Yachtie convicted for sailing despite conditions

23 April 2018

A boatie who sailed a yacht in an unsafe condition from Wellington to Westport has been sentenced to community detention, after ignoring conditions imposed by Maritime NZ that the vessel could not be operated outside Wellington Harbour.

Radio operators.
Maritime New Zealand © 2020
Coriolanus, repainted from red to white in Westport.

John Whatuira pleaded guilty to charges filed by Maritime NZ under the Maritime Transport Act for failing to comply with conditions set by a Maritime Officer; and operating a ship in a manner that caused unnecessary danger or risk to other people.

He was sentenced late last week in the Westport District Court to four months community detention, 200 hours community work, and 12 months supervision.

The Judge told the Mr Whatuira that he put a passenger and rescuers in danger when using his yacht in Westport, and that his conduct was “highly reckless”.

Maritime NZ Central Regional Compliance Manager Michael-Paul Abbott says the conviction is a reminder to all skippers that they must ensure their vessels are properly maintained and fit for a sea journey, and that they must comply with any conditions imposed.

“This boatie put his own life and that of others in danger when he ignored Maritime NZ’s directions and sailed from Wellington without making the necessary improvements to the old wooden yacht he bought for $500 online.

“The engine was not working when conditions were put on this vessel, and the limited equipment on board, such as the sails and rigging, were old and in poor repair.  The vessel did not have a working radio, any approved lifejackets, charts or other means to navigate.”

The Court heard that Police were notified in December, 2015, about a yacht that was struggling within Wellington Harbour.  The Police launch came alongside the eight metre vessel, which appeared in poor condition with considerable weed growth along its exposed hull.

Mr Whatuira told the Police launch master that he had purchased the yacht, Coriolanus, on TradeMe for $500 and had travelled to Wellington to take ownership of it.

A Maritime Officer from Maritime NZ visited Mr Whatuira who said he intended to sail the vessel to Westport.  Conditions were imposed on the Coriolanus under the Maritime Transport Act and the defendant confirmed that he understood a ship surveyor would have to find the vessel seaworthy before the conditions would be lifted so it could be sailed from the harbour.

In April 2016 the Coriolanus was no longer in Wellington and it was found in December at Westport Harbour, repainted from red to white. In January 2017 the Westport Harbour Master had to assist the defendant and a female companion when they had difficulty bringing the yacht back into the harbour in rough conditions.

Mr Abbott says “this man ignored obvious warnings over a more than 12-month period that the yacht was not fit to be sailed, and that he was putting his own life and others in danger – including his passenger and rescuers”.

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