Scots solo Atlantic rower reunited with lost yacht

A Scottish rower forced to abandon his solo Atlantic challenge after a dramatic rescue has been reunited with his one-of-a-kind yacht which had his belongings on board.
Niall Iain Macdonald was reunited with his one-of-a-kind yacht after being forced to abandon her during the challenge. Picture: TSPLNiall Iain Macdonald was reunited with his one-of-a-kind yacht after being forced to abandon her during the challenge. Picture: TSPL
Niall Iain Macdonald was reunited with his one-of-a-kind yacht after being forced to abandon her during the challenge. Picture: TSPL

Gaelic radio presenter Niall Iain Macdonald, who invested heavily in the specially made boat – the Alliance Trust – revealed he faced “losing everything” is he was unable to find her.

The vessel was left drifting alone following a rescue mission when he suffered back and head injuries after being struck by a freak wave.

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The 40-year-old was attempting to row 3,400 miles from New York to his home in Stornoway – in a challenge named the NY2SY – to raise £100,000 for a mental health charity.

But in a message to his followers on social media this morning, Mr Macdonald revealed “we found her” - but then appealed for help in paying the salvage bill.

He had headed out late on Sunday night from Atlantic City on a salvage boat to go and recover the yacht.

‘Now safely in harbour’

He said: “We found her adrift 120 miles east of Atlantic City and, after a 26- hour round trip. She is now safely in harbour. She suffered some slight damage during the recovery but is otherwise as I left her on Fridayafternoon.”

However, the “huge relief to have her back” is countered by a huge salvage bill for £8,000, which he is struggling to pay.

He has issued an appeal to his supporters to assist him in getting the yacht back.

The Scot said: “I feel that I had no option other than to use a salvage boat while my boat was still relatively close to land, she was actually on the very limit of where most boats would go.

“Had I left her out on the ocean she could have drifted anywhere and been lost completely. There was also the danger of her being claimed by someone else, which would be legal under salvage laws.

‘Getting a salvage crew was my only option’

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“Again she would have been lost. I phoned fishermen, yacht clubs, marinas, fishing charter boats and anyone else that I could think of but none could help as the boat was so far out. Getting a salvage crew was my only option.

“The NY2SY [bank] account took a battering after all the delays I had prior to launching and I am personally skint after all that has happened. If I can’t pay this salvage bill then my boat won’t be released and it all has to be sorted before I can return home.

“This is basically an urgent appeal to anyone who thinks that they might be able to help to contact me.

“I’m embarrassed that I have to resort to a plea like this but I feel that I really have no alternative. This is all turning into a bit of a nightmare. Any help would be so gratefully appreciated.”

He ended the message, stating: “I’m exhausted and in pain and I need to sleep. Thank you.”

Mr Maconald suffered head and back injuries after being struck by a freak wave nine days into his challenge, and actually feared he had serious spinal injuries.

The 40-year-old contacted a Coastguard control centre at Falmouth in England by satellite phone to say he had got into difficulties.

His boat was left adrift in the Atlantic

US Coastguard sent a vessel to rescue him about 50 miles off the coast and in thick fog. He was taken back to New York where he was treated in the Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey before being discharged.

But his boat was left adrift in the Atlantic.

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After the rescue, he said: “I have invested all my money in the boat, if I lose her then I have lost everything.

“I am so sorry that I was unable to complete my row. I can’t really describe what it is like to have worked so hard to get to the start of NY2SY and then for it to end like this, I’m heartbroken.”

Only ten people have successfully rowed solo across the North Atlantic – more people have actually walked on the moon.

Mr Macdonald, who has himself suffered mental health difficulties and had once contemplated suicide, had hoped to raise £100,000 for the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH).