Timaru yachtie feared smashing onto rocks

'We could've both been dead'

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 14:08 05/02/2013
des ward
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ

SAFE HARBOUR: Yachtie Des Ward jnr in Timaru harbour this morning after a dramatic overnight rescue.

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LATEST: An experienced Timaru yachtsman feared his boat would be washed on to rocks when it was hit by a powerful southerly blast off St Andrews on Monday night.

Speaking from his yacht, the Viti, this morning, a relieved Des Ward Junior said he, girlfriend Alison Lloyd and dog Meg had been fortunate to survive the harrowing experience.

A combined rescue operation involving the harbour tug Te Maru and a Timaru fishing boat saw them safely back into the harbour around 12.30am.

Sporting a burn on his forehead caused by the ropes from the vessel's boom, Mr Ward said he had his jib up, with a southerly wind "coming through at about 25 knots" when a more powerful southerly hit around 6.30pm.

"I saw it, but I couldn't do anything about it. Suddenly it was up over 40 knots. The size of the swells just doubled. I couldn't sail anymore," he said, adding that both his main and auxiliary engines had been knocked out.

Despite dropping anchor, the yacht continued to drift in the heavy swell, necessitating a distress call.

"It was trying to roll us over and everything," he said.

"My main concern was I was going to end up on the rocks."

PrimePort Timaru marine manager Ken Wilson told the Herald the Te Maru responded to Mr Ward's call because "conditions made it such that the coastguard felt it better to use the tug".

The Te Maru was chosen as it had a "slightly lower freeboard", to enable easier access to the yacht.

However, he said on arriving at the yacht's position it was felt trying to get yacht's occupants off was too risky.

"There was a 2-3 metre swell, with 40 knot winds," Mr Wilson said.

"The yacht was walloping about good style."

Given that the vessel was in "no imminent danger" and due to the risk of hitting the yacht, he said the tug "sat off it" and communicated with the occupants.

"It was drifting north at about two knots. We felt it was best to stay with them."

About two miles south of the harbour, the fishing boat Achernar became involved in the rescue.

"[Its skipper] my old mate Raymond [Mitchell] chucked me a line and towed me in," Mr Ward said.

A sailor for 20 years, he said he had been "checking the radio and it didn't mention that big southerly".

"We could've both been dead. If it had rolled over, and we'd been in the water... and if we'd gone on the rocks we would've been smashed to bits."

Mr Ward said he'd had a mooring in the harbour for 10 years.

"I'm taking it back to that mooring now and it's going to stay there for some time!"

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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