Piracy jitters cause international search - yacht found

Dandelion and skipper John Sergel
.. .
Piracy jitters have caused yet another international search for a catamaran in the west Indian Ocean, but the search was successful, locating the yacht before it arrived at its destination. The yacht had merely had 'engine problems and bad weather.'

While an multinational search had been launched to find the South African yacht feared to have been captured by pirates, its Durban skipper Josh Sergel, had no idea that the bad weather and engine problems which delayed his passage to Mozambique had left his loved ones fearing the worst.

'I am shocked to hear the news,' Sergel said on Monday when told of the worry back home.

By late Monday afternoon, he and the six others aboard the Dandelion – five friends and a crewman – were navigating the final stretch from Mayotte to Pemba in northern Mozambique.

Beeld newspaper had reported that the EU’s anti-piracy task force had been dispatched to search for the vessel when communication ceased on Tuesday evening, and it failed to arrive as scheduled in Pemba by Friday.

The SAS Drakensberg was also tasked with helping in the search.

An EU aircraft made radio contact with the yacht on Monday morning, spokeswoman Jacqueline Sherriff said.

Before word spread that the Dandelion had not fallen prey to pirates, Sergel’s friend Leo Kroone told local media outlets he was 'a wreck' and feared that the crew and passengers had been taken hostage like Durban couple Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, who remain captive in Somalia after more than 500 days.

Kroone said Sergel was due to fly to Durban from Pemba in time for his 58th birthday on Saturday, and his friends and family had believed that something was amiss when they were unable to reach him.

Late on Monday afternoon a relieved Kroone said he had spoken to Sergel, who was unaware of the fuss.

Officials at the French and US embassies and the SA Maritime Safety Authority said that the Dandelion – a four-cabin Leopard 47 catamaran – had had mechanical problems. Rudi Franck, an acquaintance of Sergel’s in Pemba, said the yacht’s starter engine had acted up, but that the skipper had told him the wind had also slowed them down considerably.

'We did have motor problems, but it is a yacht,' Sergel said last night, explaining that strong wind had delayed their arrival in Mozambique.

At 7pm, he estimated there was an hour to go before dropping anchor in Pemba.

Asked why radio communication from and to the Dandelion had ceased, Sergel said: 'We tried the SSB radio (single side band radio), but all I heard was Chinese!'

Sergel said his cellphone and those of his passengers had been out of network range, as had been the VHF radio.

To learn more about the plight of Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz, www.sosbrunodebbie.co.za!click_here

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