Fisherman rescues 'big boys' off Raglan coast

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014

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Seven "ill-prepared" men stuck on a small boat in rough seas off the coast of Raglan are lucky to be alive after a veteran seaman stumbled across them as darkness descended and towed them to shore.

Their chance rescue has sparked a warning from the the coastguard because the crew had no means to communicate and were poorly equipped for the deteriorating weather conditions.

Seaman Mark Lloyd almost missed the overcrowded and broken-down 5.5 metre boat as it floated seaward in fading light and gale force offshore winds on Monday night.

"They were very lucky boys I'd say," Mr Lloyd said after unloading his vessel's catch at Raglan Wharf yesterday.

"I wouldn't have liked to have seen what the result was if I didn't spy them."

He thought the prognosis would have been "grim" for the seven men, who he described as "big boys" on the "well-loaded" 5.5m aluminium vessel.

"We could have quite easily been looking for people in the water.

"You'd head to Gannet Island at a rate of knots and the further out you get the wind's got more time to build the sea off the land.

"We were [five kilometres] off and it was very rough. The spray was going up over my trawler and it blew the lid off my slurry bin and snapped an eight millimetre rope pretty easy."

Mr Lloyd and his deckhand were motoring home from a three-day fishing trip when they spotted the runabout near Jackson's Reef.

It was about 8.30pm and the remnants of Cyclone June started to wind up over the region.

At first he thought it was a rock.

"I've been fishing out here for 30 years so I know every rock off the mountain and next minute I saw the rock was moving - I thought it was relative to us, but it wasn't.

"It was a very dark boat . . . We got to them about 15 minutes before dark."

The men were "very anxious".

The northeasterly wind was forecast to increase that afternoon and Mr Lloyd said it was funnelling down the mountain.

It strengthened as darkness came and he estimated it was nearly 100kmh as Tamahine towed the boat shoreward.

Mr Lloyd said he contacted the coastguard for assistance and Gallagher Rescue collected the cold but uninjured crew and took them to Raglan Wharf.

Raglan Coastguard spokesman Kevin Dreaver said while the men had lifejackets on board, they could have kept drifting through the night and been blown out to sea.

Coastguard Operations Centre did receive a call from a family member at 8.55pm who said a boat had broken down off Raglan Harbour.

Spokeswoman Georgie Smith said the vessel had limited and unreliable communications on board, making contact impossible.

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"The broken-down vessel was ill prepared for the weather conditions and had limited and unreliable means of communications on board."

She encouraged boaties to carry two forms of waterproof communications because "if you can't contact us, we can't rescue you".

"Logging a trip report with coastguard is a great way of telling someone where you are going and when you expect to be back."

The incident comes after a series of boating incidents this summer.

On New Year's Day two boaties were plucked from the sea after their vessel capsized on the Raglan Bar.

Constable Maree Fouhy, of the Raglan Police, said it was fortunate lifeguards were watching the fibreglass boat as it tried to cross the bar and saw it capsize, allowing the pair to be rescued quickly.

On January 8, four people were helped to shore at Pauanui after the engine on their boat caught fire about 2.30pm, 500m offshore.

No-one was hurt, but on the same day in Raglan three people were injured when their boat slammed into rocks at Whale Bay, about 9.15am. Two people were taken to Waikato Hospital with moderate injuries.

- Waikato Times

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