Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars - North Technology

Modern Sea Mysteries- Solving the mystery of Jure Sterk

by Nancy Knudsen on 22 Nov 2009
Jure Sterk at the mast .. .
'I went out on deck and there she was, just drifting along. Her mainsail was set but it was in tatters.' What happened to Jure Sterk? Was he the victim of foul play? or did he fall overboard? why was the dinghy missing? What is the real story of this Slovenian sailor who was on his last leg to become the 'oldest circumnavigator in the smallest engine-less boat'?

72-year old Jure Sterk left Tauranga, New Zealand, in December 2007 on his sailboat 'Lunatic Piran'. His boat may have been small, but his ambition was large - a non-stop circumnavigation. However his story had not begun there, and was already a testament both to the sailor's doggedness and his love of the sea.

He had actually left Europe three years before - on the 5th September 2004 - in an effort to circumnavigate without making landfall. Each time he experienced problems with the boat and was obliged to enter ports for repairs.

However, finally he set sail to the East from New Zealand and his plan was reportedly to sail via Cape Horn, north around the Azores, back around Cape of Good Hope, around Tasmania, across the Southern Ocean, around the bottom of New Zealand and back to Tauranga.

In the beginning of this year Jure was on his last leg to New Zealand.

He had kept contact with amateur radio enthusiasts, but was last reported in early January 2009.

On April 30, the RV Roger Revelle, out of San Diego, CA, USA was enroute from Durban, South Africa to Freemantle/Perth, Australia on an oceanographic research cruise and was at Latitude 32-18.0S, Longitude 091-07.0E,, when the 2nd mate sighted the drifting boat.

An oceanographer crew member picks up the story:

While steaming at 12 knots toward our next station, the ship unexpectedly stopped several miles before the station. We were wondering what the occasion was, did someone hook a tuna finally? I was in the lab running nutrient samples when my lab partner from the other watch came in and said that we had found a sailboat with no one on board.

I went out on deck and there she was, just drifting along. Her mainsail was set but it was in tatters. She had a white hull with white sails. To my mind she was quite small, maybe 30 feet? She was floating high in the water, certainly she was watertight and not sinking. Her hull was very heavily fouled with marine growth; it was obvious she had been out here for a long time.

There was a fishing pole rigged over the side although no line in the water. There was a line over the side trailing aft. Her hatch from the cockpit into the cabin was open but everything seemed in order, no water in the cockpit or obviously in the cabin. Her name was partially visible on her stern, 'Lunatic Pirate', but no home port or nationality.

She was a very sad, melancholy looking craft.

What happened to leave her drifting out here, alone. Where was her crew? Did they abandon her, thinking she was in trouble? Did they get knocked overboard by the boom? Slip and fall overboard and weren't able to swim fast enough to catch her again?

It made me very sad to see her like that. It was just so emotional to see her, to be faced with what must have been some sort of tragedy at sea. I felt, and still feel, like I did when I saw a man get hit by a car while crossing the street. Sort of overwhelmed by it all. Everyone I talked to seems to feel a lot the same, it hit us all.

The first mate said that he could see a log book in the cabin so a Jacob's ladder was put over the side and someone went onboard and retrieved the log book and several other items. The last entry in the log book was from January, 2009, she may have been drifting out here since then?

Interestingly, there were several large fish swimming about the boat, anything floating in the sea seems to attract them. I was told there were two mahi-mahi and one wahoo. I saw one fish, no idea what it was.

I am sure the idea of pirates went through a lot of minds, certainly it occurred to me.

I went on deck after we were underway again and I saw her off the stern, it was so sad, just watching her 'sail' away, all alone again.

Enough to make me cry. I didn't take a picture of that, I think I'm glad.


However, the story is not ended, and the mystery may have been cleared by another cruising sailor, Peter, on his yacht Coconut, who was sailing in the Indian Ocean.

He writes:
'I was sailing my small yacht 1000 miles behind Juri (also heading East)and had daily radio conversations with him.

'The plan on the day of his accident was to get in his dinghy and clean his rudder and trim tab as the fouling had reduced his speed to 2-3knots. His forestay was broken some time previous and his main had been reduced in size as it was torn.

'His plan was to get some more speed and to clean up his steering system. The weather on the day I lost radio contact was as good as it gets down there and he had been waiting for that break in the weather.


In the end of the world
A poem by Jure Sterk

Roaring sea
screaming storm
running mountains
bloody smoky battle field.

In the salty fog hidden
black rock from the sea
worst of the worst
the terrible cape, Cape Horn.

Vale Jure Sterk, a true adventurer and cruising sailor

Zhik Dinghy 660x82Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best Eyewear

Related Articles

America's Cup - Talbot Wilson reports from the Practice Series
Bermudan based sailing journalist, Talbot Wilson looks at the first five day practice racing session just concluded Talbot Wilson looks at the first five day practice racing session just concluded in Bermuda. All five America’s Cup teams training in Bermuda have wrapped up the first of six “practice racing periods” allowed under the latest changes to the 2017 America’s Cup protocol. The protocol changes were approved March 16 by the defender, Oracle Team USA and signed by the four challengers in Bermuda.
Posted today at 12:52 am
Volvo Ocean Race - Team AkzoNobel leaves Persico
The Simeon Tienpont skippered Team AkzoNobel Volvo65 has left the building facility at Persico Marine in Bergamo The Simeon Tienpont skippered Team AkzoNobel Volvo65 has left the building facility at Persico Marine in Bergamo, Italy to The Boatyard in Lisbon under the custodianship of GAC Pindar. Before she left the yard at Persico the team had a celebration to mark the end of the build phase.
Posted on 27 Mar
America's Cup - First five day round of practice racing concludes
The latest round of America’s Cup Class (ACC) practice racing ahead of the 35th America’s Cup has concluded The latest round of America’s Cup Class (ACC) practice racing ahead of the 35th America’s Cup concluded on a beautiful spring Sunday on the Great Sound. All five America’s Cup teams now based in Bermuda took part in a series of match races in varied conditions, racing each other on a course that closely mirrors that to be used in May and June 2017
Posted on 27 Mar
America's Cup - Oracle picks up some bow protection for docking
Bangin' the Corner team talk Jimmy and the boys on Oracle Team USA through the process of getting some bow protection The Bangin' the Corner team talk Jimmy and the boys on Oracle Team USA through the process of getting some bow protection for their new AC50, before they dock after a long day on the Great Sound, and don't dock like Ben did.
Posted on 26 Mar
Bureau Vallée 2 back in the water in Brittany
The former Banque Populaire VIII aboard which Armel Le Cléac’h won the last Vendée Globe was put back in the water The former Banque Populaire VIII aboard which Armel Le Cléac’h won the last Vendée Globe was put back in the water on Friday in Lorient (Brittany), with her new decoration in the colours of Bureau Vallée.
Posted on 25 Mar
America's Cup - Bermuda practice racing videos March 24, 2017
MyislandhomeBDA is videoing the Practice racing and training with the five teams in Bermuda MyislandhomeBDA is videoing the Practice racing and training with the five teams who are based in the venue for the 2017 America's Cup. Here's the set from March 24,2017
Posted on 25 Mar
America's Cup - Coutts hits back at critics over Protocol change
Russell Coutts, has responded to criticism over the recent changes to the 35th America's Cup Protocol Five times America's Cup winner and CEO of the America's Cup Events Authority, Russell Coutts, has responded to criticism over the recent changes to the 35th America's Cup Protocol, allowing testing and racing between Challengers and the Defender in Bermuda ahead of the start of the Qualifiers.
Posted on 24 Mar
America's Cup - Groupama Team France's AC50 sailing in Bermuda - Video
Groupama Team France has had her first sail in Bermuda with the AC50 looking impressive in the video shot by the team. Groupama Team France has had her first sail in Bermuda with the AC50 looking impressive in the video shot by the team.
Posted on 24 Mar
America's Cup - Images of Emirates Team NZ flypast Devonport
Image gallery shot as Emirates Team New Zealand returned in the late afternoon from another four hour race session Image gallery shot as Emirates Team New Zealand returned in the late afternoon from another four hour race training session on the Waitemata harbour. Our cameras were on Devonport Wharf to catch the sequence - and for the first time a wide angle lens had to be used.
Posted on 23 Mar
America's Cup – Get to know Iain Murray and the ACRM
He has enjoyed a long and illustrious career since he first started sailing at the age of nine in his native Sydney. Throughout its 166 year history the rivalries between owners, skippers, crews, yacht clubs, fans and nations have been some of the most intriguing facets of the competition for the world’s oldest sporting trophy.
Posted on 23 Mar