Crew grateful for Foveaux Strait rescue

TRAWLER TRIP: The Ayson, which sank in Foveaux Strait on Friday.
TRAWLER TRIP: The Ayson, which sank in Foveaux Strait on Friday.

Three men escaped the waters of Foveaux Strait yesterday when their fishing trawler sank after hitting rocks.

The boat Ayson, skippered by Dylan Fowler and with two crew on board, went down just after 3am yesterday.

The men were plucked from their liferaft just minutes after boarding it.

The boat is owned by Hokonui Runanga.

Mr Fowler said he was grateful to be home, and grateful to the coastguard, South Port and Bluff Fisherman's Radio operator Meri Leask for their assistance.

"They were pretty quick to get us."

He had been told by his boss he could not speak to the media, he said.

Hokonui Runanga director Terry Nicholas said the company would organise the recovery of the boat in the coming days but declined to comment further.

A Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman confirmed the organisation was investigating the incident.

Mr Fowler and his two companions, who The Southland Times understands were Rangi Foggo and Dylan Topi, called Bluff Fisherman's Radio about 3.15am yesterday after hitting rocks near Stirling Point. They activated a locator beacon before climbing into their life raft.

Mrs Leask said she received the call for help about 3.15am and both the Bluff Coastguard and South Port NZ boat Takitimu were deployed.

She was thrilled the rescue had gone well, a sentiment shared throughout the community. "I just think it's marvellous that, for once, we have had a happy ending."

Bluff Coastguard president Andy Johnstone said the men had followed the right procedures during the emergency and he praised their quick actions, which ensured a safe and successful rescue.

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, he said.

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

He did not know which of the three men was controlling the boat.

When they got to Stirling Point they hit rocks and got into strife, he said.

"It was just an error in navigation judgment."

He likened it to a car accidentally crossing the centre line on a road.

But in a short space of time the boat had sunk and yesterday no trace of it could be seen.

The water was about 10m deep in the area the boat went down.

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

Bluff Coastguard skipper Bill Ryan echoed Mr Johnstone's comments and said the early morning rescue went perfectly, with the three men doing everything exactly how they should.

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

The crew appeared in good spirits but were disappointed at the loss of their boat, he said.

Yesterday's conditions had been great for the rescue, with the water "like glass" and the rescue crew were back to work or bed within a couple of hours, he said.

The Environment Southland Marine Oil Spill Response Team assessed the area yesterday.

The boat had an estimated 3000 to 5000 litres of diesel on board.

Regional on-scene commander Dallas Bradley said there was only a small diesel spill yesterday, probably caused by fuel escaping from the fuel tank breather pipes.

There were no indications that diesel oil had entered Bluff Harbour.

The owners were planning to dive on the vessel yesterday to block the breather pipes and assess damage, he said. While the vessel is in shallow water, salvaging it could take some days.

Environment Southland will continue to monitor any spillage, Mr Bradley said.

The Southland Times