National recognition for coastguard rescue
TIMARU HERALD STAFF REPORTER
South Canterbury Coastguard has won the national organisation's top award for its dramatic recovery of a stricken yacht with two people and a dog aboard which got into trouble in three-metre swells off St Andrews.
The organisation won the "rescue of the year" award at the National Coastguard Awards on Saturday for its efforts in saving the occupants.
However, chief coxswain Tony Lister said it was a "team effort".
"This isn't just an award for our efforts. There were several different organisations co-operating on the rescue, including the police, coastguard, port company and local fishermen," Mr Lister said.
On February 4, Des Ward Jr and Alison Lloyd's yacht was caught in swells as high as three metres along the coast between Pareora and St Andrews.
"As we arrived at the Coastguard station, the conditions were marginal - wind was gusting 40-45 knots, the sea had a three-metre breaking swell, and it would soon be dark," said Mr Lister, a tug master at Timaru's port.
"I rang my boss and asked if we could take out the tug. He agreed, and called in an engineer and deckhand as crew," Mr Lister said.
Within two hours the yacht had been located with no running lights on board, but condi- tions were too rough to risk a tow.
"They weren't in immediate danger and the weather was starting to ease, so we decided to wait until they drifted closer to the Timaru harbour. The plan was to then get the coastguard rescue vessel and take them under tow," Mr Lister said.
"Ray Mitchell, a local fisherman and coastguard volunteer, rang to ask if he could help.
"He decided his 15m fishing boat would be able to handle the conditions and safely tow the yacht. Ray and his crew did a superb job of bringing his vessel alongside and passing a towline to the yacht."
The yacht was eventually pulled back to Timaru harbour nearly five hours after the callout.
"The success of this high-risk rescue was down to the co-operation of all the agencies involved," Mr Lister said.
"We're very lucky we're able to call on so many different organisations to help in incidents such as this."
Coastguard New Zealand president Dean Lawrence said the South Canterbury organisation's rescue displayed exceptional bravery, dedication and skills.
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