MYSTERY OF ABANDONED YACHT
By HANNAH ROSS
THE good ship Otama has provided the people of Brunswick Heads with a fine source of mystery and intrigue since it was abandoned at the town's marina three years ago.
Worth an estimated $100,000, the 16-metre cruising yacht has languished at its berth while authorities have tried in vain to locate its owner.
Local rumour has it that the owner and his wife bought the ketch in Queensland and sailed it to Brunswick Heads, where the lady of the ship declared she would never sail again.
This weekend the Otama will be auctioned off by the NSW Maritime Authority.
Senior Boating Services offi- cer John Rowe said no registration had been paid on the Otama for three years and it was therefore occupying NSW waters illegally.
Mr Rowe said the authority tracked down the Otama's Canberra owner 12 months ago and warned him to collect the boat or lose it. They have been unable to find him again.
He said the most reliable information he had managed to obtain suggested the owner was caught in a storm while sailing south from Queensland.
"It does seem odd. Apparently he had to get back to Canberra and just left the boat," Mr Rowe said.
He said the authority would take out its expenses from any profit made at the auction and hold the rest of the money in a trust until the owner claimed it.
"I don't know how long we have to hold the money for. Usually the owner comes forward," he said.
Auctioneer Glen Aylward said it was unusual for such a valuable boat to be abandoned.
"Usually only a boat with a criminal connection would be abandoned, but there is no such connection here," he said.
The boat had been a haven for squatters since it was dumped, some of whom tried to claim it.
It has a steel hull, two and four-berth cabins, two bathrooms, safety and navigational equipment, dining and entertainment facilities, and a tinny.
"Even if it goes for $60,000 it will be a bargain," Mr Aylward said.
He said buyers from as far away as Perth, Sydney and Brisbane had shown interest in the yacht.
He said he expected at least 100 people to attend the auction, mostly out of curiosity, or in the hope of snapping up a bargain. No reserve price had been set.
The Bruswick-Byron Fish- ing Co-op will be unable to recoup any of the thousands of dollars owed in marina fees from the auction proceeds.
The auction begins on-site at 11am tomorrow. The Otama can be inspected today from 11am to 4pm.