Daring rescue enthrals tourists
They were prepared for taking holiday snaps, but tourists on board a cruise ship became news photographers as three men were winched into a helicopter from a stricken sailboat.
Images of the daring rescue - in rough seas and strong winds - emerged yesterday after the giant luxury cruise ship, Seven Seas Voyager, docked in Wellington.
The ship, which holds up to 1100 people, steamed to the rescue after a ketch called the Sea Wanderer reported engine failure and a loss of navigation systems about 6.30pm on Sunday, 30 kilometres off Marlborough's Clifford Bay.
It stood by while the authorities organised a rescue effort.
Melissa Wootten, on holiday from the United States, was in the shower on the cruise ship when the mayday call was broadcast.
She feared it was sinking, but soon realised what was going on.
She and her husband John watched the rescue from their balcony.
"[The ketch] was just completely out of control," Mr Wootten said.
It took up to three attempts before the first man was secured and winched to safety.
"It was pretty exciting. I was really amazed at the helicopter people."
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived on scene about 7pm and had all three men - understood to be travelling to Christchurch - on board about 45 minutes later.
They were cold, wet and tired, but otherwise alright, Life Flight crewman Colin Larsen said.
"They were glad to be on dry land."
The boat was still afloat when they left and a private recovery operation was underway yesterday.
Mr Larsen said the rescue was one of the more challenging he had been involved in, with a swell of up to 7 metres and winds gusting to 50 knots.
"Yachts in turbulent seas are extremely challenging - probably one of the most challenging things [you can do]."
- The Marlborough Express