A novice sailor who sparked a national rescue effort last week is now safe on dry land and not allowed to leave, just yet.

Darius DeWet, from South Africa, spent the weekend on his 6.7m yacht Luna anchored at Whale Island, offshore from Whakatane.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Steve Rendle said Mr DeWet, from South Africa, docked in at Whakatane Port about 10.45am today,

The inexperienced yachtie had set off from Napier on September 16 and twice went missing.


Mr Rendle said Whakatane Coastguard travelled out to Mr DeWet last night and this morning helped navigate the Luna over the notorious Whakatane bar.

Now that Mr DeWet was in port, he was subject to several conditions from Section 55 of the Maritime Transport Act which prevent him from leaving without approval from authorities.

The conditions meant Mr DeWet had to prove he and his vessel were safe enough to continue his journey to Auckland and had suitable training and experience to handle weather conditions, Mr Rendle said.

A police spokeswoman said they spoke to Mr DeWet on Saturday, when police and the coastguard travelled by boat out to his yacht.

Mr DeWet had not been checking in via radio with a friend every 24 hours as he had promised.

Two searches were undertaken - on Monday and Thursday last week - but each time, he appeared in good spirits and his yacht was undamaged.

Authorities were 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. Mr 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.