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South Pacific, Beveridge Reef: British cruising family rescued from remote reef

By The Times — last modified Sep 08, 2017 07:59 AM
Beveridge Reef is a submerged atoll located in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Niue, approximately 130 miles (209 km) from Niue and 600 miles (966 km) from the Cook Islands. The reef is normally submerged, with only a small part visible at low tide. A useful and unique stopover for some cruising yachts on passage from the Cook Islands to Niue, the reef has claimed several fishing boats over the years, and now its first catamaran.

Published: 2017-08-28 23:00:00
Topics: Pacific Crossing , Safety and Medical
Countries: Cook Islands , Niue

South Pacific, Beveridge Reef: British cruising family rescued from remote reef

NASA astronaut image of Beveridge Reef near Niue, Pacific Ocean. Picture: Wikimedia CommonsSource:Supplied

As reported by The Times - https://www.thetimes.co.uk

A veteran British yachtsman has described the terrifying moment his catamaran — with his wife and two sleeping children on board — ploughed into a remote mid-Pacific reef in the dark.

Bobby Cooper, 51, and his family were aboard their 50ft catamaran, Avanti, battling 40mph winds and high waves when the vessel smashed into Beveridge Reef, 150 miles from the tiny mid-Pacific island state of Niue.

“It was fairly interesting. We surfed onto the reef. Bit of a navigation error. It was very violent and we grounded. We were then being hit by subsequent waves as they came over us,” Mr Cooper told The Times by satellite phone from another yacht that rescued them,

He said that their catamaran had hit the reef at 4am on Monday morning while his children, Lauren, 13 and Robbie, 11, were sleeping.

Mr Cooper said the catamaran’s GPS navigation system had not picked up the reef — a submerged atoll — that lay in their path.

He and his wife, Cheryl scrambled to get their children from their bunks and onto the craft’s deck.

“The waves were breaking over our stern. We got the kids up. We put them to the task of collecting whatever things they required and we assessed our situation” said Mr Cooper, a highly experienced ocean sailor and captain who has made at least 15 Atlantic crossings on yachts.

“We realised the boat was not sinking and that the best place to be was on board. We sat it out until the waves pushed us far enough onto the reef to be away from the breakers,” he said.

The couple activated an emergency distress beacon that sent exact details of their location by satellite to New Zealand’s ocean marine rescue centre 1500 miles to the south.

New Zealand authorities immediately sent out emergency radio messages across the Pacific requesting that any craft near the stricken yacht go to the Avanti’s aid.

The message was picked by a 60ft New Zealand registered ketch, the Dona Catharina, which itself had suffered storm damage. Amazingly, the Dona Catharina was within two kilometres of the grounded Avanti. The New Zealand boat had taken shelter inside the submerged atoll while its crew — on route to assist a humpback whale research project near Niue — made repairs.

“They turned on their deck lights and we could see them, we communicated with them,” said Mr Cooper. “If they hadn’t been there, we’d be sitting in a life raft right now, trying to keep warm and dry,” said Mr Cooper.

Mr Cooper, with the help of the Dona Catharina’s seven crew, has since managed to dislodge his family’s catamaran from the reef and anchor it in the calmer waters inside the lagoon at Beveridge Reef.

“The reef didn’t appear on our plotter, I’m afraid. It came as a complete surprise,” said Mr Cooper.

Mr Cooper is a well-known international yacht skipper who has captained the 75ft classic sailing yacht, Sirocco, once owned by the Hollywood star, Errol Flynn.

The family sold their house in Palma on the Spanish island of Majorca before setting out on a voyage to the Pacific in April.

The Dona Catharina was still sheltering from poor weather at Beveridge Reef earlier today and the family will stay aboard until she reaches Niue.

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