Searchers have found the 87-year-old sailing ship the Alvei and all on board, including three US citizens, four Australians, a New Zealander and and Englishman are safe and well.
The 28m steel-hulled Alvei was located about 760km north of North Cape, New Zealand, at 11.45am (9.45am AEDT) today, authorities said. The ship had been feared missing en route to New Zealand from Vanuatu, after it failed to arrive on the North Island on its scheduled date of December 1. The schooner had also failed to communicate its revised estimated time of arrival to authorities. However, the ship's owner said earlier today he was confident it would be found safe.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force had been called in to the search with one of its long-range Orion aircraft. A smaller search aircraft flew between New Zealand and Norfolk Island yesterday.
The skipper, Evan Logan, wrote in his most recent log entry that he was hoping to be in New Zealand's Bay of Islands by mid-November and in the town of Nelson, at the northern end of the South Island, by Christmas. The ship has been working for a charity in Vanuatu delivering medical supplies to remote clinics.
New Zealand's rescue co-ordination centre began the search at midday yesterday. Australian and New Caledonian authorities were assisting with the search. Mission co-ordinator Mike Roberts said the weather between Vanuatu and New Zealand had been moderate, and there had been no reported sightings or radio contact. An emergency beacon on the ship had not been activated.
'The vessel is not known to keep regular scheduled radio communications and there was enough cause for concern to begin a search to determine her status,' Mr Roberts said.
The Alvei's owner, Henk Meuzelaar, said from his home in Utah in the US that he felt the ship and its crew were safe. He said Mr Logan was an experienced sailor who largely built the vessel himself from an old fishing trawler.
'He has not been off the boat for the past 20 years or so. He has gone through cyclone conditions,' Dr Meuzelaar said.
'Last year they went through a hurricane-strength wind and they lost a lot of their topsails, which is one of the reasons they are slow, but these events have established that the ship is very safe.
'I will start worrying if we haven't heard from her in another week.'
Mr Roberts said the crew were believed to be aged between 27 and 66 and were made up of three Americans, four Australians, one New Zealander and one Englishman.
A spokesman for the RCCNZ said while the weather had been moderate, there had been some strong northeast winds.
Vanuatu Cruising Yacht Club Commodore Ross Wilson said the 2035km journey would normally take about three weeks.
Alvei is run by a non-profit cooperative, which allows people to travel for a low cost on the understanding they contribute to maintenance, cooking and sailing while on board.