Four years of painstaking work by Brenan Hutchings to rebuild a 13.7m sloop ended in disaster when the yacht ran aground on the weekend, forcing him to swim ashore and call for help.
The 24-year-old Auckland spar designer was rescued by a Northland Emergency Rescue Trust helicopter about 6am on Saturday from Murimotu Island, off North Cape, 30km east of Cape Reinga, after his yacht, Glissade, smashed on to Surville Cliffs.
Mr Hutchings set sail from Auckland in early November on a six-month solo circumnavigation of the North Island and was heading towards the Bay of Islands on Saturday when tragedy struck. He was devastated that the yacht he bought in early 2009 and reconstructed was broken up on rocks after being pummelled by an incoming tide.
"Basically I had a good angle to clear North Cape so I went below to get some food and other things, but when I came back up on deck something didn't seem quite right," he told the Northern Advocate yesterday.
"I couldn't see anything around me and then the whole yacht basically got slammed and started heading toward rocks."
Fearing he could be trapped between his yacht and the rocks, Mr Hutchings grabbed his bag and liferaft and swam for about 10 minutes to shore.
"I was extremely lucky it was low tide," he said.
Mr Hutchings said he would organise a team to salvage Glissade, but bad weather could hamper the recovery efforts.
He estimated there would be about 45 litres of diesel on board.
St John flight intensive care paramedic Paul Davis said the NEST helicopter answered a distress call about the yacht around 4.50am on Saturday.
It took just under an hour to locate Mr Hutchings, who had abandoned his yacht and swum a short distance to a steep rocky shoreline, where he was perched on a vertical cliff.
He was wearing his survival suit and was uninjured.
Mr Davis winched him on to the helicopter, which then returned to Whangarei.
"He wasn't injured but quite shaken up.
"He was given a hot shower and a hot drink before his family picked him up."
Mr Davis said since the tide was coming in when Mr Hutchings was rescued, he expected the yacht would have been hammered against the rocks.
Northland Regional Council deputy harbourmaster Chidambaram Surendran said the little amount of diesel was likely to evaporate, posing little danger to the environment.
He said a vessel sailing nearby on Saturday afternoon reported some debris believed to be from Glissade.
"There are no reports of any oil spill as yet so we won't be doing anything at this stage, but if further information comes to light, we'll look into it," Mr Surendran said.