Brothers in Lucky Rescue after Weak Signal Heard

Approximate position of Narda II when rescued
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The value of HF Radios Satellite phones and EPIRBS was underlined after the lucky rescue of two sailors whose boat was dismasted in remote ferocious waters south of Australia near Bass Strait this week. A rescue plane was coincidentally flying near enough to hear their weak VHF radio call, and set off the alarm.

The two brothers, in their 9.3 metre 1959-built yacht Narda II, were attempting to sail from Adelaide to the western Tasmanian coastal town of Strahan. In so doing they were obliged to cross some of the most infamous waters in the world, close to Bass Strait. There are more ancient wrecks in these waters than almost anywhere else on earth.

Brothers Ken and Geoff Holbert yesterday told of their lucky escape after being stuck in their disabled boat which was battered by 7 metre waves. The yacht's rudder had been broken and the vessel was dismasted before they began calling for rescue on their small radio.

They were safely towed to Apollo Bay, in Victoria's west, after a 28-hour rescue mission involving air and water police.

The brothers told the Herald Sun they had survived the ordeal almost unscathed.

'We have a few cuts and bruises, but that's it.'

The Holberts, both experienced sailors, had raised the alarm on Friday morning when they were 90 nautical miles from Portland and 70 nautical miles from King Island.

'We sent our position out on the radio and 10 minutes later we got a call back,' Ken said. 'We were pretty relieved.'

But the ordeal was far from over, with a 10-hour wait for the rescue vessel. Ken said he and his brother had enough food and water, but their disabled yacht was continually battered by rough seas.

'We did come close to losing the boat at some points,' he said.

A 5m police boat, based in Williamstown, reached the stranded sailors late on Friday night.

Sen-Constable Brad Gardiner said it took 13 hours to tow the boat to safety and it was a long and difficult journey. The towing rope snapped twice.

'It's pretty exhausting when the seas are so rough - you don't get much rest,' he said.

When the boats reached Apollo Bay soon after noon yesterday, Geoff struggled to balance as he stepped on dry land.

The yacht suffered $12,000 worth of damage, while the bill for the co-ordinated rescue is expected to be about $10,000.

'You do ask yourself should you be out there using these resources,' Ken said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the Holberts, from South Australia and Tasmania, were lucky to contact rescuers, considering the short radio range of their yacht.

'The two men on board were lucky to have their distress call answered by an aero rescue plane responding to another job in the area,' she said.