Yacht abandoned at sea washes up after months adrift
AN ABANDONED yacht that washed ashore near Bundagen has added the final chapter to a remarkable story from the high seas.
The owners of the 38-foot yacht Windigo, Stephen Jones and his partner Tania Davies were both knocked unconscious when it rolled in 30-foot waves, between Tonga and New Zealand, almost four months ago.
The couple's badly damaged vessel was stranded, approximately 692 kilometres south-west of Tonga
A front hatch on the vessel smashed in the storm caused the head to fill with sea water, while punctured fresh water tanks also flooded the interior.
When the couple activated distress beacons on November 7, they were a long way from help.
New Zealand Maritime reported an airforce P3 Orion was sent on a fly-over mission.
Hong Kong-based container ship, Chengtu, en route to Los Angeles, was then directed to the yacht.
Another yacht, Adventure Bound, headed towards Windigo, as did the New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Otago.
There was little the pair could do, but wait, so the sound of an Orion circling lifted the sailors spirits.
"We got the first radio call from them about half an hour before they were overhead - that was fantastic," Ms Davies said.
"People have used words like 'scared' and 'petrified' - but the reality is that in a situation like that you are past that point, past petrified - you are completely focused on doing what you can to be safe."
After a refuel the aircraft made the second of three flights to the scene.
A French Navy aircraft from Noumea took up position over Windigo.
The yacht Adventure Bound arrived, but it was the cargo ship Chengtu that was the best rescue option.
Rough seas, however, made that impossible in the dark.
After sunrise crew members on the ship hoisted the stranded sailors aboard.
The ship then rendezvoused with Otago, which took the pair to New Zealand.
"We can't speak highly enough of everyone involved in the rescue," Ms Davies said.
"They gave us the strength mentally to push on and cope as we waited for help to arrive.
Coffs Harbour Water Police Sergeant Don Stewart said the yacht has washed up between Bonville Creek and Bundagen Headland.
"The owners flew into Australia on Sunday I'm told, so an assessment will be made of the yacht and the best means of a salvage," Srgt. Stewart said.
"After the yacht was abandoned who knows where it has travelled, it's been adrift for almost four months now."