‘ We are safe and well’
Ex-wife delighted pair have been found safe, write Tess Nichol and Belinda Feek
Australian authorities are questioning New Zealand sailor Alan Langdon after the 49-year-old arrived in the New South Wales coastal town of Ulladulla with his six-year-old daughter Que on a tiny catamaran. Langdon left Kawhia on December 17, telling friends he was taking Que to see friends in the Bay of Islands. But the pair vanished and despite extensive police searches did not reappear until yesterday — 1300 nautical miles from Kawhia — when he was recognised from posters put up in the NSW fishing settlement. Langdon said yesterday one of the catamaran’s rudders broke early in the journey. “We were always safe, we just couldn’t let anyone know,” he said.
Yachtsman Alan Langdon is being questioned by Australian police after he and his 6-year-old daughter were found yesterday in a New South Wales fishing town.
Langdon, 49, and daughter Que left Kawhia Harbour on December 17 bound for the Bay of Islands. They had not been heard from until yesterday when New Zealand police confirmed the pair had been located in Ulladulla.
Langdon told the Milton Ulladulla Times that he was forced to sail most of the way with one rudder after one of his catamaran’s two rudders broke.
He said he and Que were “safe and well. We were always safe, we just couldn’t let anyone know”. He said Que was “happy”.
"We had plenty of food and saw lots of whales," he told the Times.
Langdon was looking forward to a night in a motel for some muchneeded rest.
They were recognised by a local who alerted Australian authorities.
Speaking to the Herald, child recovery expert Col Chapman said Que’s mother, Ariane Wyler, was “over the moon” her daughter had been found safe and well.
“She is thrilled . . . she couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Wyler was currently in Switzerland caring for her sick mother and it was not yet clear whether she would fly to Australia or New Zealand to meet her daughter.
Wyler enlisted the help of Chapman to locate her daughter and her estranged husband.
Chapman said Langdon wouldn’t have been in Ulladulla for more than two or three days.
An Ulladulla resident spotted the pair after seeing posters which Chapman’s group put in ports, yacht clubs and coastal towns from Victoria to Queensland.
“They went to Alan and Que and said ‘ you guys were all over the internet’.”
Customs and immigration officials arrived at that point, taking the pair away for questioning.
Chapman said depending on how long official processes took, Langdon and Que might be held in Australia for weeks.
The circumstances of their departure from New Zealand would also be looked at because Que’s passport had been seized by the courts, Chapman said.
“He should be facing border and immigration charges in Australia and he should be facing similar charges in New Zealand.”
New Zealand police are liaising with their counterparts in Australia and awaiting further information about Langdon’s journey.
An extensive search was conducted of sea and coastal areas between Wellington, Cape Reinga and the Bay of Islands. New Zealand police called off their massive air and sea search last Tuesday.
NZ police would assess all the information before any further steps were considered and agreed, they said in a statement yesterday.
The alarm was raised on Boxing Day by Kawhia woman Mary Smith, who had opened her house to the Langdons.
The possibility that Langdon had sailed to Australia, not the Bay of Islands, had always been considered, police said.
Langdon, a stay-at-home dad, built the catamaran the pair sailed in on Smith’s front lawn.
Smith described Langdon as a competent boatman who doted on his daughter: “She was his best mate.”
Chapman said he immediately thought that Langdon had made a dash for Australia in the 6m white wooden Tiki catamaran.
Langdon, Chapman understood, had told others the boat was capable of reaching Australia.
“He’s announced to many people, friends, family, that this boat will make it to Australia and back 10 times, no problem,” Chapman said.
“Some people say the boat was [stocked with] stores for over 30 days.”
Wyler said she separated from Langdon last year and had been in a long battle to see her daughter.