Eden Water Police retrieve boat of couple rescued at sea

Nick Dwyer thought his sailing boat might be bobbing about somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

He just didn’t know where.

The Irishman, 55, and his French partner Barbara Heftman, 44, were rescued 210 nautical miles north-east of Sydney on Wednesday, March 8 after their yacht capsized.

On Tuesday, March 28, it was spotted by a cruise ship south of Gabo Island, near Mallacoota.

On Thursday morning, March 30, Eden Water Police, in partnership with Australian Maritime Safety Authority and NSW Police Marine Area Command, rescued the boat and returned it to the owners.


When Mr Dwyer first received a call about the boat’s sighting on Tuesday, he could not believe it.

“We were staying with friends in Melbourne and thought, ‘right, how do we get there?’”

The pair and two other friends drove overnight to Mallacoota along the Princes Hwy, before chartering a fixed-wing aircraft from Mallacoota Airport.

“We were glancing out the plane window for over three hours,” Mr Dwyer said.

“[We] were getting to the stage where we thought, this isn’t going to happen. 

“When you cross the ocean, you know how big it is.

“But when you’re up in a plane you think it’s not going to happen [finding the yacht].”

Mr Dwyer thought he spotted the yacht on two occasions, only to realise it was a deceiving wave.

Then he spotted a boat.


“I saw the two masts and knew that was her,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Her” is Val, the boat Mr Dwyer has been circumnavigating the globe with since 2008 and alongside Ms Heftman since 2010.

Mr Dwyer took four global positioning system (GPS) readings in one hour to determine the direction the yacht was travelling while still airborne.

He then informed NSW Police, who advised Eden Water Police of the coordinates. 

The pair is confident the boat can be repaired before continuing on their journey.

“She’s a good, strong boat,” Ms Heftman said.

“The structure of the boat is really good. We should be able to do what we have to do.”

Mr Dwyer said the boat should not even be afloat, after forgetting to sink it among the frenzy of being rescued.

The sailors were hopeful it would reappear, but tried not to think about it.

“There are certain things you do at sea which you have to do,” Mr Dwyer said.

“When you’re abandoning ship you’re saying goodbye to your boat and starting again.”


The pair was initially rescued earlier this month after their 40-foot vessel encountered “waves the size of buildings”.

The boat suffered a broken rudder three days before rolling during heavy swells and high seas.

The sailors activated the yacht’s emergency radio beacon.

They also contemplated the worst before being rescued.

Mr Dwyer said the ordeal was up there with being followed by pirates off the coast of Colombia, just more chaotic.


He praised the “extraordinary courage” of the police who originally rescued the pair as well as the ongoing efforts of police to retrieve the boat.

“The generosity of all Australians has been overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve had so many offers of support and are extremely grateful.”

The pair will declare the boat with Customs and repair it before continuing their journey north along the Queensland coast and into Asia.


Eden Water Police Sergeant Steven Judd praised his team for working well under pressure.

“It tests our skills of navigation, operating of the boat and communications on the radio,” he said.

“There might have been people on the boat, so it’s good to know people know what to do under pressure.

“It’s a feel-good story and a nice outcome for them.”