Support stuns pair after boat fire

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 11:59 17/12/2013
Gabbie and Jonathan Lyne
Emma Allen

Homeward-bound: Gabbie and Jonathan Lyne, from the United Kingdom, have had to scotch their plans for a Kiwi Christmas after their yacht was destroyed by fire in the Marlborough Sounds last week.

Boat fire in Marlborough Sounds

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A couple who had to cut short a world sailing vacation after their yacht caught fire in the Marlborough Sounds last week have been overwhelmed by the community's offers of support.

Gabbie and Jonathan Lyne, from Devon in the United Kingdom, were six months into a world trip on their 16-metre yacht, Aqualuna, when it was gutted by fire while moored at Bay of Many Coves in Queen Charlotte Sound early on Friday morning.

Mr Lyne woke up to the sound of their smoke alarm about 1.30am.

"Jonathan opened the cabin door and was met with a thick blanket of acrid smoke," Mrs Lyne said, adding that the area outside their cabin was engulfed in flames.

Mr Lyne rushed to get the fire extinguisher but it failed to work. He then ran up to the deck to set off the emergency beacon.

Meanwhile, Mrs Lyne had grabbed two tea towels to protect their faces and rushed up to the deck to launch the dinghy for a quick getaway. They had tied the tea towels around their heads when Mr Lyne realised they needed to retrieve their emergency bag containing their passports and wallet from below deck. He went back down for it, but suffered smoke inhalation.

"By that stage, the flames were so high and so thick, we couldn't do anything," Mrs Lyne said.

"Adrenalin kicked in and we got out of there."

The couple made it to their dinghy and then headed ashore to Bay of Many Coves Resort for help.

"We yelled like mad, I was like a fish wife, banging on doors at the hotel, trying to find someone awake," Mrs Lyne said.

"Jonathan was naked and I was in my pyjamas - he was running up to the hotel starkers.

"He only had the tea towel I gave him for his face to cover himself up with."

The couple were met by staff from the resort, who sat them down, calmed them and gave them a cup of tea while one of them contacted emergency services.

Mrs Lyne said she and her husband were both in shock and coughing badly.

Emergency services, including volunteer firefighters from Picton, Marlborough Coastguard, and Picton St John personnel, arrived soon after.

Firefighters battled the blaze until about 5am.

They then sank the boat in Chaucer Bay to avoid the risk of it floating ashore and setting fire to forestry on the hill.

The pair returned with divers to the site at Bay of Many Coves on Sunday to salvage what they could from the yacht.

However, they were unable to recover much.

"I did find one thing to rescue - a vacuum-packed bag of flour," Mrs Lyne said.

The Lynes, who hope to fly home on Wednesday, were grateful to all who had offered them assistance, the salvor crew in particular. "We thank everybody for their overwhelming help and offers and for being such incredibly wonderful Kiwis," Mrs Lyne said.

"The love and support we've received from this community is just amazing."

The Marlborough assistant harbourmaster received over 100 calls from people offering clothes, accommodation and support, she said.

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"We are very, very, very, very lucky. We can get over this. We can start again and carry on with our lives."

- The Marlborough Express

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