AN ADDINGHAM couple have survived a brush with death in Croatia after their chartered yacht caught fire.

Peter and Jane Tapper were rescued from the boat while four miles out at sea, heading towards Split, minutes before it burst into flames on Friday, August 31.

The couple lost most of their personal belongings, including passports and credit cards, in the blaze and were stranded for five days before they could get home.

Mr Tapper told the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer exactly how close their trip had come to ending in tragedy.

He said: "We are experienced sailors having owned our own 50ft yacht for four years and were out looking for a new boat.

"We decided to charter for four days off Split and were on our last day and due back into the marina for 5pm, so we were under power on tick over doing, say, 4 knots with the main sail hoisted.

"We were approximately four miles out heading north towards Split when we both smelt burning.

"I followed the usual procedure that is taught under RYA guidelines and so cut the engine off, ran down below and cut the fuel to the engine, and cut the electrics to the engine and the main control board.

"I then let a fire extinguisher off through a hole in the engine bay but, unfortunately, it did not fit through the companion way correctly.

"Heavy thick black smoke was pouring into the salon and I was overcome after a single lungful, so I staggered up the companion way and advised Jane that this was very serious.

"I carried out the required emergency signalling and we launched the life buoy, and a passing small cruise ship could see the black smoke and turned course towards us. "It came within 50 metres and I shouted for them to lower a tender, which they immediately did with two crew.

"Jane and I threw ourselves in to the rescue boat and we sped to the main ship. We boarded and within two or three minutes the yacht caught fire and then exploded.

"We would have been killed if we had not been rescued."

The couple lost virtually all of their essentials in the fire, which delayed their return home.

Mr Tapper added: "We were wearing nothing other than swimwear so lost absolutely everything other than Jane's mobile.

"We lost passports, credit cards, cash, all of our clothing, my phone and any personal belongings.

"We were assisted by the British Embassy who made appointments at the Consulate in Split and we were issued with temporary passports, while the charter company gave us money for food and hotel and the passengers on the cruise ship gave us clothing and footwear .

"We could only get a returning flight to Bristol so had to find our way back to Addingham from there.

"I just wanted to return for a pint of Mary Jane to be honest, but this has certainly not put us off yachting."

The incident, which took place just before 2pm on August 31, is being investigated by the Maritime agency and Coastguard and local police in Croatia.

Mr Tapper is the Chief Executive Officer of a Silsden-based medical device manufacturing company while Mrs Tapper owns The Plantation flower shop in Addingham.