Trip home "comedy of errors" for Dunedin skipper

‘‘Disasters start with little things,'' is the way John Clover has described his voyage from Picton to deliver his new yacht home to Dunedin.

The 76-year-old's reintroduction to the sea after about two decades has not been a smooth one, with a string of incidents culminating in running his 8m masthead sloop Tahere aground at the entrance to Oamaru Harbour at day-break yesterday morning.

‘‘It hit hard and solid, the combination of waves and surges forcing it up to the breakwater,'' he said as he surveyed his yacht, which was high and dry on a beach.

Mr Culver collected the sloop from Waikawa Marina about two weeks ago, intending to make his way down to Otago Harbour. He said it appeared now it had not been well maintained.

‘‘The whole trip has been a comedy of errors,'' he said.

Offshore from Kaikoura, the diesel engine stopped in 3m waves when it appeared fuel lines were blocked by diesel bug. He had to be towed by the coast guard about 21km into Kaikoura to have the engine repaired.

Entering Lyttelton Harbour, he ran out of fuel and had to be towed into port. Mr Clover said the size of the fuel tank was smaller than the previous owner had claimed and his calculations on fuel consumption came up short.

On Sunday, he left Timaru and about two hours out his new automatic steering system failed. He decided to continue on, sailing by hand during the night.

‘‘It was hard going,'' he said, so he hove to off Oamaru and decided to come into the Oamaru Harbour at first light to sleep.

Mr Clover radioed ashore, but the person he was talking to did not have any information about the entrance to the harbour. Instead, they told him to contact Timaru Harbour, but reception would not reach that far.

He had come into Oamaru Harbour about 25 years ago two or three times and decided to come in the same way, around the point and close to the breakwater.

However, the entrance channel is now against Holmes Wharf and he ended up stuck against the breakwater.

Contractors working on the Oamaru breakwater, Rooney Earthmoving, offered to help Mr Clover refloat the yacht with a digger by cutting a channel across the beach to deeper water.

The yacht was refloated shortly after 5pm and towed to a mooring to be checked.

Mr Clover is no stranger to yachting mishaps - he was in the Otago Daily Times about two decades ago when one of his previous craft, the keeler Deborah, was wrecked off Karitane.

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