Crew abandon sinking boat

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 12:00 07/02/2014

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Three men who were rescued after their boat sank near Bluff early this morning didn't even get their feet wet.

Bluff Coastguard skipper Bill Ryan said the 3am rescue went perfectly, with the three men doing everything exactly how they should.

"They did everything right, they didn't get wet at all."

Ryan said the crew seemed to be in good spirits but were disappointed at the loss of their boat the Ayson.

The conditions had been great for the rescue and the water was like glass, he said.

Bluff Coastguard president Andy Johnstone said the fishing boat had been filled with fish but had encountered a mechanical fault with a winch at sea and had to return to Bluff.

Two of the three crew had been sleeping at the time, but the third had been steering the Ayson back into port.

Johnstone praised the men for being well equipped and doing everything by the guidelines.

It had ensured a safe and successful rescue, he said.

The boat sank just metres from the rocks at Stirling Point, in water about 10 metres deep, he said.

It was a common path for boats to use to return Bluff, Johnstone said.

"It was just an error in navigation judgement."

The boat went down quickly, but they managed to get on the life raft and set off the beacon, he said.

The rescue crew were back to work within the hour, he said.

The Environment Southland Marine Oil Spill Response Team assessed the situation as an estimated 3,000-5,000 litres of diesel was believed to be onboard the vessel.

Regional On Scene Commander Dallas Bradley said that currently there was only a small diesel spill that was probably caused by fuel escaping from the fuel tank breather pipes.

There were no indications that diesel had entered Bluff Harbour.

The owners were planning to dive on the boat today to block the breather pipes and assess damage.

While the boat was in shallow water, salvaging it could take some days, he said.

Environment Southland would continue to monitor any spillage and its path.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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