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Craypots forgotten as navy boat comes close

Checking his craypots offshore at Manu Bay brought some unexpected excitement last week for Edrich Opperman and his young family when a large navy vessel flying the NZ flag pulled up almost alongside their boat and “anchored up” for a while.

Edrich — with sons Chester, 3, and Carter, 5, on board — forgot momentarily about his catch and motored back to shore to pick up wife Amy who caught the moment on her iPhone.

“It went viral on Facebook,” an excited Amy told the Chronicle. All she’d really been looking forward to was crayfish for dinner that night.
The Upper Wainui Road couple reckon the 55-metre HMNZS Rotoiti couldn’t possibly have anchored any further in to Manu Bay because the water was so shallow.

It was “really close”, said Edrich — just a few hundred metres offshore. “How often does that happen?”

The crew were waving from the decks, added Amy, who was overawed by the up-close-and-personal encounter. Her young sons, she said, could hardly believe their eyes.

The patrol boat was in transit from Wellington back to Devonport Naval Base, “tasking” with customs and fisheries officers on board, said a RNZ Navy spokesperson.

Performing border and fishing protection duties was standard procedure, she told the Chronicle.

It is unusual, however, to see a navy patrol boat so close inshore as they patrol New Zealand’s 15,000 kilometre coastline and its exclusive economic zone out to 200 nautical miles. Besides patrolling they also undertake surveillance, search-and-rescue work and disaster relief operations.

The Rotoiti, which has been in active service since April 2009, typically operates with a 20-strong navy crew and four Government agency officers on board. It can also take up to a dozen others for general naval training or other duties.

The vessel’s no slouch and can hit speeds of 46 kilometres an hour or 25 knots. It can cover up to 7000 nautical miles without refuelling.
The navy says comparing vessels like the Rotoiti with New Zealand’s old inshore patrol craft of the 1990s is “like comparing a Ferrari with a Toyoto Hilux”.

Edith Symes

Edrich, Chester and Carter with the HMSNZS Rotoiti

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