The rescued sailor’s yacht had to be left behind on McDonald Bank, near McLeod Bay. Photo / supplied
It was a case of “right place, right time” for a Coastguard crew conducting a training exercise just as a sailor got into difficulties on Whangārei Harbour.
The alarm was raised by a member of the public who saw someone in difficulty in the water and a small yacht at a 45-degree angle off McLeod Bay, Whangārei Heads, in worsening conditions around noon on Saturday.
Cherie Nelson, president of Whangārei Coastguard, said a crew on the vessel Circa Rescue just happened to be carrying out search training with a Whangaruru Coastguard unit when the call came in.
The exercise was halted with the Circa crew locating the man within 10 minutes as he was wading in waist-deep water near McDonald Bank.
Nelson said the boat had started taking on water but the solo sailor managed to get it to the sandbank.
He was attempting to walk to shore when rescued but even at low tide the current would have swept him away, she said.
He was cold and shivering, though not hypothermic, and pleased to be returned safely to his vehicle at Parua Bay.
Unfortunately, the crew was unable to retrieve his yacht because the water was too shallow to get close.
She expected it would float free and end up in one of the nearby bays at the next high tide.
He was lucky Coastguard was already out on the water at the time.
“It was a case of right place, right time,” she said.