The missing yacht Nina
The missing yacht Nina

Survivor in plea for 'ghost yacht' search to continue

A MAN who spent 119 days lost at sea is urging New Zealand authorities to continue searching for the missing boat Nina, saying he is living proof that people can survive against the odds.

John Glennie has written to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre and told of catching and eating fish and waiting to be rescued, even though his companions "thought they were going to die".

He and three others were on the trimaran Rose Noelle that capsized in the Pacific Ocean in 1989, forcing them to live in a small space inside the wreck.

Now he has joined the families of Nina crew members who have written to the rescue agency, begging them to resume the search.

Nina, a 21m schooner with a crew of seven - six Americans and a British man - left the Bay of Islands on May 29 for New South Wales. The last contact was in early June when a text message was sent asking for an update on rough weather.

The official search has ended but family members organised another search which produced a ghostly satellite image of a boat the families are sure is the Nina.

"If the image of the boat ... is the Nina ... then in my humble opinion there is every chance the crew will be in fine shape," Mr Glennie wrote.

"I know we could have been out there another six months on an upside down Rose Noelle, in which case an upright Nina will have no worries."

He said the crew would probably be in a better position than the Rose Noelle team had been and would likely be surviving by eating kingfish.

"We lost nearly all our stores when Rose Noelle capsized, much the same as you would if you turned your house upside down.

"An upright Nina will have so much more to work with."

The image appeared to show a water catchment system rigged up from a sail, which did not surprise him because Nina had a "great crew".

"Adventure, adversity and the unknown is exciting. From what I can gather, the crew of Nina will relish it.

"You will never know greatness without adversity, but I think it's about time to give Nina's crew a little help, don't you? It's not as though the technology doesn't exist."

The letters from family members obtained by the Herald reveal desperation and determination.

Crew member Kyle Jackson's family said they wanted nothing more than to be reunited with their son, but needed the RCC to act. "They are survivors and they can survive this, they just need your help finding their way home."

British man Matthew Wootton had been away from home for four years but had planned to be with his family at Christmas. His devastated parents, Sue and Ian Wootton, asked anyone who was crossing the Tasman to keep the Nina in mind.

"They need someone to spot them. It's so difficult to see any vessel out in the ocean, especially if they are demasted. Ask the rescue services why they are not helping us."

Nigel Clifford, general manager, Safety and Response Services at RCC, told the Herald the agency's position on the image that purportedly shows the Nina hadn't changed.

"They aren't sufficiently compelling to go out with an aeroplane to go look for something ... [due to] the quality of the picture. There are people who disagree with that view so we have reviewed the pictures again." Defence Force experts had examined the original image and reached the same conclusion.

"It's extremely unlikely to be the Nina - you can't say that it's not, you can't be 100 per cent sure - but the analysis is that it's extremely unlikely."

RCC had never said "100 per cent" Nina had sunk, but there was an overwhelming likelihood it had.

"It becomes impossible to look over the huge area you need to with the resources available given there's no evidence ...

"The families would have the view there is some evidence because of these images ... But we have looked at them, had them checked, and regrettably don't share that view."

Asked about Mr Glennie's experience, he said it was a fact that "around the world" there had been some "amazing stories of people surviving for huge lengths of time ... But we look at the most likely scenario."

Families write letters in plea for search for loved ones to resume

The families of the missing crew wrote letters pleading with RCC to resume the search for Nina.

The parents of Danielle Wright, Ricky and Robin Wright, are planning to fly to New Zealand where they will wait in hope of having the "first hug" from their daughter when she is rescued.

"Do you really think that we would go to all the trouble to search for Nina if we didn't believe that she is still afloat, giving shelter to seven amazing individuals?"

In their letter the couple said they were confident the Nina was keeping their 19-year-old alive.

"We're more concerned that the New Zealand authorities and the US Government still aren't co-operating with us in our efforts to rescue this amazing crew."