Sunday, May 26, 2013

More Photographs 'n Information About the Missing Lady Domina

SV Lady Domina, a home-built 75 foot motor sailor, disappeared after leaving the Island of St. Martin on March 31st, 2013.  The yacht was reportedly on it's way to Norway via the Azores.

Photo by Auto k. Blix Hulbak
of sv Lady Domina

The owner and builder of the boat, Øyvind Slettvold had attempted to start a dry-dock service in Martinique.  After spending a wheel barrow of money, including dealing with corrupt government officials, he finally gave up and had the drydock moved to Dominica, where he encountered the same problems.  Tired of the graft and corruption, Slettvold decided to sail his 75 foot yacht, Lady Domina, home to Norway.  

The Caribbean is no longer the place it used to be years ago.  It has been "discovered" in part by bare-boat cruisers who fly into various island destination from the madness of workaday life in cities the world over.  Thousands of people who retired onto a yacht have made the Caribbean either their home or their frequent destination.  It is a tight knit community.  Everyone knows everyone, well almost.

People have posed the question, "then why didn't someone see the Lady Domina weigh anchor and make her way out of Caribbean waters?  Why have there been no sightings of the yacht anywhere along her intended 2,200 k.m. course?

Actually, there was one supposed encounter.  The owner of a yacht who was familiar with Lady Domina overheard one side of a conversation.  The following post was placed on the Cruisers Forum, a popular internet information site:

"We heard a one sided VHF conversation between US Coast Guard, Puerto Rico and Lady Domina broadcast 3rd May as we were passaging along the Puerto Rico coast.  It seemed Lady Domina was requesting weather information only, certainly not assistance. Their position we presumed was most probably lust north of Puerto Rico. Our interest was piqued because we knew of the boat, her owner and one crew member from our time in Hartman Bay, Grenada."

Photo by Auto k. Blix Hulbak
taken of stern of sv Lady Domina

The people were able to pinpoint a rough location for Lady Domina because VHF radios have a short transmission range.  It is quite normal to hear one side of a VHF conversation when one of the parties is beyond reception range.  Slettvold reportedly purchased a hand held VHF radio along with a hand held GPS shortly before his departure.

Yet, a sighting of the yacht within 3 miles of Puerto Rico places the Lady Domina far off course for a trip to the Azores from Martinique.  While the trip is certainly possible, no one in the crew had mentioned sailing to Puerto Rico first. According to later posts on the cruisers board, the registration number of the Lady Domina heard by the yacht was different from the registration number of Slettvold's Lady Domina.  The conclusion is, there must be two Lady Dominas.

Therein lies the difficulty.  Lady Domina translates to Dominance Lady.  In fact, an internet search for Lady Domina reveals references to adult internet sites and all that is entailed in the dominance and submission under-world.  While many sailors may feel they are under the spell of a dominatrix in the form of a yacht, few people would have the courage to name their yacht Dominance Lady in any language.

Part of the sailing life is the carefree ability to go anywhere you like, limited only by wind and weather.  It is not unheard of for sailors to change course for an unannounced destination without telling anyone about their new plans.  Worried relatives signal the alarm and the bashful sailors get a stern talking to by authorities who launched a search party for them.  That could easily be the fate of the Lady Domina, but she had passengers on board who would want to advise friends and relatives of a course change.  No one has heard a word.  

Slettvold has a reputation as an experienced sailor who insists his crew tow the line while at sea.  On a prior voyage, he required his crew to stick exactly to course.  Having done an amazing job building Lady Domina, Slettvold also has the experience and ability to repair about anything.  People who know the yacht say the below-deck cabins had been turned into a large repair shop with multiple tools and repair equipment.

Guillaume Mousette, Esteulle Etienne and Frank Cousin

Captain and Crew of the Grain de Soleil

Those repairs may have been needed based upon the distress call put out by another yacht that was near the anticipated course of Lady Domina.  The yacht, the Grain de Soleil, was battling heavy seas.  A faint EPIRB signal was picked up by authorities about 6oo miles south of the Azores.  Because the EPIRB was set off, a search and rescue effort was mounted.  The hulk of a boat with a color similar to the Grain Soleil was found, though rescuers don't believe it is the French yacht.  It certainly was not the Lady Domina, for she had a black hull whereas the shredded remnants found floating had a green or turquoise hull.

So what happened to the sv Lady Domina?  She is now over 60 days out with no sighting of the yacht.  Most sailors suspect she will show up any day now, the crew with a sheepish grin on their faces for not notifying people of their course change.  Others say she may still be in the Caribbean, having delayed departure.  Until more information comes to fore, the Dominance Lady will be shrouded in mystery.

(59), Dane Brian Fritzner (46) and English Katie Lee (34).

Norwegian Anders Mosteid (27) Stian Abrahamsen (29) skipper and owner of the boat, Øyvind Slettvold (59), Dane Brian Fritzner (46) and English Katie Lee (34).


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