Solo cruising sailor missing in drug waters of Mexico

Finesse and Donn prior to the voyage
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In mid-January a young house-builder and sailor, Donn Pinkney set off for an adventure sailing trip south from Dana Point in California with a friend on his 27ft Catalina sailing boat Finesse. By 20th February they had reached Manzanillo in Mexico, but his friend couldn't go any further. He set out alone anyway and hasn't been seen since.

His 27-foot sailboat washed up on Mexico's west coast in late February, stripped and empty, with no sign of its skipper.

Did he slip overboard? His father thinks no. 'He is very experienced sailor. He's not an amateur,' Pinkney, Sr. told the local press. 'The probability that he fell overboard — the chances are slim to none. The weather was not such that he would be flipped off. That is not impossible, but it is highly improbable.'

Friends agree. 'After looking at the NOAA reports and everything, it [weather] just really doesn't appear to have been a factor,' friend Brett Schreckengost said. 'Most of the people that know him, know that he would have been taking every precaution to be harnessed in while he was on the boat and we just don't think he fell off the boat.'

Finesse found stripped
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Donn was last heard from Feb. 20, when he set out solo from Manzanillo — near Puerto Vallarta — bound for Zihuatanejo, where he was to have met friends. He never showed. The 270-mile trip south should have taken him three days but five days later Finesse washed up on the beaches of La Ticla, in between his departure point and his destination.

It wasn't reported to authorities until several days later, and by that time it had been completely stripped.

But his father, Donn Pinkney Sr. said lack of communication among Mexican authorities and bureaucratic disorganization have stymied his efforts to find out what happened. Because of the presence of drug cartels that run in the same waters as where the yacht was found the possibility of foul play exists.

Apparently the U.S. State Department on Friday confirmed the embassy in Mexico City is aware of the disappearance of the young sailor. The vice consul has been in touch with Mr Pinkney and the State Department is facilitating meetings between him and local law enforcement, but is not conducting its own investigation, spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said.

There is a travel advisory warning for travelers to Mexico, but nothing specifically for sailors. The travel warning issued Feb. 8 by the State Department says, in part, that while 'there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality ... the TCOs themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. As a result, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere.'

Friends of Donn Pinkney Jr. have started a website for news and fundraising in the search for the missing sailor:

www.searchfordonnpinkney.bbnow.org/