South African yachtie anchored off Bay of Plenty coast

Police have spoken to Darius DeWet who is anchored off Tauranga. Photo / Maritime New Zealand
Police have spoken to Darius DeWet who is anchored off Tauranga. Photo / Maritime New Zealand

Police are not concerned for the safety of a 20-year-old inexperienced yachtie who went missing twice.

Darius DeWet, from South Africa, docked at Whale Island over the weekend on his 6.7m yacht, Luna. He had set off from Napier on September 16.

A police spokeswoman said they spoke to DeWet on Saturday, when police and Coastguard travelled by boat out to his yacht. He is anchored off the coast of the Bay of Plenty, and police are aware of his location.

Authorities were planning to talk to him about abandoning his journey to Auckland - now in its ninth day - as he had not been checking in via radio with a friend every 24 hours as he had promised.

He had to be searched for twice - on Monday and on Thursday last week - but each time, he appeared in good spirits and his yacht was undamaged.

The Bay of Plenty experienced several millimetres of rain, like the rest of the country, with gusty southeasterly winds.

Authorities says they are still calculating the cost of the two searches but the young skipper will not be billed for the search operation as it could put off others from seeking urgent help.

In the first search, 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.

In the second search, a Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter found him 16km south of Cape Runaway at 2.40pm on Thursday.

It is understood he was given a radio by boat but has not used it.

He was watched by cray fishermen after the second search to make sure he was okay.

A worker at The Loading Ramp bar in Havelock North where DeWet had friends last week said: "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. He planned to sail to the Hauraki Gulf.

- NZ Herald

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