Losing yacht 'like watching friend drown'

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The Harrier of Down shortly before she went under the waves. Photo: KV Bergen
22:02 CEST+02:00
Losing his sailing yacht the Harrier of Down beneath the waves was “like seeing an old friend drown”, British mariner Julian Mustoe told Norwegian broadcaster NRK after he arrived in Bergen on Thursday afternoon.

Mustoe, 82, had lived on the boat almost continuously for the past ten years. He was rescued by the Norwegian coast guard on Wednesday afternoon after his rudder broke in stormy weather midway between Norway and the Shetland Islands on Tuesday night. 

He had earlier refused to leave his sailboat to be taken to safety by a rescue helicopter, and was in the middle of being towed back to Bergen when his boat sank.

“The boat has been my home for ten years. The last thing I saw was the mast disappearing under the waves,” he told NRK. “It was as if she was gasping for air.”

Mustoe told the BBC that the boat had initially been towed without a problem.

“All last night they towed Harrier behind the ship successfully,” he told the BBC. “But for some reason, and I don’t understand how it happened, Harrier began to take on water earlier this morning and at about 9am she sank full of water. They couldn’t get her out because the weight was too great. So I was all right in the big ship but my lovely boast has been lost.”

He told NRK that he wished he had never left the yacht to climb aboard the Norwegian lifeboat KV Bergen.

“I regret that I left it. I could have always stopped the leaks. But the Coast Guard did a good job,” he said. 

Mustoe, a Cambridge-educated architect, had sailed the boat around the world, following the voyage of Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle, writing about his adventures in a book Voyage Of The Harrier.

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Despite the seven metre waves and reports from the Norwegian coast guard that b the time they arrived Mustoe had been almost frozen to death, standing in his underpants and up to his knees in water, Mustoe told the BBC that he had never lost hope.

“Some people say to me, weren’t you frightened? Well, I wasn’t frightened because I knew she was a good boat and she would look after me,” he said.

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