No one who sails likes to think how slight are the odds of finding a small boat at sea with no electronic signal pulsing its position.
But the thousands of concerned people who have helped search satellite images for a sign that a missing catamaran still floats, the search and rescue stalwarts who have plotted drift patterns and co-operated across continents, the families and friends of the three missing men who have persevered through their pain and distress, and the multinational company which has now hired an ocean-going tug to search for its missing catamaran are all focused on the passage of the Comarco Swift as it sails the Indian Ocean south east of Mauritius.
The Comarco Swift left port on Sunday, 12 July 2015, and observers held their breath as the tug motored out, then seemed to drift, traced a couple of slow triangles and finally, the following day, set off around the top end of Mauritius and south east into the Indian Ocean.
Confirmation of her mission was slow to come from Sunsail which had previously announced a schedule for the search which had been cancelled, according to the company, because of weather.
The Comarco Swift is currently searching the area of interest – a large section of sea where the upturned boat might be floating following two sightings, in May and in June. It is not clear how many days it will be able to search the area before returning to port. Sunsail previously announced it had hired the Comarco Swift for eight days but the voyage has extended beyond that time.
Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town has aided the search by plotting drift patterns for the catamaran and getting updates from the tug during the search.
For many hours today the Comarco Swift has drifted in place, at a position of approximately 27° 50’ South 63° 06’ E. Marion Telsnig, the spokesperson for Sunsail, said the tug was “trying drift patterns to get a better understanding of the local currents to submit to MRCC”.
When the upturned hull was sighted in May and June, Anthony Murray, Reginald Robertson and Jaryd Payne had been missing at sea for several months. The last time they had communicated with family as they sailed from Cape Town to Phuket to deliver the Sunsail Leopard catamaran was on 18 January 2015. On that date they were in the path of Cyclone Bansi and their families soon tried to raise their concerns for their men’s safety.
Frustrated by their communication with Sunsail and its parent company Tui Marine, a family friend and then a member of the family reported the men missing to MRCC in Cape Town on 11 February and 12 February 2015.
Supported by a Facebook group, Searching for Anthony, Reg and Jaryd, in scanning satellite images for a trace of the missing yacht, the families have weathered countless setbacks as days turned to weeks, and weeks to months.
No-one has lost sight of what is at stake in this search – three men who set out to deliver a yacht and have not come home.
The Comarco Swift’s journey represents more than the physical voyage into the unknown for the thousands who have followed the search. It is the embodiment of some of the finer human traits – the refusal to give in to despair, the staunch support of a group, the determination to mark each of these three lives as precious, worthy of continued effort, and the feelings of their families as worthy of honour.
… there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.- Ratty to Mole in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame