Maybe the recently-sold ocean-going catamaran that broke free from her Frankton Arm mooring on Monday was going in search of her new owner?
In something of an irony, ‘Ruawaka’ (two canoes), the well-known 20-metre Polynesian wooden twin-hull, was only days away from liberation when she slipped her mooring of 20 years for a jaunt across Lake Whakatipu.
The wandering cat triggered a rescue operation involving Queenstown’s Coastguard and harbourmaster, who managed to corral her to shore at Kelvin Grove, where she remains tethered to a bench seat by her anchor chain.
It was lucky the rescue was completed before a moderate northerly swung wildly into a 60kmh southerly gale, whipping up the lake by mid-afternoon.
Built to a design by UK catamaran guru James Wharram, ‘Ruawaka’ was recently purchased by Switzerland-based couple Claire and Fred
Uytterbroeck after her owner/builder, former Queenstowner Stu Rolph, put her up for sale earlier this year.
Speaking to Mountain Scene on Wednesday, Claire says she doesn’t know whether the incident was good news or bad news.
‘‘It could’ve happened any time … it’s been there for so long, and it happens now,’’ she says.
Claire didn’t want to speculate as to how the boat slipped off its moorings.
‘‘It’s possible that it turned and turned on its chain, and then it broke.
‘‘But I really don’t know what to think of it — I guess it has to be a positive.’’
Wandering cat: A file shot of ‘Ruawaka’ at her long-time mooring near the Oaks Shores apartments in Lake Whakatipu’s Frankton Arm
Queenstown Coastguard skipper Anthony Hill, who led the on-water rescue operation, says someone had helpfully tethered a line on the vessel by the time he caught up with her.
‘‘Initially it was getting pushed towards the northern side of Frankton Arm, but when we got over there we found it at Kelvin Grove on the southeasterly side,’’ Hill says.
‘‘It was relatively sheltered in that spot, which was quite handy for us,’’ he says of a boat more than three times the length of his coastguard vessel.
‘‘We tied up the back-end so it was pushing along beside us, and we were fortunate to have the assistance of some other boats that came along from the other side, otherwise we would’ve been turning in circles.’’
Hill managed to guide ‘Ruawaka’ to shore with a ‘‘gentle nudge’’ on to Kelvin Grove by midday.
‘‘There’s not many moorings around that could handle that-sized boat, you can’t just tie it up alongside a jetty.’’
Hill suspected higher lake levels could’ve played a part, putting a worn link of the chain into a position where it was taking more of the strain.
Claire says she’s grateful for the Coastguard’s help.
‘‘The catamaran could have hit other vessels, it could have run aground.
‘‘But as far as I can tell, there’s no damage.’’
The timing of the incident couldn’t have been more ironic, as Fred is due to get the catamaran moved to Dunedin in the next few days.
Claire says they’ll leave the boat in Dunedin for a few months, then will both come over and fix it up and then go sailing around the world.
Both Fred and Claire are secondary school teachers in Switzerland, but Claire says they’re really outdoorsy people.
At one stage they planned to establish a trail-run business.
She says that she and Fred will keep the vessel’s name.
‘‘It’s a bit of a landmark, you can check it on Google Earth,’’ Claire says.
For Claire, it marks another chapter in a strange journey.
‘‘Everything aligned with this boat, it was like we were meant to have it.’’