A boat seemingly lost at sea after its owner fell overboard has been found — but the vessel has been cleared out by thieves.
Fisherman Will Fransen endured a gruelling 24 hours at sea after being yanked off his boat while attempting to reel in a marlin off Whangamatā on January 2.
As Fransen struggled in the water without a lifejacket or Personal Locator Beacon, his 40-foot boat, the Betty Gee, continued to idle and he was unable to reach it as it moved away.
He was rescued the following day by a passing boat who had spotted flashes of sunlight, intentionally reflected from his watch.
Fransen’s boat was found on Monday at the mouth of the Raukokore River, south of Waihau Bay on East Cape.
“She’s not leaking, fortunately. She actually ended up on a stone beach between some rocky areas, so just luck,” he said.
The Betty Gee was refloated by Fransen this morning with help from locals.
While there doesn’t “appear to have too much external damage”, the interior was a different story — the Betty Gee had been ransacked.
“All sorts, really. Fishing gear and refrigeration chilly bins, lots of tools, solar panels, a brand new dinghy on the roof and outboard so quite a bit,” he said.
His clothes were also stolen.
Fransen said some Good Samaritans had attempted to stop the theft but “got intimidated to hand some of it over by some of these chaps”.
He has since contacted police.
His son, Rhys Fransen, said the locals — who had been strangers before his dad’s ordeal — “have been a great help”.
“There’s just a few unsavoury people around in every town,” he said.
“People have got habits to fuel and it’s just a bit sad to kick a man when he’s down, you know?”
While some items can be replaced, there’s one item Fransen would be overjoyed to have back — a small video camera which should have recorded the moment he fell overboard.
Rhys is just glad his dad managed to survive the tell the tale.
“He’s just a weapon. You know, it’s just how he is. He’s just a sailor. He’s never glass empty, you know, he’s always glass full. ‘Here’s a solution — there’s no problem too big’. It’s just, ‘find a way to make it work and find a way to bat along’.
“I mean, he’s got the necessities. He’s got the boat. He’s still alive — the rest you can slowly rebuild over time.”
Despite losing many of his possessions, Fransen said he was determined to look on the bright side.
“I’m looking at the positives that the boat’s back and I’ve met some great people,” he said.
“There’s some beautiful people in New Zealand, there really is. Some real cool people.”