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Australia: Couple rescued from sinking yacht

By Sue Richards last modified Nov 15, 2010 01:03 PM

Published: 2010-11-15 13:03:14
Countries: Australia , Fiji

From ABC News

A man and a woman have been rescued from a sinking yacht in treacherous conditions off the New South Wales south coast.

Police say the couple, aged 65 and 56, were on their way to Fiji from Sydney when they ran into trouble about 170 nautical miles east of Wollongong. They set off an emergency beacon at about 3:15pm on Sunday (14 November).

Australian Search and Rescue (AUSSAR) sent a plane to look for the 13-metre yacht before calling for help from the New South Wales Police Marine Area Command. As the rescue was being prepared, the situation deteriorated on board the yacht which began taking on water as the bilge pumps failed. It took Water Police 16 hours to reach the yacht, by which time the couple had sent another distress message.

Police say the couple were about to jump ship when officers arrived about 9:00am (AEDT). Police say the conditions were treacherous but they rescued the pair within 40 minutes.

Skipper Dennis Smith says his wife Sarah has made it clear their ocean sailing days are over. "It was very, very serious ... quite honestly, we were just about to abandon the boat. The water was coming in really fast and I just didn't know if anyone was going to be there in time," he said.

He described how there were problems with the steering when the boat began to take water. "We noticed the water was starting to pour in and we we're bucketing it out. We had all the bilge pumps going and we were losing the battle," he said. "That's when I started putting out a couple of mayday calls. I was really worried."

He says he and his wife would have been "history" without his emergency beacon.