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A yacht which was dashed on the rocks in Sunday's wild weather had been stolen 12 hours earlier and left in the path of a northerly gale.

The 8.5m keeler Skullduggery broke into pieces at Red Beach after the king tide and strong winds pulled it from its anchorage on the northern side of Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Owner Dimitar Penchev, 29, arrived at the bay on Sunday morning.

"By the time I got there there was just small pieces of it left, washing up on the shore."

He had discovered it was missing from its Okahu Bay mooring at 7pm on Saturday night, and reported it stolen to police at 9pm. Concerned Whangaparaoa residents alerted maritime police and coastguard after watching the boat anchor in an exposed spot on Saturday night. Officials spoke to the people on the boat, but they refused help.

Mr Penchev believed the people who stole the boat knew little about sailing.

"Anchoring on the north side during a northerly gale, not even letting off enough anchor rope shows a ridiculous amount of stupidity."

He bought the keeler for $9000 five years ago.

It was uninsured because it was on a mooring - insurance agencies refused to provide cover unless it was berthed in a marina.

Senior Sergeant Martin Paget said maritime police were following residents' reports of people scrambling ashore in a dinghy near the anchored yacht.

Mr Penchev, an architecture student, had moved from Bulgaria to sail yachts in the Hauraki Gulf. But he said his sailing days were now over.

"I'm a full-time student now, and I spent my last $1500 on that boat."

After the boat had wrecked, several youths let off its flares, causing a frustrating false alarm for emergency services.