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Five sailors, missing two months, sail into Coquimbo, Chile

By Sue Richards last modified May 03, 2010 11:47 AM

Published: 2010-05-03 11:47:41
Countries: Chile

Posted 15 April 2010

Five sailors, missing on the sailing yacht the SS Columbia for nearly two months in the eastern Pacific, have turned up in Coquimbo.

On Sunday 11 April the 13-metre sloop carrying the five, arrived safely in port in Chile – two months after it was scheduled to dock and was feared lost, thus ending a search that has involved hundreds of vessels over thousands of miles of open ocean.

According to early reports, the vessel found itself adrift in the Pacific Ocean more than 1000 nautical miles off the coast, caught in the ITCZ or Doldrums. As the skipper travels with the VHF radio turned off, they were not in touch with other yachts and knew nothing about the disastrous earthquake that had hit Chile, or that there was a dramatic search underway to attempt to locate them.

Now questions are being asked about the behaviour of the boat's skipper, Polish-born French citizen Boguslaw Norwid (Bob), who, his crew allege, would not let them use a radio to contact their families to tell them that they were safe.

Family and friends of the student sailors, who had paid around $3500 for the training voyage, which would enable them to achieve their Skipper's ticket, had had coast guard officers search up and down the coast of Chile, where the 13-metre steel sloop was likely to be. The vessel had left Salinas, Ecuador, Jan. 16th, with vague plans to arrive in Coquimbo, Chile, around Feb. 27, the day the earthquake hit. They had also put the word out among cruising sailors in the area, with no result.

However, all the time the search was underway, authorities, families and friends hesitated to be convinced that the vessel was lost, due to the previous record of the skipper who routinely arrives 20 to 30 days late at his destination.

In 2002, the same SS Columbia, with the same captain, disappeared for 13 days on its way from Vancouver to Mexico before it finally arrived in Manzanillo.

By then, the U.S., Canadian and Mexican coast guards, as well as sailors up and down the Pacific coast, were searching. Upon their return, they explained that they had had to sit out a storm and wait in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for favourable winds

Our thanks to David Wheatley for bringing this news to noonsite's attention.
Taken from reports by Sail-World.com, Times online and Latitude 38.

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