All hands pitch in for strait emergency

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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Passengers aboard a Stewart Island ferry got more than they bargained for on the Foveaux Strait crossing when their journey was diverted to take part in a rescue.

A distress call from the pleasure boat Kotare yesterday morning resulted in the Foveaux Express changing course while on its way to Half Moon Bay from Bluff with passengers.

When the call came through from Meri Leask, at Bluff Fishermen's Radio, the ferry immediately detoured towards Ruapuke Island.

The pleasure boat Kotare, whose crew were fishing and diving near Ruapuke Island, made the distress call at 10.15am.

Search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Ian Martin said the skipper and a crew member were in the water diving when the two remaining crew members were unable to start the Kotare's motors.

The Bluff Coastguard vessel NZAS Rescue was training in Foveaux Strait and also responded.

The crew on the Kotare managed to securely anchor their boat on the east side of nearby Topi Island, Mr Martin said.

NZAS Rescue picked up one of the crew from the Kotare and went to the area where the divers were put into the water.

Both divers were found on Ruapuke Island a short time later.

A second Stewart Island Experience ferry, Southern Express, eventually towed the Kotare back to Bluff Harbour.

The crew of the Kotare did a good job in a raising the alarm early and successfully anchoring their boat, Mr Martin said.

"This incident highlights the importance of crew having a good knowledge of the boat and its equipment," he said.

"Foveaux Strait is one of the more dangerous and unforgiving bodies of water in New Zealand."

Mrs Leask said both motors on the Kotare failed and the situation could have been worse if the crew did not have communication devices.

"If no message had got through, the guys on Ruapuke Island would have been stranded as the wind freshened up."

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- The Southland Times

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