So far, the extensive search for the long-overdue 45-ft steel cutter Columbia has turned up no solid clues as to its fate, but the outpouring of willing assistance has been truly impressive.
Relatives of crew members became worried several weeks ago when the boat did not turn up at its planned port stop at Coquimbo, Chile — expecially since the British-flag vessel was apparently at sea when the Chilean earthquake and tsunami occurred. Columbia has not been heard from since leaving Salinas, Ecuador January 16, bound for Chile.
‘Health and Welfare’ notices have gone out to cruisers all along the Central and South American coasts via radio nets and large email networks such as the Southbound, Pacific Puddle Jump and Cruisers’ Network Online groups which are hosted at Yahoo.com. Through the Patagonia radio net, vessels from South Georgia Island to Antartica and all the way west to Easter Island have been informed repeatedly of the search.
Although there have been no actual sightings of this conspicuous vessel, which is known to bear the words Discovery Sailing Academy in large type on its starboard topsides, by process of elimination, the focus of the search is narrowing. Boats have reported in from Coquimbo, Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island and elsewhere that Columbia is not, and has not, been in those places. And the detailed mandatory daily reporting protocol demanded by the Chilean Armada makes some searchers convinced that the vessel never arrived in any Chilean port.
With each passing day, the search seems a bit more futile, but neither the cruising network, nor relatives of the crew are about to give up. "Keep the faith," say Brandy and Mark Fox of the Seattle-based Panda 38 Restless. "We met a guy while we were in Puerto Montt, Chile, that set out on a 40-day passage from Canada to the Galapagos and ended up in Tahiti six months later. Seems he got out of motoring range and got becalmed. Let us know if there is anything else we can do from here. Feel free to write and I’ll keep you updated on anything we learn."
If you have any direct info on this vessel’s location, please let us know ASAP.