Thieves ransack salvage hopes of rescued yachties

By Joanne Carroll

Tania Davies and Steve Jones greet family members at Devonport Naval Base. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Tania Davies and Steve Jones greet family members at Devonport Naval Base. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A New Zealander rescued from a stricken yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has been left penniless after thieves stripped her vessel when it washed up in Australia.

Tania Davies and her Welsh partner Steve Jones suffered head wounds when they were knocked unconscious after being knocked around in a storm during the trip from Tonga to New Zealand.

A cargo ship winched them off their 11.6m yacht Windigo in November, after the Windigo began taking on water in a gale and 10m seas.

"We were taken to New Zealand by the New Zealand navy and we had just started to get pieces of our life together when we got the phone call," Davies said.

The couple were notified by Australian authorities the yacht had washed up on a beach in a national park near Coffs Harbour.

"The water police sent us a video and she looked in good condition," she said.

They immediately booked flights on their credit card.

However, by the time they reached the wrecked vessel in Australia, thieves had totally ransacked the yacht.

"We were left in a Catch 22 situation where we were no longer able to salvage her free of charge," she said.

The salvage company would initially have taken the boat for nothing and recouped its money from the valuables on board.

"A brand new 200kg anchor and chain, winches, lines, the stove ... everything; you name it it's gone," she said.

It was now a wrecked shell and would cost $20,000 to have removed.

"We put our hands up to the water police, the national park and marine authorities and told them there was nothing we could do," she said.

The couple had no insurance but Davies said insurance for international sailors was "nigh-on impossible" to get.

The cost of salvage was escalating and the national park ranger had told them the boat was being broken up by waves.

"We wanted to do the right thing and get her off the beach for conservation reasons but the opportunity to help has been taken from us."

She feared the authorities would remove the boat and send the bill to the couple.

"We have lost all our possessions, our home and we have no money. We are still getting over the emotional trauma of that. We have pleaded for help."

They were staying with Davies' relatives in Queensland but hoped to return to New Zealand for jobs.

- Herald on Sunday

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