Mystery of man overboard

A KIWI sailor who fell overboard and spent a terrifying 12 hours in the ocean off Queensland sure wished he’d stayed on in Coffs Harbour.

Dennis McManaway, 71, suffered a suspected heart attack and woke to find his 11.5m yacht sinking with no memory of how he came to be in the water.

The emergency happened off the coast of Queensland as he sailed solo from the Gold Coast to Cairns.

The Marlborough fisherman managed to cling to an inflatable dinghy until he was rescued by a passing fishing boat 70km off the Queensland coast.

McManaway spent more than a week in hospital before flying back to New Zealand last Thursday.

McManaway has been reluctant to speak about his ordeal until his doctors were able to confirm what had happened to him.

“I still don’t know what’s happening,” he said.

Family believe he may have suffered a heart attack aboard the yacht, but they say McManaway is recovering well at home in New Zealand.

Friends said he was an experienced yachtsman and fisherman who had competed in national and international races.

He set off from Nelson on July 7 with two friends on a long-planned trip to Cairns.

Crew member Jimmy Swanson, who was on his first ocean trip, said: “It was a lovely experience ... everything was spot on.”

They arrived in Coffs Harbour after 10 days and stayed for several nights before carrying on to Southport Yacht Club on the Gold Coast.

There, the two crew left McManaway and flew back to New Zealand.

McManaway was supposed to pick up a new crew of New Zealanders who were living in Australia to join him for the next leg of the trip.

But they never showed up and after waiting around for about a week, McManaway decided to continue north alone.

In the early hours of September 4, he woke up to find himself in the water, his boat wrecked and with no recollection of what had happened.

He managed to get on top of his rubber dinghy and drifted until the passing fisherman turned up.

Swanson was upset about his friend’s ordeal and said it could have been avoided.

“It might not have happened if he’d had other people with him,” he told New Zealand media.

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