A yachtie is helpless to stop opportunist thieves helping themselves to prized possession on board his stricken yacht - 11 days after it ran aground off Ruakaka.
Geoff Phillips, 77, owner of P.Lee Can, has decided not to lodge a complaint with police as the yacht lay exposed in the middle of the beach which made it impossible to guard it all the time.
Several people have reported seeing people stealing items from the yacht and Mr Philips confirmed some items had gone missing from the stricken vessel. Under international law a stranded vessel was not fair game, but belonged to the owner or insurer and removing items was theft.
The yacht came too close to shore and ran aground in low tide on December 26, 2015 while Mr Phillips attempted to help his wife Ayla, who was in a dinghy a little closer to shore. He said locals have told him people had been coming down to the yacht at night and stealing items.
Among stuff stolen were solar panels but Mr Phillips believes neither he nor police can do much about the thieving.
"I have a bad hip so I can't get to the yacht. I am in the hands of people telling me what's been stolen. They've even seen people walking off with stuff but there's nothing we can do about it," he said.
He said those who stole from his yacht were only a few as hundreds of 'marvellous people', including the Ruakaka police, have given him and Ayla wonderful support in many ways.
Asked why he has not reported the thefts to police, he said: "They can't police it. The yacht's lying in the middle of the beach and people are there day and night. The police will have to put a guard there 24/7 which isn't possible."
Although he did not condone the theft of his possession, Mr Phillips said if the stolen items were of benefit to a few, so be it.
So far, three attempts have been made to remove the yacht but Mr Phillips said he could not get the Northland Regional Council to agree to a plan. He said the council staff have agreed to meet with him this morning and further discuss salvage plans.
The yacht, he said, could not be re-floated unless holes in it had been plugged.
"I've had two contractors come down. A tow company suggested putting a team on board the yacht and seal the holes before towing it away but we couldn't do it because of the weather and the NRC's disapproval," Mr Phillips said.
"The other contractor decided to pull it on to the beach and put it in a truck but that too couldn't be done because of the soft sand."
The cost to refloat the yacht would be between $20,000 and $40,000 - money he did not have.