The first attempt to break up a yacht stranded off Ruakaka for more than two weeks has failed.

A digger and a 10-wheeler truck brought in by council contractors soon after sunrise yesterday did not succeed in breaking up the P.Lee Can and taking its parts away. The Northland Regional Council has taken over the responsibility of removing the yacht that ran aground at low tide on December 26. Another attempt to cut the concrete boat up and remove it was to be made last night.

Northland harbourmaster Jim Lyle said he organised the yacht's removal as owners Geoff Phillips and his wife Ayla did not have the money to pay for the exercise. He said the removal would cost an estimated $7000 and the Phillips would be sent an invoice to reimburse NRC.

Mr Lyle said there had not been an oil leak as NRC officials removed some of it from on board shortly after the yacht ran aground. He reiterated earlier advice for boaties to be better prepared and to plan for their journeys.


Mr Phillips said he would let NRC do its job rather than interfere in its work. He said it was too hard for him to see his yacht being cut up.

"They (NRC) had a quote from their contractor which was one-fifth of what I was quoted. We'll just stay back and let them get on with their job. They have an expert contractor."

Mr Phillips took out the yacht's engine and gear box and said everything else was of no use. Opportunist thieves rifled through the yacht soon after it ran aground and made away with things like solar panels. Under international law, a stranded vessel belonged to the owner or insurer and removing items was theft. He 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 all the time.

The cost to refloat the yacht was earlier quoted at between $20,000 and $40,000 - money he did not have.

After staying with a good Samaritan in Ruakaka, the couple have moved closer to Whangarei and Mr Phillips said they would now try and re-establish their lives.