Man ‘Bemused’ His Old Luxury Yacht Was Carrying $221M Worth of Cocaine

“Probably really quite a sensible vessel to use for that if you don’t get caught. It doesn’t draw much attention to itself.”

THE KAHU, FROM WHEN IT WAS UP FOR SALE. IN 2014, IT WAS LISTED AT $2.9 MILLION. PHOTO BY YACHTCHARTERFLEET

A massive cocaine bust off the UK coast evoked mixed emotions for a Vancouver man who watched it go down on his old yacht. 

Peter White-Robinson saw news Tuesday of six men being arrested with more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine in what the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) called “a dramatic operation at sea,” on the luxury yacht he once lived in with his family. Police said the seized blow was worth £160 million, or $221 million.

“(I was) surprised but bemused, and amused I suppose,” said the 73-year-old, adding there were “chortles all around” when he first heard of the bust from friends and family in New Zealand. 

He said he can understand why drug runners might have thought they could float under the radar in the 37-metre boat he rebuilt as a home for himself, his wife, and two sons a decade ago. 

PETER WHITE-ROBINSON WITH HIS WIFE SHARON ABOARD THE KAHU IN FIJI IN AUGUST 2012. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHITE-ROBINSON

“Probably really quite a sensible vessel to use for that if you don’t get caught,” he said. “It doesn’t draw much attention to itself. She wasn’t a big statement.”

The NCA worked with Australian Federal Police to intercept the Kahu 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth, England, as it sailed in from the Caribbean. Police escorted the ship to the UK mainland for a search that turned up hundreds of bricks of cocaine. Six men aged 24 to 49, one from Britain and five from Nicaragua, were arrested and charged with drug trafficking offences. 

“Organised crime groups are motivated by money. The deprivation of these drugs will smash a hole in (their) plans and ability to operate,” NCA deputy director Matt Horne said in a statement.

MORE THAN TWO TONS OF COCAINE WORTH $221 MILLION WERE SEIZED FROM THE LUXURY YACHT. PHOTO BY NATIONAL CRIME AGENCY

The yacht’s backstory is more wholesome, but also bittersweet for White-Robinson, whose connection to the boat was first reported by the National Post. 

Built in 1979 as a patrol vessel for the New Zealand navy, it went up for sale at the end of its naval lifecycle. White-Robinson bought the boat, cut it in half, and added 10 metres to the middle, along with numerous other upgrades. 

“It was a total rebuild,” he said. 

His goal was to travel for two to three years with his wife Sharon, their 10- and 12-year-old sons, and a small crew. In 2012, the successful yacht builder and businessman set sail from the family’s New Zealand home to live out his ocean dream. 

The first year went swimmingly as the family cruised the Pacific Ocean, visiting islands in the South Pacific and mooring in Hawaii before heading north. 




But when White-Robinson made what was supposed to be a brief stop on Vancouver Island in 2013, he learned his company Fitzroy Yachts was in crisis back home. To keep his workers employed and pay off his debts, he sold all three of his businesses and turned Fitzroy and its assets over to the buyer of a superyacht he was building. 

Those assets included the boat his family was living in.

“It was a sad story, in a way. I’d built the business from nothing,” he said. “It was a significant business; we did some wonderful work.”

A New Zealand paper ran a story on White-Robinson in 2014 headlined “A Dream Now in Tatters,” saying he went from an “audacious entrepreneur” who “did what everyone said could not be done, a man everyone wanted to be,” to losing a $20 million fortune and finding himself “washed up relatively penniless and without a job on Canada’s Vancouver Island.”



Man ‘Bemused’ His Old Luxury Yacht Was Carrying $221M Worth of Cocaine

“Probably really quite a sensible vessel to use for that if you don’t get caught. It doesn’t draw much attention to itself.”

KM

By Kevin Maimann

September 17, 2021, 10:11am

THE KAHU, FROM WHEN IT WAS UP FOR SALE. IN 2014, IT WAS LISTED AT $2.9 MILLION. PHOTO BY YACHTCHARTERFLEET 

A massive cocaine bust off the UK coast evoked mixed emotions for a Vancouver man who watched it go down on his old yacht. 

Peter White-Robinson saw news Tuesday of six men being arrested with more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine in what the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) called “a dramatic operation at sea,” on the luxury yacht he once lived in with his family. Police said the seized blow was worth £160 million, or $221 million.

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“(I was) surprised but bemused, and amused I suppose,” said the 73-year-old, adding there were “chortles all around” when he first heard of the bust from friends and family in New Zealand. 

He said he can understand why drug runners might have thought they could float under the radar in the 37-metre boat he rebuilt as a home for himself, his wife, and two sons a decade ago. 

PETER WHITE-ROBINSON WITH HIS WIFE SHARON ABOARD THE KAHU IN FIJI IN AUGUST 2012. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHITE-ROBINSON

“Probably really quite a sensible vessel to use for that if you don’t get caught,” he said. “It doesn’t draw much attention to itself. She wasn’t a big statement.”

The NCA worked with Australian Federal Police to intercept the Kahu 80 miles off the coast of Plymouth, England, as it sailed in from the Caribbean. Police escorted the ship to the UK mainland for a search that turned up hundreds of bricks of cocaine. Six men aged 24 to 49, one from Britain and five from Nicaragua, were arrested and charged with drug trafficking offences. 

“Organised crime groups are motivated by money. The deprivation of these drugs will smash a hole in (their) plans and ability to operate,” NCA deputy director Matt Horne said in a statement.

MORE THAN TWO TONS OF COCAINE WORTH $221 MILLION WERE SEIZED FROM THE LUXURY YACHT. PHOTO BY NATIONAL CRIME AGENCY

The yacht’s backstory is more wholesome, but also bittersweet for White-Robinson, whose connection to the boat was first reported by the National Post. 

Built in 1979 as a patrol vessel for the New Zealand navy, it went up for sale at the end of its naval lifecycle. White-Robinson bought the boat, cut it in half, and added 10 metres to the middle, along with numerous other upgrades. 

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“It was a total rebuild,” he said. 

His goal was to travel for two to three years with his wife Sharon, their 10- and 12-year-old sons, and a small crew. In 2012, the successful yacht builder and businessman set sail from the family’s New Zealand home to live out his ocean dream. 

The first year went swimmingly as the family cruised the Pacific Ocean, visiting islands in the South Pacific and mooring in Hawaii before heading north. 

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But when White-Robinson made what was supposed to be a brief stop on Vancouver Island in 2013, he learned his company Fitzroy Yachts was in crisis back home. To keep his workers employed and pay off his debts, he sold all three of his businesses and turned Fitzroy and its assets over to the buyer of a superyacht he was building. 

Those assets included the boat his family was living in.

“It was a sad story, in a way. I’d built the business from nothing,” he said. “It was a significant business; we did some wonderful work.”

A New Zealand paper ran a story on White-Robinson in 2014 headlined “A Dream Now in Tatters,” saying he went from an “audacious entrepreneur” who “did what everyone said could not be done, a man everyone wanted to be,” to losing a $20 million fortune and finding himself “washed up relatively penniless and without a job on Canada’s Vancouver Island.”

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While he would not recover his fortune, he did find work as an executive for an engineering firm in B.C. But his family soon got even worse news. Sharon, who did the yacht’s interior design, was diagnosed with cancer and died just months later.

After that, White-Robinson and his two sons abandoned all plans to go back home and settled in B.C. 

He knows the boat was sold to someone in Florida several years ago and changed hands since, but he didn’t follow its trajectory closely until the bust. In 2014, it was listed at $2.9 million. 

“I guess I felt a bit sentimental about it, so I didn’t like getting too close to seeing what was going on. It just hurts each time,” he said. 

This week’s unexpected news prompted him to look at recent broker photos of the boat. He was amused to see not much had changed, at least aesthetically, Sharon’s decorating left mostly intact. A schoolroom he built on board still had his sons’ work hanging on the wall, which he found “weird.” 

LOOKING AT RECENT BROKER PICTURES, PETER WHITE-ROBINSON SAID THE BOAT’S INTERIOR, DESIGNED BY HIS LATE WIFE SHARON, HAD HARDLY CHANGED SINCE HE HAD TO SELL IT IN 2013 TO STAY AFLOAT. PHOTO BY YACHTCHARTERFLEET

They changed the colour—we originally had a green on the hull and they changed it to blue. The blue looks nice, actually. And the interiors look pretty similar to what it was.”

The Kahu will likely go up for sale again if the British government confiscates it as criminal proceeds. White-Robinson said he briefly thought about repurchasing it, but he can’t afford the yacht lifestyle anymore. 

These days he sticks to the road and the humble comfort of a home on wheels. 

“I’m not reflecting too much on it,” he said. “It’s part of my life that’s gone behind me now and I’m moving on in a motor home. So life’s different.” 

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