Sailboat captain rescues shipwrecked family from remote reef

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The captain of a sailboat that rescued a British family of four from a remote reef in the South Pacific Ocean said Monday that the family was resting and recovering from their overnight ordeal.

Martin Vogel said the family’s catamaran was a wreck after it ran aground in heavy seas at about 2:30 a.m. on Beveridge Reef, an uninhabited and semi-submerged atoll that has plagued Mariners in the past.

Vogel said he was able to communicate by radio with the family overnight and rescue the boy and girl, aged about 13 and 11 and the adults using a life raft when daylight broke a few hours later.

“They were pretty distressed but they’re all sleeping now,” Vogel said from a satellite phone aboard the Dona Catharina. “Honestly, they’re coping remarkably well.”

Geoff Lunt, a senior search and rescue officer from New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Center, said it was very lucky the Dona Catharina happened to be anchored inside the reef’s lagoon at the time.

He said the boat was taking shelter as it sailed from New Zealand to the remote island of Niue, about 150 miles to the northwest, to help with a study of humpback whales.

Lunt said the family aboard the 50-foot catamaran Avanti activated their distress beacon at just after 2:30 am and that New Zealand officials then sent out an alert to ships. By 2:50 a.m. they had received a call from the Dona Catharina, Lunt said.

Vogel said the seven crew members aboard his 60-foot ketch had been intent on completing the rescue and hadn’t yet gotten the full story from the family, so he wasn’t sure if they were hoping to shelter at the reef or were simply unaware of its existence.

He said the lagoon inside the reef can provide calm water for boats but the Avanti had run aground on the opposite side from the lagoon’s narrow entrance.

He said the family was able to gather some clothes, passports and a few treasured items when they rescued them. He said the weather was still nasty and he plans to wait it out before attempting to complete the journey to Niue.