Mike Lovett was a respected and valued staff member at The Oaks Stud
When Rick Williams woke before dawn on Monday, he was shocked to learn of a boat that had sunk in the Far North and a search for survivors.
Three of his mates were on a fishing charter in the area, and he hoped they weren’t onboard.
However, about 8am, his worst fears were confirmed.
“After that, it was a matter of waiting and hoping they were the ones who had survived. Unfortunately they didn’t.”
There were 10 people on board Enchanter, a 17-metre vessel operated out of Mangonui, when it was struck by what some have called a “rogue wave” near Murimotu Island, off North Cape during a storm on Sunday night.
Five people, including captain Lance Goodhew and deckhand Kobe O’Neill, were winched to safety by a rescue helicopter in the darkness.
Four bodies have since been recovered, while the search for another missing man is continuing on Tuesday.
Among those who died were Cambridge men Mike Lovett, 72,
Richard Bright, 63, and Mark Sanders, 43.
“I lost three mates in one day,” Williams, General Manager of The Oaks Stud, told Stuff on Tuesday morning.
“It was a terrible day.”
Lovett, a father of four, was employed as a handyman at The Oaks Stud, and had worked there since 2004.
He was part of a horse racing syndicate that owned a horse named after him, called Lovettitorleaveit.
Williams said Lovett loved fishing – “it was a priority” – playing golf and horse racing.
He was a “creature of habit”.
Every day after finishing work at 2.30pm he would go to the Group One Turf Bar in Cambridge, where he’d have four beers before heading home.
Before working at the horse stud, Lovett was the bar manager at the now defunct Leamington Tavern in Cambridge.
“Mike was a good old fashioned Kiwi. He was honest, reliable and consistent. He was a very handy man to have around.”
Chris Wood, who was friends with Lovett for about 40 years, described him as a “good knock-about bloke and a good family man”.
“You probably wouldn’t find a nicer guy than Mike Lovett.”
Bright, a father of two, was the publican of the Group One Turf Bar in Cambridge, where he and Williams, a regular on Thursday and Friday nights, first met about two decades ago.
“He had that sort of irrepressible character and personality about him - very cheeky. He was a modern day Basil Fawlty. He was f...... hilarious.”
Williams said he and Bright became good mates and went on holiday together each year, usually in February.
Bright was “very generous” and raised a lot of money for people and groups, like the local volunteer fire brigade.
“He was larger than life.”
Williams knew Sanders, a builder and father of three, through horse racing. The pair had travelled overseas together, when Sanders trained horses in partnership with his father, Graeme Sanders.
“He was just a top bloke. He had a terrific work ethic and was a good family man.”
Williams said Bright and Lovett had been on a fishing charter in the Far North several years ago, but didn’t know if it was on Enchanter.
The Cambridge community was struggling to come to grips with what had happened.
“It’s pretty raw right now. Words can’t explain how we all feel.”