A depressed man who a judge said tried to "sail away from his problems" will instead face a year in prison after stealing a $95,000 yacht in the Marlborough Sounds.
In Blenheim District Court yesterday Norman Douglas King, 29, a labourer, of Christchurch, admitted taking the 12-metre yacht Inchwood from its Ngakuta Bay mooring and sailing it out of Queen Charlotte Sound's northern entrance, then south to Port Underwood on Marlborough's east coast last week.
Prosecutor Mark Harris said King stole a Subaru Legacy from New Brighton, Christchurch, on Monday or Tuesday last week. He drove north before abandoning the Subaru on Queen Charlotte Dr at Shakespeare Bay, near Picton.
He then hitchhiked to Ngakuta Bay, Harris said, and about 4am on Friday stole a $9000 inflatable dingy to row it out to the Inchwood on its mooring.
King cut through a padlock securing the companionway. He then spent the next two days sailing to Port Underwood, where he was anchored when police found him.
Judge Richard Russell said King had no explanation for his actions but attributed his behaviour to recent depression after the loss of his business and a failed relationship.
Taking the yacht was a way to "sail away from your problems", Judge Russell said.
The judge questioned King's sailing experience and said he put the yacht and himself at "considerable risk".
"It's only by the grace of God and the fact that you probably had calm seas that you are here to tell the tale."
Property theft was happening too frequently in the Marlborough Sounds and King's sentence had to act as strong a deterrent, Judge Russell said.
"The message needs to go out there that you take such property at your peril."
King had a long history of dishonesty offences, Judge Russell said, before sentencing him to 12 months in prison.
- The Marlborough Express