After what started as an adventure to sail his newly-purchased yacht back to New Zealand from Rarotonga, quickly turned into a nightmare early on Saturday morning, as a series of storms tossed the rudderless yacht from side to side, with huge ocean swells threating to sink the vessel.
Before being rescued by police patrol boat Te Kukupa on Monday afternoon he says he was ready to jump overboard.
“I had everything that I needed to do a short trip to the water to my life raft.
But for some unknown reason that boat just never tipped over.
“It was terrible, a daunting experience, and I’m never going to do that again.”
Fredericks, a 53-year-old drainlayer from New Lynn Auckland, says after leaving Rarotonga the yacht encountered a number of mishaps leading to its eventual abandonment 390 nautical miles southwest of the Cook Islands.
After the Zangano left Rarotonga on Monday October 23, the drama began when a rear stay securing a reef on the yacht’s mainsail, snapped.
“So I was only sailing at around two knots for two days, cutting my speed by half. If the reef hadn’t have broken, I would have missed the storm and would have made it all the way to New Zealand.”
Fredericks says the vessel’s autopilot then failed.
“The autopilot absolutely fell apart. It kept wanting to go in circles.”
The yacht was hit by a storm from around 3am on Friday morning until about noon, before another one struck that afternoon.
The storm lasted all night, he says, and that’s when the vessel’s steering also failed.
A rudder shaft bolt had come loose and dropped off. Fredericks was unable to control the yacht and it started to take on water.
After losing control of the steering he let off a distress flare that burned his left hand. Fredericks then activated two homing devices he’d installed on the boat.
He says he had spent several hundred dollars on a satellite communications mobile tracker which sent out a distress signal.
Within two minutes he received a call from a communications officer from Garmin, Auckland-based supplier of the tracker, asking what the problem was.
“It took them about 10 minutes to advise there would be someone coming to rescue me within 24 hours.
“And that was astounding, I couldn’t believe it. All my regret was over as I knew someone was coming.”
However, due to sea conditions the officer also advised him he would have to leave the 23 tonne steel-hulled vessel yacht behind.
“I had plenty of provisions and the boat was really swinging. I was ready to go.”
After two sleepless nights Fredericks received a text from Garmin advising that the police patrol boat Te Kukupa was in his location.
“So I went up onto the deck, and I’m looking around for the boat: ‘Where the hell is it...?’
The Garmin representative then asked Fredericks to fire a flare to clearly identify his position for the maritime police.
“Within a few minutes they got my location and the ship showed. It was right on the horizon… you could see it.”
Te Kukupa’s crew found the Zangano drifting in rough seas within Niue’s exclusive economic zone.
They then boarded the vessel from a smaller rescue craft.
“When they showed up, it cheered me up a fair bit,” says Fredericks.
“The police were fantastic. They could see I was distressed and they came onto the boat and asked if there were any personal belongings I wanted to take.”
On the two-day journey back to Rarotonga he says he got to know the crew, who treated him like family.
“It was just beautiful service, tremendous. I had three meals a day. Had my own room, it was brilliant.”
The police patrol boat rescue mission was skippered by Inspector Tepaki Baxter who says, “It’s an unfortunate mishap, but the main thing is, he’s alive.”
A warning has been issued throughout the shipping zone of the abandoned vessel.
It’s the third, and final rescue involving Zangano in a little more than a year, and almost certainly closes the curtain on the yacht’s chequered history.