Raglan Coastguard has been called out to another major incident near Gannet Island — but this time there’s been a happy outcome.
The Coastguard’s rescue last Saturday night of three fishermen from the upturned hull of their seven-metre hardtop boat came three months after it played a central role in the search for and retrieval of the wreckage of a plane which plunged into the sea off Gannet Island, killing mobile phone company boss Eric Hertz and his wife Kathy.
Two and a half years previously the Coastguard was also involved in a search near Gannet Island for Te Awamutu man John Lindsay, who went missing while diving with friends and whose body was found a month later washed up on Ruapuke Beach.
Saturday’s callout in contrast had a happy ending, with the three fishermen — coincidentally also from Te Awamutu — reunited with their families at Raglan wharf after what Coastguard president Wally Hawken described as a “copybook operation”.
He said the skipper of the flipped boat “did everything right as far as we could see”, and managed to get to the locator beacon and set it off.
Coastguard stalwart Kevin Dreaver, who helped crew the Gallagher Rescue boat on the rescue mission, said the Coastguard and a rescue helicopter were called out and given an exact fix about 5.45pm by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Wellington.
The rescue helicopter hovered over the hull, about five miles southeast of Gannet Island, until Gallagher Rescue arrived about 8pm.
“The helicopter crew could see two people aboard [the hull] but it turned out they were huddled together and it was actually three,” Kevin said, discounting initial reports that a third person was floating in the water without a lifejacket.
The trio told their rescuers they’d been trying to retrieve the anchor when the boat was flipped by a wave. “Two had a chance to grab a lifejacket but the other didn’t,” Kevin said.
The rescue boat took the three fishermen back to Raglan wharf where, Kevin said, the recently opened Coastguard shed had a treatment room in which the “pretty appreciative” trio could have been warmed up after their ordeal.
However in the end the fishermen were instead treated in a waiting ambulance before being picked up at the wharf by their wives.
While the rescue went without a hitch, Coastguard efforts the next day to tow the overturned and semi-submerged boat back to Raglan ended in failure. Kevin said after they’d towed the boat about three miles the bow section — to which the towline was attached — broke off.
“We went back to have a look but couldn’t see it [the rest of the boat],” he said. Although the Coastguard crew were “pretty sure it’s gone down” Kevin said they might run a search pattern with a depth sounder to make certain.