Five missing, five rescued after ‘tragedy’ of chartered vessel off Far North

Five people are still missing after a chartered fishing vessel sank in rough seas off the Northland coast late on Sunday evening.

The Enchanter, a charter vessel operating from Mangonui in the Far North, sank just before midnight off the North Cape in difficult conditions. The five rescued people are in Kaitaia hospital in stable condition, authorities said.

Thing includes a captain and a crew member, as well as eight people on a fishing charter, were on board. The police did not name the survivors or the missing.

The company whose boat sank was previously involved in rescuing victims of the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Penetaui Kleskovic, operations manager of Te Aupouri Commercial Development, said the Te Aupōuri iwi were “deeply saddened” by the sinking.

“Mana moana and mana whenua are deeply saddened to learn that the Enchanter fell near North Cape late last night.”

Kleskovic said he had been on the ship before and described it as an advanced and capable ship.

The cruiser is 17 meters long and designed for offshore fishing, the company’s website says.

It is one of three boats operated by Enchanter Fishing Charters, which specialize in fishing around the Isles of Three Kings.

On Sunday evening, police and New Zealand Maritime were called to a rescue operation off the North Cape, following a report of a vessel in distress.

On Monday morning, Maritime NZ said an EPIRB was activated by a vessel at 8pm on Sunday evening.

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was first assigned to a sunken vessel shortly afterwards, around 200 meters off the North Cape.

Police search and rescue are participating in a ground search based in Te Pua, in the Far North, while helicopters search from the air.

MetService meteorologist Ashlee Parkes said there were torrential downpours and strong northeast winds in the area overnight, but the weather calmed down Monday morning, with a swell of two meters and winds of 10 km/h.

Winds in the area on Sunday afternoon were reported to have reached about 65 km/h before easing late in the evening, added MetService meteorologist David Miller.

He said the waves would have reached 2.5 meters and the rain was heavy.

However, the front causing the inclement weather had moved away from the area by Monday morning, he said.

Enchanter was started in 1995 by Lance Goodhew and, according to its website, offers charter fishing for “the serious angler”.

Its fleet has three boats – Enchanter, Cova Rose and Pacific Invader – each of which can accommodate up to eight people.

They take charters to remote places like White Island, Ranfurly Banks, Westport and the Three Kings, a group of islands 55 kilometers northwest of Cape Reinga.

Goodhew, the captain of Enchanter, “has a passion for the sea and fishing” and “dedicates his life to living on the ocean,” the company’s website says.

He has lived aboard the ship more than 250 days a year for the past two decades. Calls to Goodhew’s phone Monday morning went unanswered.

In 2019, Enchanter Fishing Charters staff aboard Cova Rose helped rescue victims of the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption.

The vessel, which had two doctors on board, was on a fishing charter a few miles from the island when the eruption occurred.

Robert A. Glidden