Couple fear their $145,000 pride and joy has been sailed overseas

A $145,000 yacht has vanished and its owners fear it may have been sailed overseas.

Retired Whangarei couple Carol and Stephen Holland have owned the 14m cutter Harlech for 13 years and taken it on two trips to the South Pacific.

They were planning to take out the yacht this weekend but found it had disappeared from its moorings, at Opua, south of Waitangi.

"We looked all around Opua and drove to Paihia and went to the police station there and did a big report but we've heard nothing," Carol said. "They've been announcing it on the marine radios and on all the shipping channels but there have been no sightings at all. They've most probably gone out of New Zealand with it."

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Carol believed it was a well-planned theft by someone who knew about boats.

"There was a padlock and they would have to have turned the water and the batteries on - you have to know what you're doing before the engine will even start. So it's not just kids looking to steal stuff, it has to be someone who knows boats."

The couple believed it had been stolen between Monday and Friday.

The yacht was running low on drinking water but had enough diesel to travel about 300 nautical miles - 560km.

"It's a serious vessel: it's got an oven, a shower, a toilet and everything else. We lived on board for six months.

Stephen and Carol Holland say all they have left is this dinghy.
Stephen and Carol Holland say all they have left is this dinghy.

"It's oldish - it's not worth a fortune any more - but it's a lovely boat. We're devastated."

The couple were planning on buying a new boat so were advertising Harlech for sale on TradeMe at the time of the theft, asking $145,000.

Senior Constable Craig Hughes, of the Auckland police maritime unit, said thefts of large vessels from their moorings was rare.

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"We've had a few go missing and some of them have never been found again," he said. "And we've had two boats that ended up in Australia where they were sold."

Stolen boats were more difficult to trace than cars, he said.

"There's no registration papers or anything with boats. You've got names but you can change those."

He said if it was offshore there wasn't a great chance it would be recovered.

Police in Counties Manukau this week warned of a spate of boats and trailers being stolen, some worth $50,000. Boats were targeted because the identity of a boat could be easily changed.