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Singlehander Still Missing

It’s possible that Landers is at sea aboard a green Portland Pudgy dinghy like this one.

© 2009 Portland Pudgy

Despite a multi-faceted search effort, missing American singlehander Billy W. Landers has still not been found. As reported Wednesday, the 64-year-old sailor’s boat, Emily Pearl, was discovered — holed and sunk — earlier this week along the rugged coast of Nuku Hiva, one of the principal islands of the Marquesas Islands. Two of the first clues to Landers’ whereabouts were that his PFD was retrieved near the beach and his unsinkable plastic dinghy was nowhere to be found.

According to Landers’ close friend, fellow singlehander Erik Dix, the concensus among investigators is that the missing sailor probably did not come ashore. With the help of a local hiking guide, French gendarmes and others have "scoured the area from the village to the bay where the boat went down." But their extensive searching revealed no sign that anyone had been moving through the area. Despite this, the land search continues today, along with underwater investigation of the wreck site by French Naval divers. The hull is breaking up rapidly, however, due to near-shore surge.

Dix reports: "I’ve asked the gendarmes some questions about the condition of the boat that they will try to get answered tonight: whether the jib was up, if there was a ‘ditch bag’ still aboard, etc. . . For a few reasons that were unclear in translation, the investigators do not think that he was harnessed to the boat, and fell overboard. They don’t believe that he was wearing the harness that was found washed ashore, and that it was washed from the boat like some of the other things. . . Their opinion is that Bill was not aboard the boat when it hit the rocks; that he left earlier and the boat drifted into shore."

French Navy boats and aircraft continue to search today for the dinghy or other clues, following a search pattern based on prevailing wind and current. During his short stay at Nuku Hiva, Billy had apparently made many new friends. Locals, as well as cruisers, are deeply concerned for his safety.

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It would be a crime to waste this weekend’s fabulous weather on anything other than sailing.