By Conal Healy and David Carroll
TWO men had to be rescued from Cook Island last night in a dramatic operation after being forced to abandon their stricken yacht.
The two men - the owner and the skipper - fled their steel-hulled vessel after experiencing "mast problems" while sailing off the Tweed Coast last night.
Prior to jumping overboard the pair had issued a mayday call announcing that they had to abandon ship and swim for the safety of the Cook Island, just offshore at Fingal Head.
The men were eventually rescued by a crew from the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) station at Point Danger who had intercepted the SOS call at 6.30am.
Senior VMR skipper Tony Lanzi was at home talking to his mother on the phone when his emergency beeper went off.
He said a quick goodbye and ran "like crazy" to the sea-going vessel, Point Danger Two, where he joined crew members Rick Snow and John McGovern. Less than 30 minutes after receiving the crew was crossing the notorious Tweed Bar.
"It was a good crossing thank goodness," Mr Lanzi said. Once across the bar, the crew turned their rescue craft south toward Cook Island where the two men were stranded.
The seamen were quickly located sheltering on the western side of the rocky islet where their vessel had also run aground.
While one of the men had suffered leg injuries, they were directed to walk around the island to the relatively protected south side where deeper water allowed Mr Lanzi to nose Point Danger Two onto the rocks to effect the rescue.
The injured survivor clambered aboard however his companion, who was suffering the effects of hypothermia, fell into the water when he attempted to board the vessel. He was quickly hauled aboard before being spirited back to shore.
When the VMR crew docked at the Jack Evan Boatharbour there was an ambulance crew to greet them. Both men were taken to the Tweed Hospital for treatment suffering the effects of hypothermia.
The VMR will this morning inspect the vessel, which last night remained stranded on Cook Island.