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Brisbane sailor missing in mystery incident

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 4 Feb 2012
Woden V, from which the Brisbane sailor and his life jacket mysteriously disappeared .. .
Mystery surrounds the disappearance overboard of a Manly (Brisbane) sailor and his life jacket from his yacht Woden V. With their boat taking on water after having struck rocks, Des Stanaway, a member of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, told his rescuers not to worry, that Woden V would wait on a sandbank overnight and arrange to be towed home in the morning.

The three crew retired to their bunks for a sleep, but in the morning he - and his life jacket - were missing. His fellow sailors at a loss to explain how a yachtsman with 30 years' experience could suddenly disappear after settling in for a night at sea.

The 75-year-old sailor had set off with two friends on Wednesday to pick up his new boat - the 40-foot Woden V - from Sydney.

It was about 11pm when, off the coast of Port Macquarie, they hit trouble, damaging the Woden V's rigging.

The crew called Marine Rescue and decided to pull their boat in through the mouth of the Hastings River, but strong currents hampered their efforts and the yacht struck rocks.

Marine Rescue arrived and the crew accepted a tow to a nearby sandbar where they would wait for high tide before attempting to return to shore.

The sailors opted to stay on board and retired to their bunks at about 3.00am

When the Marine Rescue boat returned at 5am, the crew discovered Des, a long-time member of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, was missing, along with his lifejacket.

'The last time the crew saw the skipper was at 3am when they secured their vessel before putting their heads down to sleep,' Coffs Harbour water police Sergeant Don Stewart told reporters.

He said floodwater had hampered search efforts and rescuers were hoping for more clarity in the water today.

'The currents out to sea are very strong because of the floodwater,' he said.

Des's son, Glen Stanaway, told The Courier-Mail the family was trying to remain optimistic.

'The people there in Port Macquarie are doing everything they can to find him and I am trying to keep a hopeful, open mind,' he said.

Yesterday, search efforts were made difficult by floodwaters rushing out through the rivermouth, creating a torrent of brown that reduced visibility.

A large sea-air rescue operation continues, with police divers assisting Marine Police, Surf Life Saving, Marine Rescue and State Emergency Services.
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