SEA CAN?T BEAT THIS OLD SALT
By SAMANTHA HEALY
LOST at sea without any form of communication, 80-year-old ex-perienced skipper Jan Hol had no choice but to sit back and read a book while he waited to be rescued.
Missing in waters off the northern NSW coast for several days, rescuers searched for Mr Hol, who set sail last Wednesday from Coffs Harbour on a solo trip to Brisbane.
On Sunday his nine-metre yacht Gadjah Merah ? which means red elephant in Indonesian ? was spotted by a plane east of Point Danger.
A rescue crew from the Point Danger Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) sent out on Monday afternoon said the plucky veteran was clearly happy to see them.
"He was in amazingly good shape," said John Gnech from the VMR. "He looked really good for an 80-year-old who was on the water for six days."
Mr Hol, originally from South Africa, has travelled the world in his small yacht.
Gadjah Merah was built in 1978, most of it by Mr Hol himself, and has sailed to the far corners of the globe.
With its small galley (kitchen), tiny bathroom, a narrow couch which doubles as a bed and plenty of books to read, the normally three-day trip from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane would have been a breeze for the experienced sailor.
But only a short time into his trip things went seriously wrong.
"My auto pilot went and then a wave came and I fell back on the steering," Mr Hol said.
"The steering packed it in, the rudder wouldn't work, the engine just packed it in.
"The propeller and gearbox stopped working, the sails got ripped in the strong winds and then the radio also packed it in.
To top it off, Mr Hol's mobile phone battery went flat on Saturday, leaving him unable to contact authorities.
"I had a few sleepless nights," he said
Mr Hol, who had a hip operation only two months ago, said his navigation and army experience came in handy during his ordeal.
"I'm from a generation which grew up during the war," he said.
"We didn't take anything for granted and were prepared for anything.
"I had two months worth of food and water on board, so I would have been alright for a while. That said I was glad to see the rescuers."
Eerily, Mr Hol's sailing companion pulled out of the trip at the last minute, saying he had a "bad feeling about the trip".
"I trust her (the boat) she is solid," Mr Hol said.
"It's the first time I have needed rescuing and she has been around the world several times."
After setting foot on dry land Mr Hol went to Brisbane to see his daughter.
"I had a hot shower, a good meal and we polished off a bottle of wine so I feel pretty good," he said.
"Now I will try and repair the gearbox and then sail to Brisbane.
"When I get there I will do some more work but I am a free bird.
"I will head off again. At 80 I am not sure where though."