MYSTERIOUS DESTROYED YACHTS: Wrecks Found in West Indies and Off Australia

Burning boat

I started following both these stories last week when they broke, and now I’m pretty curious to see how they play out. First: an apparently exploded 49-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey that was spotted on fire (see photo up top) a few miles west of St. Vincent last Wednesday. A local dive-tour operator, Kay Wilson, was first on the scene and found the boat’s British owner, John Edward Garner, 53, floating in the water in a life jacket with serious injuries to his face and legs. A burning liferaft and a waterproof ditch bag with a passport and other documents were also found floating near the burning yacht, which soon sank. Garner was rushed to a hospital ashore, but did not survive.

Authorities on St. Vincent suspect foul play and claim they are searching for Garner’s Norwegian partner, Heidi Hukkelaas, who may or may not be his wife and departed St. Vincent by plane two days before he died. She has been located back in Norway, but according to authorities there no West Indian authorities have sought access to her. According to Kay Wilson and Garner’s daughter, Elizabeth, there seems no reason to think the death was anything other than accidental. Meanwhile, according to a report by Yachting Monthly‘s Dick Durham, there is some evidence that the yacht, named Asante and registered in Gibraltar, may have been involved in some kind of tax avoidance scheme.

Asante at anchor

Asante at anchor with a Norwegian flag flying from one spreader

John Garner

John Garner reportedly was a sailing instructor and British special-forces trainer

From the wee bit of info available, I’d say this very probably can’t have been a murder, but I suppose there is some small chance it might have been an Insure-and-Burn scheme gone wrong.

Mystery No. 2 involves the rig of a sunken yacht that an Australian trawler hooked into in 90 meters of water about 170 kilometers west of Darwin. The trawler, operated by Australia Bay Seafoods, spent six hours clearing its gear and found a mast, which may have been manufactured in New Zealand, and a sail that had been built in Sydney. Experts believe the rig had been submerged for 8 to 10 months, and local authorities are now planning to search for the rest of the wreck to see if there are bodies onboard.

Wreck map

Presumed location of the wreck

Aussie trawler

An Australia Bay Seafoods trawler

There has been some speculation that this might be the missing American yacht Nina, which disappeared west of New Zealand some time ago, but this seems a fairly preposterous notion.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I had to turn off the comments I’m afraid, as the site was getting swamped by spam comments. Hopefully I’ll have my web guru updating everything starting later this week so we can regain control and let you have your say again.

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