Two sailors have been brought safely to shore after being forced to abandon ship north-east of Sydney.
A 55-year-old Irish national Nick Dwyer and 44-year-old French national Barbara Heftman were sailing from New Zealand to Sydney when their yacht capsized.
Mr. Dwyer said the pair feared for their lives during the ordeal, “We weren’t sure whether we were going to be rolled again and each time a wave hit, and we thought ‘is the one that’s going to take us? We encountered enormous seas, waves the size of buildings coming at you constantly, winds that you can’t stand up in, seas breaking, and whiteness everywhere.”
Marooned due to gale-winds:
The pair had sailed three days without a rudder but huge waves and gale-force winds forced them to activate an emergency radio beacon on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t really until the low hit us and we got capsized that we felt we really couldn’t survive this one without assistance,” Mr. Dwyer said.
‘Heroes’ risked their own lives:
Police rescue boat “Nemesis” travelled the more than 200 nautical miles to rescue the pair and managed to bring them to land unhurt late Wednesday night.
The couple had been living on the yacht as part of a 10-year circumnavigation of the globe.
Mr. Dwyer said they were eternally grateful to the police crew who rescued them.
“There’s a crew of guys who were not on duty and all volunteered, knowing what sort of seas they were going out to, to rescue two complete strangers,” he said.
“They’re complete heroes.”
“It’s truly amazing to think that somebody would come that far to save us, to save our lives.”
“I owe them my life. We owe them our lives. You can’t put that into words.”
Plan to hitch in Sydney:
The experienced sailors plan to stay in Sydney on a three-month visa, figuring out their next step, while the boat is retrieved.
“It was our home and it might be again, we don’t know,” Mr. Dwyer said.
Maritime lawyer Nick Boyden said the laws surrounding abandoned vessels were complicated.
“What’s relevant is their intention when they left the vessel,” he said.
“If they declared an intention never to go back to it then as far as the law is concerned it’s abandoned and any potential salvers could go and salvage the boat and claim a reward.”
“[But] my understanding is they’ve declared an explicit intention that they want to get it or wait for it to come back in, that being the case then no-one can just go and salvage it and claim a reward for it.”
Mr. Boyden said a bigger issue was the danger the unmanned yacht could pose to other people on the water.
“A bigger ship it’s not going to matter much … but a smaller vessel, a similar sized sailing boat colliding with that at night could endanger the lives of those onboard,” he said.
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