Coastguard volunteers battle the worst conditions to rescue people in danger. Can you help them by making a donation today?
Whether it's in the middle of the night or during a horrible storm, Coastguard volunteers are there to rescue people like Paul, pictured above, and bring them home to their loved ones.
You could help their efforts by providing powerful torches, marine binoculars or search lights for our crews so they remain prepared for the worst.
It was a cold, wild night when Paul Christenson was sailing to his wife Michelle, who was waiting for him in Dunedin. She was his best friend; the couple were soul mates. So you can imagine her horror when she heard Paul was in desperate trouble at sea.
Paul had been sailing alone many times before and considered himself an experienced mariner. His voyage from Auckland to Dunedin would take three days, maybe four. But as he entered the Bay of Plenty, things turned for the worse.
Paul recalled how the sea started churning and tossing his nine-metre yacht Windsong about. It made sailing almost impossible. He recalled, “It was nasty. It wasn’t just a big swell. The water was ugly.”
But what happened next almost claimed his life. He was 70 kilometres off the coast of Tauranga when his steering suddenly failed. Paul was stranded alone on his yacht and completely at the mercy of the ferocious, relentless sea.
Paul needed someone to get to him urgently, so he triggered his rescue beacon.
Hundreds of kilometres away, New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre picked up his distress call. They located his yacht, could see it was drifting towards the open ocean, and raised the alarm. Our search and rescue team set out immediately.
Coastguard volunteers were called from their homes at 11.30pm. They left the Port of Tauranga and headed into the blustery night.
Paul's rescuers kept in contact via his VHF radio. It was so reassuring to know that help was on the way. And soon afterwards, Michelle’s voice came over the radio too:
“Paul, I don’t care about the boat … but I can’t live without you…”
Paul’s rescuers were still hours away but they all heard her plea, and everyone choked up. They doubled their efforts to get to him.
On board rescue vessel TECT Rescue was skipper Chris Phillips. He recalled: “Paul was by himself and had been battling big seas for some time. He was just physically drained. I’ve dealt with some gnarly seas over the years; these were pretty bad.”
It took the crew three and a half hours of painstaking navigation in the pitch black to find Paul and his yacht. By that time, around 3am, he wasn’t in a good way.
The rescue crew pulled alongside the yacht – a difficult move in the churning waves. With their spotlights on and the crew braced on the slippery deck, they called out to Paul to leap aboard.
“One of our crew leaned over and held his body, and he jumped across,’ said Coastguard skipper Chris. Paul was not in a good condition, and was lucky to be alive.
Chance, and a cruel sea, had almost taken this brave man from his wife. But your support for our volunteers saved him.
They made it back to Tauranga harbour by 6am, twelve exhausting hours after Paul had first raised the alarm. And although they were weary many of the Coastguard volunteers went straight on to their day jobs.
Your support for Coastguard gave Paul a second chance. And, despite being many hundreds of miles away in Dunedin, Michelle’s life was saved too.
Will you help us save the next ‘Paul and Michelle’? I know you recognise that Coastguard volunteers are often the only ones that can help in an emergency. But, as skilled and staunch as they are, they simply couldn’t do it without your donations.
Please help save more lives at sea this summer by sending a donation today.
I do hope you can help us today, because we can’t do it without you. Thank you.