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Fan worm infestation

The yacht at the centre of the rescue drama off Tolaga Bay on Wednesday afternoon was urgently hauled out of the harbour by crane yesterday afternoon after the marine pest Mediterranean fanworm was spotted on its hull.

The inspection also brought to light issues around the boat’s overall integrity when it comes to safety.

One of the German twin brothers on board fell overboard on Wednesday afternoon about 28 kilometres offshore from Tolaga Bay, and was rescued by helicopter.

A crane from C.R.Taylor Ltd lifted the Wahoo out of the water yesterday and it was positioned dockside, for cleaning, at the request of Gisborne District Council.

The hull has to be completely cleaned before the yacht will be allowed back into the water.

Eastland Port has been clear of fanworm, which is well established in other New Zealand harbours, including in Auckland, from where Wahoo set sail on March 1.

“On arrival, Eastland Port’s marina manager noticed Mediterranean fan worm on the yacht’s hull and it was decided to remove the yacht from the water immediately to minimise the risk of further infestation,” said the council’s integrated catchment manager Dr Murry Cave.

“An inspection of the vessel raised some safety and operational concerns about the yacht’s ability to reach its stated destination of San Paulo, Brazil.”

The yacht had spent the past year at Bayswater Marina in Auckland.

“An assessment of the stores on board, the lack of navigational aids and the general state of the vessel suggested that it was unsafe for coastal passage let alone a long sea voyage across the Pacific,” Dr Cave said.

“The vessel is now on the hard at the port but the council needs to determine the next steps for the yacht, as it is not safe to continue to Brazil,” Dr Cave said.

“We are currently trying to make contact with the yacht owner in Brazil.”

The German brothers, who wish to remain anonymous, have thanked those who helped them and the one who spent three-and-a-half hours in the water has thanked his lucky stars he is still alive.

“We were hired to deliver the yacht to its new owners in Brazil,” he told the Herald.

“I was pulled into the ocean when a rope got caught around one of my arms,” he said.

Three-and-a-half hours later he heard the Lowe Corporation Rescue helicopter overhead and then a rescue swimmer was in the water with him.

“It was so good to see that helicopter.

“I did not feel cold after that time. I was just glad to get out of the water.” He had no lifejacket on when it happened.

“I took my jeans off and blew air into them. Inflating my pants helped me stay afloat.”

The brothers, aged 31, both experienced sailors from northern Germany, said they were very grateful for all the help they received on Wednesday afternoon.

“The coastguard, the helicopter crew, everyone who was involved in the search and rescue, they all did their work very well and my brother and I both appreciate it very much.”

The brothers said they were undecided at this stage on whether or not they would continue on their delivery voyage.

Mediterranean fanworm has become well established in many parts of the Waitemata Harbour and the inner Hauraki Gulf. GDC has worked jointly with the Ministry of Primary Industries to fund an eradication programme for fanworm in Gisborne Port, spending nearly $100,000 on the exercise. Its fast growth rate and prolific breeding habits make it likely to out-compete other species and interfere with biological processes.

BAD BUG: The 11.5m yacht Wahoo, from which a crew member fell overboard on Wednesday off Tolaga Bay, was lifted out of the water at the port yesterday after the invasive marine pest Mediterranean fanworm was found on its hull. A team from C R Taylor did the tricky job with the help of port workers and two divers. Pictures by Liam Clayton
Mediterranean fanworm.