Two Whangarei boaties are being praised for dropping everything they were doing to be winched onto a yacht in 30-knot winds to sail the vessel to shore after its skipper lost a finger in an accident yesterday.
St John Northland District Operations Manager Tony Devanney said the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter was called in to rescue the 61-year-old skipper of the yacht early yesterday after he lost a finger.
The man, from Wellington, and his wife were sailing their 14-metre yacht Bintang from Waiheke Island around Cape Reinga and towards New Plymouth when the accident happened about 12 nautical miles off Ahipara.
The skipper, who had been sailing for more than 40 years, is believed to have lost the finger while hauling up the anchor in heavy seas.
Mr Devanney said before the rescue chopper left Whangarei, St Johns rang Whangarei marina and two boaties, Boyd Smith and Daniel Mann, agreed to be flown to the vessel, be winched aboard and then sail the yacht back to Whangarei while the skipper and his wife were winched aboard the chopper.
The man's wife was unable to sail the boat alone.
"The skipper did a very good job to sail the boat closer to shore so we could complete the rescue easier, but the real good news is these two yachties dropping everything to help out," he said.
"They didn't hesitate and were only too happy to go."
Mr Devanney said it showed how close the yachting fraternity was and how they would go the extra mile - including out to sea in a chopper - to help each other.
The chopper reached the boat about 3pm yesterday and lowered winchman Wally Mitchell aboard.
The yachties were then lowered from the chopper, before the skipper and his wife were winched up and flown to Whangarei Hospital.
Mr Devanney was unsure at this stage if the finger could be reattached.
He said while the rescue wasn't too far offshore, it was particularly difficult given the 30-35 knot winds and the yacht pitching around in the water.
"With the mast and stay going all over, it was a tricky winch but we safely got them off in minimal time and back to Whangarei Hospital," he said.
Mr Smith and Mr Mann are expected to sail the Bintang into Whangarei this evening.