LONG LOST FISHING BOAT TURNS UP IN TIKOPIA

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (PINA Jan. 8) - Aucklander Max McCamish marvels how a fishing boat he owned before it was abandoned in a storm off Samoa five years ago turned up in cyclone-hit Tikopia, Solomon Islands.

He was staggered to be confronted by a photograph in the New Zealand Herald of his 10-meter, twin-hulled aluminium vessel, the Streyka.

It was high and dry on Tikopia but looking relatively intact despite Cyclone Zoe, the New Zealand Herald said.

New Zealand photojournalist Geoff Mackley, who took the photo, said the boat was hurled about 200 meters inland by 10-meter waves driven by winds of up to 350km/h. It was found on sand above buried homes, he said.

It still carried its original green and white paintwork and the name of the Samoan boatyard, which built it for a fishing business Mr McCamish established with a friend in Apia, Lawrie Burich.

The boat overturned in a storm early in 1998, Mr McCamish told the New Zealand Herald.

The boat's five-member crew was rescued almost 24 hours later, he told the Herald.

But conditions were too wild to tow the boat ashore and it was given up as lost despite strenuous aerial attempts to find it in calmer weather.

He could only assume the uninsured vessel, which cost him about NZ$100,000 to buy and fit out, was found, salvaged and patched up by someone.

The vessels then skipper, former Christchurch man Brian Hood, told the New Zealand Herald from Samoa:

"That's amazing - when we were picked up she was just about out of flotation. We managed to keep one hull above water but the other one was submerged."

Mr Hood recalled being repeatedly washed off the overturned vessel by waves and being dragged back by his four young Samoan crewmembers as sharks circled them.

Mr Hood told the Herald the sharks were attracted by their catch of albacore tuna, so one brave crewmember dived down to release the fish from the holds.

"The fish-holds were open and they were in there packed with ice but every so often one would drop out and a big white shape would come along and grab it," he said.

Mr McCamish said he was resigned to probably having forfeited his ownership rights to the vessel under international salvage laws.

A Marine Safety Authority spokeswoman said the first person to board a boat abandoned by its owner in international waters was entitled to keep it.

Mr Mackley, who was resting in Vanuatu after four flights to Tikopia, told the Herald that the Streyka appeared to be the only modern vessel on an island of dugout canoes.

He could not tell whether the islanders had been using it, but some had spoken of visiting Anuta Island about 130 kilometers away, he said.

January 9, 2003

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