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Mysteries of the seas, happening right now - missing, sunk, foul play

by Lee Mylchreest on 30 Mar 2014
Whatever happened? SW
It's true that most of Sail-World's tales of the sea involve suspense, achievement and/or a hedonistic delight with the waves and sun, sunsets and moonlight. But there are others, stories half told, mysteries which blackly hint at a dark finish, and those are happening around us every week too. Here are this week's, in the Atlantic, the Timor Sea and the Caribbean:

Mystery No. 1, Atlantic Ocean: What happened to solo sailor Sietse Hagen?



There's a Dutch sailor thought to be missing in the Atlantic. At least it's such a long time since he's been heard from that friends and family are deeply concerned.

Sietse Hagen left the port of Tenerife heading for the Caribbean on January 15th, 2014. Since his departure, now over 60 days ago, he has not reported home. His friends and family, as well as the Dutch sailing community, are deeply concerned about the well-being of this very experienced sailor.

Sietse Hagen is sailing a 27ft Gib’Sea Flush Poker named Pokerface, small but well prepared for long voyages. He carries no satphone or SSB radio. The boat is recognizable by its fixed spray hood and the black painted stern. Sietse has been reported missing at the local and international authorities, but all help by keeping a lookout for his boat would be very much appreciated.

If you have any information that could help finding Sietse please contact The Netherlands Coastguard or your local police.


Mystery No. 2, Timor Sea: What happened to the crew of a just-discovered sunken yacht?

This mystery is quite different, as it is just the crew that is missing, while the yacht has been discovered on the ocean bed. It was a fishing trawler that snagged the sunken yacht about 80nm out of Darwin in 80-90 metres of water.



The fishing boat is owned by Australia Bay Seafoods. The company's owner, Bill Passey, said the crew of the ship realised their nets had a giant snag while trawling.

'They hooked up there and it took about six hours to get free and eventually when they did get free something gave way,' Mr Passey told the ABC.

'They pulled up ... and among all the tangled mess was a mast off a yacht with the sails,' he said.

The yacht's sails were still up.

The marine growth suggests the wreck is only 6-10 months old. The mast is painted blue and the furling headsail was made in Sydney.

A mollusc expert has since told police he believed the vessel had been in the ocean for between eight and ten months and that the sail matched a type made by a boutique sailmaker from Sydney.

But the stainless steel rings on the blue mast that was recovered were made in Auckland.

A Northern Territory Police spokeswoman told news.com.au that the fate of the yacht’s crew was a mystery.

'We don’t even know if there was a crew, let alone what happened to them,' the spokeswoman said.

'It’s possible they were rescued by a passing vessel and it’s possible that they drowned. We have cross-referenced all missing people in Western Australia and Queensland and come up with nothing.'

It is understood that NT Water Police are preparing to send specialist divers and a remotely-operated device to search the seabed for bodies and recover the rest of the yacht.

Mystery No. 3, St Vincent, Caribbean: What happened to British sailor found dead in burning liferaft?

This is the darkest mystery of all, and police have launched a murder investigation after the sailor was found dead in the water near his life raft, and near his burnt-out yacht in the Caribbean Sea.



Sailing instructor John Edward Garner, 53, was discovered with head and leg injuries after the coastguard responded to reports that a yacht was on fire off the coast of St Vincent and he was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

Kay Wilson, who owns Indigo Watersports, and is originally from Bristol, said she was taking a boat trip full of guests from a nearby hotel resort, when she saw smoke on the horizon and went to investigate.

She said she and her crew discovered Mr Garner's body free floating in the water wearing a life jacket, with severe lacerations to his face and legs.

A burning life raft was also found close to the yacht, which was well ablaze, she said. While local reports said that police were now searching for his wife Heidi Hukkelaas, with whom he flew to St Vincent on January 19, ex-pats living on the island - including the dive instructor who discovered Mr Garner's body - say Miss Hukkelaas left her partner two days previously, to return to Norway to look after her children, as planned.

And despite Caribbean police claiming to be searching for Ms Hukkelaas, Norwegian authorities said no requests have been made with them regarding her whereabouts, only to inform Norwegian relatives that Mr Garner had died.

'We have not been asked to do anything but inform relatives of the incident,’ a spokesperson for Norwegian Police said this week.

‘We are not aware that the Norwegian woman is wanted internationally and there is no such request regarding this woman in our system.’

In the meantime, there are no clues to the mystery of what happened to the unlucky sailor.

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