Waka crew survive 'horrendous' seas

By Lawrence Gullery

Hawkes Bay's Te Matau a Maui sailing waka was forced to anchor after hitting "horrendous" seas near Wellington Harbour last night.

And it is still in trouble this morning after the anchor dragged overnight, leaving the waka around six metres from the beach.

Police were working to attach another line to secure the boat to prevent it from running aground.

The boat's crew were making their way ashore this morning, with police due to re-evaluate the situation early this afternoon - ahead of high tides.

The drama happened just two days after the waka sailed from its base in Napier, before hitting wind gusts up to 81km/h in Island Bay.

A spokesman on board the 22m waka told Hawke's Bay Today there was no damage to the waka and no one was injured.

"We are moored in Island Bay in Wellington and just trying to secure the vessel to make sure everything is OK for the night," the spokesman said.

"We are cold and wet but secure."

Earlier media reports stating the vessel had capsized were incorrect, he said. "We had a bit of a scare when there were reports that we had capsized but we want everyone to know we're safe."

The crew split into two groups with one on night watch duty, keeping an eye on the weather, while the others were able to rest.

The sailors had expected the rough weather and were prepared to deal with it.

"We hit some expected rough swells and it wasn't safe to go into the harbour. We took caution and made contact with the coast guard and let them know what we were doing, that we were heading for Island Bay.

"We were going to use the southerly to get into the harbour but didn't want to come out too early and end up sailing straight into it. It would have just pushed us backwards."

After a six month stint in Napier's Ahuriri, the trip to the capital was the first significant outing since returning from an 18-month voyage of the Pacific in December. The double-hulled sailing waka had sailed to Wellington to be the star attraction of the capital's Matariki celebrations this weekend.

"It now looks like we will be in Island Bay for a few days. But the powhiri and welcome for Matariki is not until Saturday and our first priority is to secure the waka.

"We are about 50m to 60m off the beach. No one can get off at the moment and we are just waiting to have something for dinner."

Emergency services were dispatched to the nearby Island Bay Surf Club when news of the arrival of the waka was raised.

People looking for updates on the waka could read messages from the captain and crew on its Facebook page.

- Hawkes Bay Today with Newstalk ZB

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