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Southern Spars

Yacht bought July, abandoned in August, Austrians' Pacific rescue

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 7 Aug 2013
Irene and Christian - they had only bought the boat, with survey, a month before .. .
Buyer Beware. It was a 1988 Jeanneau Sun Legende 41, and they had bought it - with a survey** - in July in Tahiti. However, trying to cross the Pacific, an Austrian couple had so much trouble with their boat that they finally had to abandon it. The shrouds were giving way, the water pump had packed it in, the engine was overheating, the bilge pump was not active and they even had steering difficulties.

Finally the couple, identified as Irene Humer and Christian Ecrhardt - a practicing physicist before the voyage - were rescued from their 12.8m (42ft) yacht Gobo, 220 nautical miles east of American Samoa.

Last week, on 31 July, Christian made a first distress call by satellite phone to maritime rescue authorities in Germany, reporting a leak, damage to rigging supporting the mast, and an overheating engine.

The German authorities contacted RCCNZ, which arranged for the Canadian sail training barque, the Picton Castle, to rendezvous and assist with repairs so that the couple could keep sailing.

'After those repairs, the skipper’s intention was to continue the voyage, but obviously conditions have since deteriorated,' Mr Roberts said.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said Christian made his second distress call at around 11pm on Monday night this week, indicating they were prepared to abandon ship.

An American Samoan based boat, FV Tifa Imoana, was close by and the couple were successfully transferred at around 9am Tuesday morning.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Mike Roberts said the skipper was prepared to abandon ship because of ongoing problems with the yacht.

'This was a serious situation in a largely empty area of ocean, and to successfully transfer the pair to the safety of the FV Tifa Imoana was a good result.'

The couple are expected to be delivered to Pago Pago in American Samoa in the next two days.

The yacht remains afloat at present and mariners will be advised of its position.

**Editor's Note:
In publishing this story, Sail-World Cruising meant to cast no aspersions on the good name of professional surveyors in general, and many of the issues on this boat could have occurred after their departure. However, the point needs to be made that the purchaser of a yacht needs to make their own investigations into the professional qualifications of the surveyor (and of the seaworthiness of the yacht itself) before crossing an ocean. Buyer beware.

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