Police frustrated at drunk yachtie rescue

  • 15/12/2015

Police have criticised the "idiotic" actions of a drunk yachtie who crashed his boat the first time he sailed it and refused to cooperate with his rescuers.

Northland authorities have vented their frustrations after a four-and-a-half hour search in the dark for a man with no sailing experience, no lifejacket and no idea where he was.

The 63-year-old sent Coastguard, police and search and rescue volunteers on a wild goose chase when he rang in after midnight on Tuesday to say he'd hit rocks and was sinking near Whangarei Heads.

The man managed to get into his inflatable dinghy and while he told the Coastguard he was sure of his location, a vessel sent to the area found no sign of him.

Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said a second vessel was called in to help and it soon became clear the yacht wasn't where the man first told searchers it was.

"He insisted he was in the Whangarei Harbour, but after several hours of searching the area we couldn't find him and it didn't help that he was now out in the ocean in his dinghy," the officer said.

Meanwhile, the yachtie, who was in constant communication with Coastguard, ignored advice and decided to take his dinghy up the estuary, at which point communication was lost.

Surf lifeguards at nearby beaches eventually found the man around 4.30am on Tuesday near Mangawhai Heads - 14 nautical miles away from where he initially thought he was.

He was severely hypothermic and in a state of shock.

Snr Sgt Metcalfe said the man's actions were "idiotic" and could easily have left him dead.

"This man had never owned a boat and had sailed north on his own without knowing how to operate a boat or the emergency equipment on board."

He also didn't have a lifejacket and had been drinking.

"It took a lot of people, resources and hours to find the man who didn't even know where he was and, at times, wouldn't listen to instructions."

He said the incident was a good pre-holiday reminder for boaties to be well-prepared.

They needed to know their boat, which should be seaworthy, and safety equipment and tell someone where they were going and when they expected to return.