An English sailor's yacht was a mess and in no state for a planned trip across the Tasman when it sank near Cape Reinga, the Coroner's court has been told.

Malcolm Waddilove, 77, is presumed to have drowned after his 8m yacht, Boadicea, struck trouble in January 2011. The boat was found in 5m of water, about 2km east of the campground at Northland's Tapotupotu Bay, but his body has never been recovered.

The veteran sailor had been lost at sea before, in the Orkney Islands in 1972, and called himself the Silver Fox. He was well known at Opua where he lived on his yacht before his last trip.

In the Kaikohe District Court yesterday, Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland was told Mr Waddilove had planned to sail to Australia via Norfolk Island to visit his son. He had not notified Customs or Immigration and had planned to "fly under the radar".


The last people known to have seen Mr Waddilove were sailors Marion and Stuart McAulay, who met him at Whangaroa Game Fishing Club on New Year's Eve 2010. In a statement read to the court Mrs McAulay said she'd never seen anything like the Boadicea.

"There was junk everywhere ... it was a mess."

Mr McAulay said the yacht wasn't shipshape.

"It wasn't a boat that should have been going overseas. The hull was really covered in junk. There was a bicycle on the back and canvas covers rolled up everywhere."

Mr McAulay said Mr Waddilove told him he'd been heading for Houhora so was surprised to find himself at Whangaroa, 80km to the south.

The Boadicea was seen days later struggling around Surville Cliffs, at North Cape, and a search mounted after what appeared to be an inflatable tender was seen off Cape Reinga on January 5. An air search was unable to find it.

On January 11 Kaitaia farmer Bryce Wigley spotted the mast poking out of the water while on a fishing trip. The boat was upright and wedged in a natural gut in the rocks. He notified Far North Coastguard Radio.

Two days later the police had Pukenui diver Peter Mold search the wreck. He found documents and personal items but no body.

Houhora police Constable Chris Yarnton said neither family or friends in England and Australia had heard from him since January 2, 2011. His bank accounts had not been touched since December 2010.

Mr Waddilove had a heart condition and needed bypass surgery. He did not log his trip with Far North Coastguard Radio or notify Customs or Immigration. Police believed he had drowned on or around January 11, 2011.

Mr Shortland said Mr Waddilove was not a well man when he embarked on his journey and his boat was not seaworthy. The evidence suggested he had drowned between January 5 and 11, 2011.

The formal finding of the cause of Mr Waddilove's death will be released later