Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Missing Sail Boat Grendal

There are times in life when communications gets its wires crossed. This is something that happens even when you check with official regulatory agencies, information just gets miss communicated, wires get crossed. As we say in the biz, "Ship Happens". This unfortunately happened to me recently. I have redacted the names of some of the participants in this story that are not in the public domain, because of both privacy issues and lets just say, making the point I am going to make is not worth any more hassles. People just react differently for various reasons and some of them just get involved on a limited basis. I am not known for that. Once I get involved, I get involved, no holds barred, especially with a report of a missing sail boat.

As the story of the missing s/v Grendal first came to me from a sailing boat forum. The posting dated around 8 June 2007, was a strange and not a typical posting from someone searching for a missing boat and person. The party inquiring was asking for any information on the missing sail boat 'Grendal' and its owner Mr. Edward C. Judd, who was sailing from Fiji to Hawaii on or about 15 October 2006 and had not been heard from since. There was no other information posted. The poster requested anyone who knew anything about the Grendal and Mr. Judd to contact him.

We are talking about searching for someone or gathering information about someone in a span of time some eight months from the last known reported sighting in the general area between Fiji and Hawaii to when the post was published. There was no further details posted. Over the next few days the postings continued and were still limited in any details, though the forum moderator was requesting those details. The inquiry seemed very strange indeed. Why ask for assistance locating a missing boat and its owner and not provide more accurate details? So becoming peaked and after a web search and finding nothing noteworthy, I emailed the person inquiring and asked for more details. After a web search I found the company address and contact data for the person making the inquiry. Noted the companies location and assumed that this was the location or the general area where the missing boater either came from or had family. That was the correct part.

So I contacted that area's USCG Operations Office and made an inquiry with the limited details I had. After searching their data base and speaking with their own area command. They informed me that both the Grendal and Mr. Judd were located a while ago. Knowing that there were privacy issues involved and that I not being next of kin, would not receive any further information asto his exact location or well being, I dropped the issue and reported back to the forum moderator that the boat and owner were indeed located and that the posting was a false report.

Well guess who was wrong? I later received a email from the original inquiring party with much more detail than what was posted including the USCG case number. At the same time the forum moderator without even contacting me decided, I was off my rocker and revoked my entrance to the forum. Got to love people who have the same questions as you do, the same thoughts or concerns about the post in question, as you do, and then just assume your off your rocker and don't even bother to have the common decency to ask you before they react. Especially on a report of a missing sail boat, of which I take very seriously.

Well it did get my attention to say the least and I am not one to drop an issue like this, once I get involved. If I am wrong then I have to admit my mistake and take corrective action. So armed with much more details, I decided to go find out what the real story here was. I made direct contact with the USCG Area Command and also call the company where the original inquirer worked and who had contacted me by email and leaving a message to contact me.

Here are the real known facts of the missing sail boat Grendal.

As it was told to me by the United States Coast Guard this time. The Grendal was located half sunken off the Kura Atoll, North West of Midway Atoll or Midway Island. Mr. Judd was not located. When I asked if an air search had been conducted, the USCG said no, because they received the missing boat report some six or seven months after the last reported known sighting of the Grendal and Mr. Judd in Fiji. However they did launch a search party on the Kura Atoll and found nothing. Mr. Judd's personal processions, what was left of them, were on board the half sunken Grendal at the time.

I asked if there were any GPIRB or EBIRB signals sent or received or any may-days calls. The answer was very a surprising, no. A man with 40 years of sailing history in the South Pacific and no may-day calls or GPIRB signals? How very strange. Well I later found out why. Mr. Judd did not have any form of communications or electronics on his 33 foot sail boat. Nor was any found on his boat by the USCG. Not even a simple VHF radio.

Because of this and the fact that the missing boat report was transmitted so very late to the USCG, they could not even define an air search area. Forget about trying to find someone, some seven or eight months afterwards, sailing between Fiji and Hawaii. Once again even though with limited information the USCG did manage to locate the Grendal and sent a search party to the Atoll, finding nothing, they made contact with as many customs and regulatory offices in countries as they could that Mr. Judd was known to have visited. With no sign of Mr. Judd and no further information provided they closed the case.

As I was finishing my call with the USCG I received a call from the inquiring party who I had left a message for. Yes as I was informed, Mr. Judd did not have any communications or electronics equipment on board. Mr. Judd a 80 year old gentleman with some 40 years of sailing history in the South Pacific was something of a mavrick and someone who just was just care free. Mr. Judd was known to keep in touch with his family and so the lack of communications was unusual.

That did strike me as strange. If Judd had a habit of communicating why did his family wait so long? The gentleman on the line could not answer that and was surprised to find out that the report to the USCG was filed so late himself. Matter of fact according to this person. Mr. Judd had indeed communicated his sailing intentions. He originally sent a lady friend of his a post card in September of 2006 telling her that he would be departing Fiji on October 15 of 06, bound for Helo, Hawaii and was not sure how long it would take. She was asked to give this information to his brother and so she did.

Moreover, during this time there were some five or six named tropical cyclones raging havoc in the South Pacific at varying times during the period when the Grendal was sailing. Without any type of even basic electronics or communications, advanced warning would have never happened.

Tropical Cyclone Arthur - NASA

So Mr. Judd, would have had to rely on visual atmospheric and ocean sightings to determine weather. That did not work to well back in the days of Wooden Tall Ships and many ships and sailors were lost and that does not work well today either. For anyone especially a 80 year old person sailing in any ocean or even offshore without basic communications is unfortunately foolish. No matter how experienced someone is. The odds have a nasty habit of catching up on you. The likelihood of finding Mr. Judd at this time is about, well? Lets say almost impossible. Unless Mr. Judd one day makes contact. That too it seems unlikely.

As of this writing I have sent an email to a contact of mine at Fiji asking them to inquire about the Grendal and Mr. Judd at marinas he was known to harbor at.

If anyone has any information or history about Mr. Judd and his travels starting from September 2006 to May 2007, please contact me here. Just answer this post and I will receive an email.

To my mates at the sailing forum. Communications get crossed all the time and it was not hard in this very unusual case either. It was a strange tail and as I said before, "Ship Happens". You do have my apologies, but jumping without knowing any facts or just assuming someone is wrong without knowing any facts is making the same mistake I made. Next time at least make contact and find out what the facts really are before you react.

My condolences and prayers to Mr. Judd's family. I will do my best to find out anything I can.