Rescued couple say ordeal will make them stronger

Tania Davies and Steven Jones greet family members at Devonport yesterday. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Tania Davies and Steven Jones greet family members at Devonport yesterday. Photo / Steven McNicholl
An Auckland woman and her British-born partner say being rescued from their stricken yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was a humbling experience but it taught them to enjoy every moment of the future.

Tania Davies and Steven Jones were winched off their disabled 11.6m yacht by the crew of the cargo ship Chengtu on Friday morning in a gale and 10m seas.

Later that day they were transferred from the Chengtu to HMNZS Otago, which had been diverted from exercises in the Hauraki Gulf.

On arrival at the Devonport Naval Base yesterday afternoon, the couple showed nasty head wounds suffered when they were knocked unconscious on a voyage from Tonga, bound for New Zealand.

"There were some dark moments," said Mr Jones, 52, of North Wales, who has been sailing for 30 years - three of them on board the Beneteau-designed Windigo.

He said a container of diesel had smashed the hatch cover, which meant water continually flooded the boat.

"We were preparing to launch the liferaft."

Search and Rescue sent a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion to watch over the Windigo while the Chengtu diverted from its course towards Los Angeles for 15 hours to reach the yacht 700km southwest of Tonga and 1260km from New Zealand.

"The plane was circling overhead and when it went to refuel, the French Navy sent a plane to just circle us.

"It gave us moral support. It was important to us that they knew where we were.

"Then the Chengtu came and the seamanship was first-class - bringing a 600-foot ship alongside us without touching.

"Tania got the line and jumped in the water and they pulled her in and then it was my turn.

"I feel so guilty about causing so much worry for our families and all the rescuers and these wonderful navy people, who have been brilliant."

Ms Davies, 43, has sailed for three years and said the couple's belongings went with the Windigo, last seen drifting in a remote part of the ocean.

"She was a solid, dependable boat ... our home and our love. If it wasn't so windy, we would not be here.

"We are broke but we will find a way through. We are stronger together - even stronger."

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