairoa River around 4.30pm on Friday and were heading to the Coromandel Peninsula on their 11m wooden yacht, Stager.

They had anchored the yacht about 10.30pm and around 4.30am they were hit by a front with heavy gusts of wind.

They struck rocks as they were heading for a sheltered spot and immediately began taking on water. The men used a handheld VHF radio to call a mayday.

A navy frigate, which was only 16 nautical miles away, responded with a Great Barrier Coastguard patrol boat.

Navy leading combat systems specialist Braden McKee said the HMNZS Canterbury was heading back to Auckland after a trip to Raoul Island.

A navy helicopter Seasprite winched two of the men from the sinking yacht.

The other three men were rescued by the Coastguard.

They were given food and dry clothes by the sailors and brought back to Auckland in an inflatable boat.

Police coastal master Garry Larsen said the skipper had a Coastguard boat master's ticket and 15 years' experience, and he knew the area well.

"The vessel was probably sitting on the rock for about an hour until our services arrived. They couldn't convey their gratitude enough. They didn't want to put anyone in this sort of situation but they all had life jackets on and they're appreciative of the response," he said.

joanne.carroll@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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