Missing South African yachtie found alive off East Cape

Authorities are planning to 'talk' to Darius DeWet, from South Africa, about abandoning his journey when he finally gets to land. Photo / Supplied
Authorities are planning to 'talk' to Darius DeWet, from South Africa, about abandoning his journey when he finally gets to land. Photo / Supplied

Large-scale searches involving helicopters had to be deployed twice for a 20-year-old inexperienced yachtie after he went missing twice.

And although authorities are still calculating the cost, the young skipper will not be billed for the search operation as it could put off others from seeking urgent help.

Authorities are planning to "talk" to Darius DeWet, from South Africa, about abandoning his journey when he finally gets to land.

He had gone missing with his 6.7m yacht Luna north of Gisborne after setting off from Hawke's Bay on Friday last week.

He failed to check in every 24 hours as he had told a friend, so a search was started on Monday.

A Philips Search and Rescue Trust plane found the yacht anchored in Anaura Bay, near Tolaga Bay.

DeWet waved to the aircraft and appeared unharmed so the plane left him.

He is believed to have no working radio communication.

Again, he did not contact anyone so another search was started yesterday.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter found him 16km south of Cape Runaway at 2.40pm.

Again he appeared unharmed. His yacht was undamaged and he was continuing to sail.

"We still can't talk to him because he's got no comms, which has been the whole problem," Maritime New Zealand spokesman Vince Cholewa said.

"He's had no working comms since Friday last week."

Cholewa said Maritime NZ will get a bill for the plane and the Coastguard boat next week. But they won't get a bill for the helicopter or police time.

But it's important people know they won't be charged for a rescue, Cholewa said. As it could result in "disaster".

"If a boat is getting in trouble and someone thinks 'if I set off my distress beacon this might cost me I'll just wait for another few hours'. Down that path is disaster.

"If a boat is in trouble you want to respond quickly and efficiently."

DeWet will be watched by cray fishermen this morning as he makes his way to land.

A spokesman for the Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ centre said he had been at Whanaurua Bay, near Te Kaha, overnight and would be making his way to the Bay of Plenty today.

"Some cray fishers are going to shadow him for the first part of his journey to make sure he's going okay," the spokesman said.

"He's already been given some sound advice but I believe Maritime New Zealand will be waiting for him when he makes land to talk with him further."

Search and rescue mission co-odinator Mike Roberts urged anyone planning to head to sea to make sure they relayed their plans to family and friend and that they were carrying the right equipment.

"The skipper left a vague trip plan and seems to have had no working communications equipment since Friday last week. Even when two search aircraft located him he was unable to communicate his intentions or report on his condition.

"We want boaties to always leave a detailed trip plan with family, a friend or a boating organisation, and to take at least two forms of communications that will work when wet. A registered distress beacon is also highly recommended for all boats,'' Roberts said.

Meanwhile, friends back in Hawke's Bay were rapt DeWet was safe.

A worker at The Loading Ramp bar in Havelock North where DeWet had friends said they were "absolutely" relieved the shy but friendly young man had been found.

"He's a really cool guy who did something dumb."

DeWet bought the boat only six weeks ago and had done it up. He wanted to go on an adventure, his former employer Kevin Blair said.

Blair, a dairy farmer in Tutira, said DeWet worked for him for a year to learn about New Zealand farming before finishing up in late August to undertake the sailing trip.

"He wanted to have an adventure. So he'd bought a yacht on Trade Me, locally, and we suggested he needed to join the sailing club, and Coastguard and get some experience."
Blair said DeWet, who he described as a hard worker but a bit of a loner, was strong and healthy, at home in the outdoors and self-sufficient. His planned to sail to the Hauraki Gulf.

- NZ Herald

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