Four sailors in New Zealand were on their way from Auckland to Nelson last week when they found themselves engineless and at the mercy of 10-foot seas and 20-knot winds off the coast of Cape Reinga in a 25-foot sloop named Air Apparent, according to The New Zealand Herald.
Carl Horn, from Nelson, and two friends were sailing with skipper Bill Heritage when the weather started turning ugly around midday last Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the crew began discussing options. Heritage thought they could weather the conditions, but Horn had his doubts, according to the report. Finally the crew “mutinied” and fired off the EPIRB at 3:22 p.m.
“Things got out of hand as the storm got worse,” Horn told the paper. “The seas were rising, the motor didn’t work. We couldn’t get the motor started — the battery had died and, when we tried the crank, that didn’t work.”
The crew of the first rescue helicopter to respond discovered the sloop was farther out than what the EPIRB initially indicated. When they reached their fuel limitations, they called on another rescue helicopter that had to winch the group to safety 75 miles off the coast — leaving the sloop abandoned.
The total cost of the callout is estimated at $20,000 with a value on the sloop about $24,000 as of 2005. The pilot on the helicopter that rescued the men said they were using an outdated EPIRB and with good seamanship the sloop could have ridden out the conditions.
Horn admitted that out of all the men, Heritage was the one with the most experience, having owned the sloop for 15 years.
“I would not be surprised if he never speaks to me again,” Horn said in the report. “He was extremely upset, shocked and shattered.”
The whereabouts of the sloop at this point are unknown.
— Elizabeth Ellis