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LOST AT SEA? WE WERE HAVING A SWELL TIME; YACHT PAIR TURN UP AND HEAD TO THE PUB.

Byline: ANNE LUCEY

TWO sailors feared killed by Hurricane Katia in the Atlantic turned up safe and well yesterday and declared: We're here for the Guinness.

Francis Cooper and Arvid Moe sailed into Kerry after a massive search thought to have cost tens of thousands of euro, was launched to rescue them.

And as amazed Coast Guards saw them sail into Portmagee, the healthy pair declared they were going for a pint.

The alarm was raised on September 15 - the day they were due to arrive from Bermuda into Crookhaven, Co Cork.

It was feared they drowned as their vessel, the 72ft Golden Eagle, hit the tail end of the hurricane as it hurtled towards Ireland.

The search had involved Coast Guards in Norway, the UK and the US, as well as the Irish Coast Guard.

Not that New Zealander Cooper, 62, or 70-year-old Norwegian Moe knew - they had no radio contact with the outside world for most of the 36-day voyage.

Cooper said as he prepared to sink a pint of Guinness in Portmagee in south Kerry: "My goodness, we had no idea."

The Golden Eagle had a shortwave radio but had no radio contact with any Coast Guard until it sailed up the Portmagee channel skirting Valentia Island at 2.45pm yesterday.

And around that time a local ferryman spotted the yacht and alerted the island's Coast Guard.

In recent days they managed to pick up "strange languages" and most of the radio stations they tuned into seemed to be talking about soccer, skipper Cooper said.

He spent six years sailing around the world between 1997 and 2003 and insisted at no time did he fear for his life.

Mr Cooper said: "Never, not for a moment. I've done this for many years.

The hurricane had hit them hard in the higher latitudes and they were forced to lower their sails and lay low for "several days".

They then had to wait for the seas to subside.

Mr Moe, owner of the vessel and a retired ship's engineer, was also in fine fettle.

The 32-tonne wooden vessel had been "nailed by two hurricanes" after it set out from Bermuda, Mr Cooper said.

The bowsprit had become insecure and they almost lost the whole rig.

They managed to repair it but couldn't run the main gib.

Yesterday they couldn't make Crookhaven because of the currents against the coast and decided to make for Portmagee.

Their provisions had been pretty good, but on Saturday they ran out of cooking gas and could not prepare any hot meals.

The pair will stock up on food and fuel and spend some days in South Kerry before resuming their voyage to Bergen in Norway.

Although they said their immediate plan last night was to head to the pub and sample the local stout.

be AHOY THERE JPair on the Golden Eagle

CAPTION(S):

AHOY THERE JPair on the Golden Eagle DOCKED JArvid Moe, left, and Frank Cooper at Portmagee Pier in South Kerry yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 26, 2011
Words:501
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