Stolen sailboat sails into hurricane

In an unusual and apparently tragic case reported on Boatwatch.org , a boat was stolen from its mooring and was sailed into a hurricane where a distress signal was sent but the boat was never found. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 Graham Collins, the owner of a C&C 35 named Secret Plans, received a call at his work place in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The U.S. Coast Guard had called to tell him that a personal locator beacon registered to Collins had been set off in the Atlantic 390 miles southeast of Halifax. The position of the PLB signal put it directly in hurricane Larry, then moving through the mid-North Atlantic. This was a surprise to Collins because as far as he knew, his sloop Secret Plans was safe at its mooring. Then his wife Jill went to check on the boat and found the mooring empty. The mooring ground tackle looked in good condition, with no indication of a gear failure. Collins called the Coast Guard back with the news that his boat had most likely been stolen from its mooring.

From the Boatwatch.org: “Collins explained the personal locator beacon needs to be manually activated by pulling out the antenna before holding two buttons at the same time to turn it on, so it was deliberately set off. The beacon was about 630 kilometres southeast of Halifax when it was activated.

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“On Saturday morning, the Coast Guard set out to search for the sailboat but came up empty-handed. Later in the day, one of the planes involved in the search spotted a flare, which was consistent with the flares from Collins’s boat, but couldn’t locate the vessel.

“‘The conditions at the time of the search were pretty harsh,’ Petty Officer Ryan Noel said Sunday. ‘Winds were 70 knots and the waves were 40 to 50 feet, with visibility for less than a mile.’

“Collins said since his family only used the former racing boat for near-coast cruising, it didn’t have a liferaft, but it was fully equipped with food and water, which would’ve lasted a person at least a week at sea.

“Just after 10 a.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard decided to suspend the search for the boat.

“Collins said he believes Karin Marley Simons of Antigua is the person who stole his boat and set sail for down south

“Simons was one of two men charged after Quebec RCMP and the Canadian Coast Guard seized 556 kilograms of cocaine from a burning sailboat off the coast of Nova Scotia on Aug. 29. The next day, Simons escaped police custody at Dartmouth General Hospital, where he had been taken in for an assessment. – RCMP handout

“Simons has a Royal Yachting Association yachtmaster certificate, which is a ‘highly respected qualification worldwide, proving your experience and competence as a skipper,’ according to its website.

“Collins said the situation has not only angered, but saddened him.

“‘I’ve put a lot of heart and soul into rebuilding it, so to have that taken away is painful,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing I can really do, so it’s a pretty helpless feeling. You don’t get the resolution like you do if it’s washed up on the rocks on something.’

“But at the end of the day, Collins said the boat is a material item. ‘While I’m sad and angry that my boat is gone, I’m also sad that someone has probably lost their life in the hurricane.’”

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Categories: Ocean Voyaging, Web Exclusive