Kaipara Harbour tragedy: Francie capsizing a 'freak' accident

The Francie (supplied)
The Francie (supplied)

The skipper of a boat which capsized on Saturday was "very good" at his job, according to a friend.

Bill McNatty, 68, took 10 others with him out fishing on Kaipara Harbour. The boat capsized trying to cross the bar at the entrance to the harbour, northwest of Auckland.

Mr McNatty's fate is yet to be revealed by the authorities, with seven bodies recovered, three survivors and one still missing.

Steve McGregor, Commodore at the Kaipara Cruising and Sports Fishing Club, says the tragedy has been "devastating" for members and locals.

"Our thoughts go out to the families. It's one of those tragic things that has happened," he told Newshub.

"As I say, we've just got to wait and see what's going to happen… We're still to know what's happening out there."

Kaipara Harbour tragedy: Francie capsizing a 'freak' accident

Steve McGregor (Newshub.)

A few dozen people gathered at the club on Saturday night, having a few drinks and supporting one another, waiting for news.

Just before nightfall the club's flag was lowered to half-mast. The Kaipara Coastguard ended the day's search shortly after 10pm.

Mr McGregor says Mr McNatty took good care of his boat, the Francie.

"Bill's been involved with the Francie for about three or four years now, and a very good skipper. His boat has always been up to scratch.

"You really can't, I can't put anything on it in a sense. It's just one of those freak things that has happened."

Barry Beaton, a local, told Newshub while it was not an accident waiting to happen, you need to be weary of the conditions in the area.

"We're always weary of the weather - if you go over the bar, you've gotta know what you're doing. But all the charter skippers know what they're doing.

"The weather conditions change out there so fast - when we go out in our little boat we always watch the wind [and] the clouds - and you come back when you've got to come back."

Five bodies were recovered on Saturday, and two overnight.