Yachtie was solitary but loved his family - sister

Donald MacKay
Donald MacKay

The man whose body was found floating in Greville Harbour off d'Urville Island last week was a solitary, intelligent, family-loving man, his sister says.

Donald Alastair MacKay, 82, had spent the past 20-odd years living on his boat in Tasman and the Marlborough Sounds, Margaret Harvey-Collins said.

"He was his own man," she said.

"He lived on his boat, he liked the solitary life, but he had a deep affection for his family."

Mr MacKay, who had a caravan at his sister's Mount Pleasant property, last spoke to her the week before he died. He had said he was waiting to catch the right winds to sail round Cape Jackson on his boat.

He had been in poor health with poor balance and a "crumbly vertebrae", so it was no surprise when she heard the news, Mrs Harvey-Collins said.

"The bay where he died was one of his favourite places.

"He used to infuriate me. I'd say to him, ‘where are you going?' and he'd say, ‘where does the wind blow'," she said.

"You could describe him as an aged, old hippy in a way."

Mr Mackay had achieved much in his life. Among his accomplishments were working with Sir Edmund Hillary to help construct the airstrip at Lukla in the Himalayas, Mrs Harvey-Collins said.

Mr Mackay had a great love for classical music, books, mountaineering and the outdoors. His mountaineering expeditions took him to Peru, the Himalayas and the Andes.

He had worked for the prairie rehabilitation in Canada, as a warden at Outward Bound in Anakiwa, and for the Department of Conservation in Kaikoura.

Mr MacKay was last seen by witnesses cleaning the hull of his yacht, Nokomis, from a dinghy in the early afternoon of Thursday, a police spokeswoman said.

They later noticed the dinghy adrift with no-one on board.

When the witnesses went to secure the dinghy back to Mr MacKay's yacht, they found his body floating nearby.

The Marlborough Express