Australian luxury sailing boat shipwrecked in Dinagat

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Dec) – The luxury yacht used by the three Australians rescued off Siargao Island over the weekend was found shipwrecked in Dinagat Islands after its occupants abandoned ship reportedly because of Tropical Storm “Urduja”.

Lionel Peter Ansselin, 74, recuperating at the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Tandag City on Tuesday (19 Dec 2017). He was among two survivors of the Australian luxury yacht S/V Katerina that capsized somewhere in the waters of Surigao due to Tropical Storm “Urduja.” Photo courtesy of Tandag City PNP

S/V Katerina, an 18-meter long Camper & Nicholson registered in Sydney, was found with no crew aboard on a beach in Loreto, Dinagat Island last Saturday, said Johanne Jake Miranda, of the 1004th Aux Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) based here. The PCGA is composed of volunteers assisting the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

S/V Katerina was manned by three accomplished sailors – Anthony “Johnny” Mahoney, 73; Laurie Miller, 68; and Lionel Peter Ansselin, 74 – who were rescued by fishermen off Siargao Island.

Mahoney, however, did not make it as he was already unconscious at that time.

The three were supposed to deliver the luxury yacht from North Queensland to its new home but Urduja interfered, causing them to abandon ship last Thursday, said Miranda, a Philippine Military Academy graduate who once served in the Navy.

He said the Coast Guard in Surigao sought the assistance of Research Vessel Petrel, which is currently docked at the Surigao port, to help out.

RV Petrel, the vessel owned by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen that recently found World War II warships that sank in the Surigao Strait, then served as communications coordinator to link the Littoral Observatory Station (LOS) Surigao, the MT Dang Peng Wan transiting Surigao Strait and the Loreto local government unit.

Katerina, said Miranda, was still in high seas and battered by the strong winds as “Urduja” passed by.

He said that on Dec. 14, Australian Rescue had alerted Philippine authorities after picking up a signal from an Emergency position-indicating radiobeacon (EPIRB) transmitting from south of Homonhon Island, which is less than 30 kilometers north of Loreto in Dinagat. The next day, another signal was picked up which located the EPIRB north of Siargao Island.

Miranda said the EPIRB must have been brought by the crew when they abandoned ship.

He said that a relative of one of the crew told authorities that the yacht had three passengers and two dogs aboard.

Anthony “Johnny” Mahoney, 73, with stepdaughter Shannon Grasso. Mahoney died when S/V Katerina capsized. Photo courtesy of Shannon Grasso’s Facebook page

Loreto Mayor Nena Ladaga-Quijano has reportedly posted sentries to secure the wreck while waiting for relatives of crew.

Last Sunday, the three Australian crew of Katerina were rescued by two local fishermen off Siargao Island and brought the sailors on their way home to Tandag City in Surigao del Sur.

Fishermen Junifer Piosang and Albert Murillo saw the Australians clinging on to an inflatable boat and waving their hands with cloths when the fishermen passed by.

“They were extremely exhausted, thirsty and shivering,” Piosang told MindaNews in a mobile phone interview. The Australians asked the fishermen to give them water and food.

The 28-year-old Piosang, who hails from Claver in Surigao del Norte, said they rushed back to Tandag City when he noticed that one of the foreigners was unconscious.

“I put him on my chest to warm him as we dashed to Tandag,” he said.

Piosang, who was the first to spot the sailors, thought the blob from afar was a fish aggregating device locally called “payaw.”

It took them six and a half hours to reach Tandag aboard their twin engine pumpboat. By then, it was already too late to save Mahoney, Piosang said.

It was learned that the wife of Mahoney also died in a freak sailing accident in Malaysia over three years ago.

Shannon Grasso, a stepdaughter of Mahoney, posted a message on her Facebook wall on Monday evening: “Our darling Johnny is back with Mum. We are just devastated. He died living and doing what he loves but it still doesn’t feel right. To Johnny….Thanks for joining our family and being a beautiful man throughout. You loved us like your own and we did likewise. You grieved right next to us only 3.5 years ago when all our lives got turned upside down and will we love you and will miss you so much.”

The Queensland-based newspaper The Courier-Mail said in its website that Katerina refuelled in Davao before proceeding to the yacht’s new owner in Subic in Zambales.

Katerina, the newspaper said, was previously owned by American television broadcaster Walter Cronkite, who had sailed around the world, regularly crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Ansselin, the yacht’s latest owner, is an Australian national living in the province of La Union. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)