'Ghost yacht' sails itself 800nm in 7 months

A yacht which was abandoned seven months ago after its crew mutinied against their experienced skipper has been found, still sailing – 800 miles from where they left it.

The skipper and crew of Air Apparent, a Compass 790, were airlifted from the vessel after its three inexperienced crew members panicked and set off the yacht’s EPIRB. The yacht was sailing in 25-30 knot winds and 3m seas 165km west of Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand. The skipper, Bill Heritage, an experienced sailor who had ownedAir Apparentfor 15 years told his crew the conditions were safe, but they disagreed. ‘We were sailing very conservatively and we had an ideal wind direction. There was high winds but that is not dangerous,’ he told the Nelson Mail.

‘I was sleeping when they woke me up and told me they were going to set off the beacon. I didn’t know what they were talking about,’ Mr Heritage said. ‘I didn’t rally them. Another skipper might have done better.’

Mr Heritage initially put in an insurance claim with AMP New Zealand but was declined. After receiving some pressure from an Australian insurance company that said it would cover such an incident, AMP ruled that a mutinous crew was not reasonably foreseen.

AMP then granted Mr Heritage a claim for $23,000, though he had initially claimed $24,000.

‘I think we all came to a conclusion which was amicable for both sides,’ Mr Heritage said.

Air Apparentwas found as a ‘ghost ship’ floating around the Pacific Ocean, having survived the worst the Tasman Sea could throw at it. The 7.9m yacht was discovered south of Norfolk Island by French Navy patrol ship La Moqueuse on a trip from Noumea to Nelson last week. Its captain, Lieutenant Laurent Saunois, said the yacht was like a ‘ghost ship’.

Image: Skipper and mutinous crew shortly after being rescued. (Getty)

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