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Monowai

The Rescue of the Forbes from the catamaran Ramtha by the crew of the Monowai during the storm of June 1994.
Oil on canvas (1050 x 750)mm

During June in 1994 several yachts were making a passage from New Zealand to Tonga for the cruising season. An intense unseasonal storm, “a bomb”, with winds above hurricane force caused havoc with the yachts, many of which were soon in trouble. Several vessels in the area went to the assistance of the yachts.  Among these was the New Zealand Navy Hydrographic vessel Monowai , under Commander Larry Robbins.

The first craft the Monowai reached was the Australian catamaran Ramtha sailed by Bill and Robyn Forbes. The yacht’s steering was disabled and there were problems with the rig.  At this time the vessels were near the centre of the storm with the wind shifting around the compass and gusting up to 85 knots. Contact was made with the Forbes using VHFand preparations were made to get the couple from the yacht to the Monowai.  Conditions were too fierce to put a boat away; even aproaching the yacht was extremely difficult. Commander Robbins, using bowthrusters to assist positioning the Monowai, managed to get sufficiently close for a line to be fired across. This was retrieved by the Forbes who hauled across a helicopter line complete with harnesses attached. Just as the Forbes had secured the harnesses the Monowai rolled heavily away from Ramtha and the couple were hauled violently into the sea, fortunately without getting foul of the yacht. The line to which they were attached had been led through a block on the torpedo derrick on Monowai’s foredeck, and from there forward to the windlass drum. For a period of two minutes the Forbes alternately disappeared under the seas and surfed as they were dragged to safety.

The Monowai continued to the aid of two other dismasted yachts, the American Pilot and New Zealand Silver Shadow.  The conditions had eased and a boat was got away on both occasions.

Commander Larry Robbins was awarded the OBE. Each member of the boat crew was given a commendation, and various other awards were granted to the ship and crew.

Prints are available.