THE two-man crew of a yacht that had gone missing during a transatlantic voyage were last night settling down for their best night's sleep in weeks.
New Zealander Frank Cooper (62) and Norwegian Arvid Moe (69), owner of the Golden Eagle, arrived safely in Portmagee, Co Kerry, yesterday afternoon -- 36 days after they had set sail from Bermuda.
The pair had no idea there had been a massive search co-ordinated by the Valentia Coastguard after their yacht vanished in the Atlantic en route to Crookhaven in west Cork, sparking a massive search operation by Irish, British, French and Norwegian coastguards.
The 10-metre vessel had fallen victim to Hurricane Katia during its transatlantic crossing.
But miraculously the vessel managed to survive and arrived in port yesterday, battered but still afloat.
"When we saw the houses on the hill and figured it must be a fishing village, we were very glad and very lucky to get here," Mr Cooper, an experienced seaman, told the Irish Independent last night.
Although he had no doubt they would reach shore, he did not know if that meant they would be docking at a safe port or arrive at a rocky cliff.
He added: "We couldn't run the engine at that point because we were rolling and only had a little bit of diesel left and there were strong currents and strong winds out there."
The two men were treated like celebrities in Portmagee last night and owner of the Moorings restaurant, Gerard Kennedy, marked their arrival with champagne while his staff prepared a warm meal for the adventurers.
Mr Moe, a retired ship's engineer, bought the boat in the US Virgin Islands and hired Mr Cooper to help sail it back to Bergen in Norway. They embarked on their journey on August 21.
"The whole burden of it was on my shoulders but my experience stood to me," Mr Cooper said.
"She's a good boat. The stuff we went through in those hurricanes, any lesser boat would have had the side kicked in. She took some body blows that just hit the boat and moved it sideways and there was just tremendous noise."
The first thing Mr Moe did when he landed in Portmagee was to call his wife Suwana back home and let her know he was safe.
"I was very scared and I'm very happy to be here," he admitted.
Mr Cooper said they had no idea they had made headlines here until photographers greeted them but they were glad to be back on dry land.
Now they're hoping they'll be able to get the Golden Eagle repaired and continue their journey to Norway.
"We still have 760-odd miles to do. He's already paid me to do it so I'll stick with it," he said.
But last night they were enjoying the things they had most looked forward while they were at sea battling the elements. "A nice cold beer in a warm pub with a meal and a shower and then a good night's sleep," Mr Cooper said.