Friday, June 7, 2013

Lady Domina Update

We were encouraged to hear Craig D. Wilkie, a friend of missing Lady Domina crewman, Brian Fritzner, is taking an active role in the search for Lady Domina.  For those who have not heard, Lady Domina is a 75 foot, home-built motorsailor, which went missing after departing March 31, 2013 from the Caribbean Island of St. Martin.

In my initial contact with Craig, I encouraged him to be aggressive in the search.  If the departure date is correct, the yacht is way over-due for it's intended destination in the Azores.  If the boat went down and the crewmembers are in the black liferaft which was reported to be on Lady Domina, they are in desperate need of help.

I was a little discouraged when Craig flamed me on the cruising board where we first learned of him.  Craig said I was playing games and withholding information.  Actually, the night before, it was Craig who sent me an email telling me he saw no value in the interviews I had been doing in the yachting community. He said the case had been well publicized and his only interest was in getting out an alert.  He wanted to get the authorities to launch a search.  He was not willing to answer any of our questions about Brian in hopes of developing a lead in the disappearance, or to even learn if Brian was like Anders Mosteid, a youth who answered a wanted-ad for crew and ended up missing.

My response to Craig was to advise him not a single newspaper anywhere that had published a story about the Lady Domina that I am aware of (in English).  If you don't know the boat is missing, or you don't know the name of the boat, you would never know the boat was over-due from an internet search.  In fact, one person we messaged this week thought the yacht had already been found because not much was being posted.  Wouldn't it be nice to have every person in every marina and on every boat in the Caribbean watching for the missing yacht?

Why is publishing the account of a missing yacht outside of the internet important?  There are several reasons.  First, it is important to alert non-internet people about these things.  Young people don't realize not everyone is internet savvy.  Yes, the stone age still exists, even in modern times!

Second, when stories end up in newsprint they take on an odd sense of importance.  It is that very odd sense of importance that can sometimes tacitly be used to convince authorities to do what they don't want to do.  We hated to break the news to Craig.  Search and Rescue authorities don't like spending a half million on searches just because someone jumps up and down and waves their hands.  

Which brings us to the third reason.  If we could at least pinpoint a last known sighting, or wreckage, or witness accounts-because we got the word out to a cruiser who was not watching the internet for the term Lady Domina-then the family might have more
leverage convincing SAR to spend their money on a search.  One hell of a good reason to stick an EPIRB on a boat is so the authorities know an emergency has taken place.  At that point, they have to search.  Sadly, Lady Domina reportedly did not carry an EPIRB.

Meanwhile, Brian's partner sent me an email in which she established down to the moment when the Lady Domina left St. Martin.  She also indicated she was "100% positive" the yacht was headed to the Azores direct, and not through Puerto Rico as some people had been told.  

I learned a long time ago, never to argue with someone who is 100% positive.  It may sound funny, but in this case, Brian's partner is in a much better position to know than I am.  What could I do but encourage her to stand by her guns, and let's all hope for the best.

Late today when I tuned into the board I read a scathing post by Craig accusing me of refusing to divulge information.   Both Craig and Brian's girlfriend have my email.  Neither one of them have ever asked me anything.  That is why people don't like to get involved, because their intentions are misunderstood.  Sometimes worried friends and relatives take their anxiety out on the first object which crosses their path.

Still, it is a good thing to have an aggressive investigation for a boat that is 70 days out on what the crew said would be a 15 day trip to the Azores.

Yesterday, interviews revealed an entirely new prospect for the Lady Domina.  If the yacht went to Puerto Rico first, there is an entirely new search grid to consider.  Additionally, likely the yacht will not have been out for as long a time as most suspected.  That gives the rational person reason to speculate about the increased chances of survival for the crew.

What remains a mystery is why the Lady Domina would have gone to Puerto Rico without advising it's crew Puerto Rico was the next destination.  I am taking a bit of a leap here by assuming Brian's girlfriend, being 100% positive the yacht was heading direct to the Azores, meant She did not know the boat was going to Puerto Rico, hence Brian did not know, either.  Also, if the boat went to Puerto Rico, why didn't any of the crew call home to advise of the course change?

For every logical speculation comes more logical speculation.  Perhaps the Lady Domina Captain, Olvind Slettvolt, was playing it safe, staying closer in, while he tested crew and yacht.  Perhaps the Lady Domina never made landfall in Puerto Rico so no one could call home.  Perhaps the boat never went to Puerto Rico in the first place.

With the appearance of people representing crewmembers we will take a lower profile approach to the Lady Domina.  "Too many chiefs can cause confused indians" we say in Colorado.  However, we will still continue following the Lady Domina and it's strange Odyssey.  

If you have information about the Lady Domina, please let us know.  If you have pictures of the crew or the yacht, or videos, please send them to us.  We are interested in interviewing all people who know anything about this story.  Our objective is to assemble first hand witness reports of crew intentions, crew experience, crew statements, non-crew observations, information about the condition of the boat and any other detail that might give us another plausible solution for the disappearance of the Lady Domina.

Please submit your information here.

Above all, we wish to provide hope and support to the families of the missing sailors.  We wish to encourage Craig D. Wilikie and Brian Fritzner's Patner in their efforts.  We are still convinced the Lady Domina is out there and will appear on the horizon soon.  Without hope, not much remains.

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