Missing sailor, 80, found
By SAMANTHA HEALY
LOST at sea without any form of communication, 80-year-old experienced 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.
Mr Hol's nine metre yacht Gadjah Merah, which means red elephant, was spotted by a plane off the coast, east of Point Danger.
A rescue crew from the Point Danger Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) was sent out and rescuers said the plucky man was clearly happy to see them.
"He was in amazingly good shape," John Gnech from the VMR said.
"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 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 wrong, seriously wrong.
"My auto pilot just 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 were 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 with no contact with the authorities.
"Yes, I had a few sleepless nights," he said. Mr Hol, who only had a hip operation 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 prepared for anything.
"I had two months worth of food and water on board so I would have been all right for awhile."
Eerily Mr Hol's sailing companion pulled out of the trip at the last minute saying he had a 'bad feeling about the trip'.