Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Unforgiving Sea

The Vagant on the beach at Lambeau, Tobago. Photo: Richard Charan


The Express continues to follow this mystery. The family continues to search. "Hope dies last" said the daughter. This is what happened: 

TIED to a coconut tree in the fishing village of Lambeau on the windward coast of Tobago is a million-dollar yacht whose owner may never be found.

The boat has been there for more than a month, settling into the sand, watched over by fisher folk who found the vessel floundering on the reef one morning in November, with no one aboard.

Days later, the village would learn the fate of the crew—an elderly Polish couple who set off from the Canary Islands on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean on November 2. It was the beginning of a retirement dream to circumnavigating the globe.

The yacht never made it to its first port of call in the Caribbean.

Four hundred and fifty miles east of Barbados, the dream of 74-year-old Stanislaw Dabrowny and his wife, Elizabeth, ended.

At her home in Gdansk, Poland, the couple's daughter Aga Blazowska answered a call from her mother on November 20.

Elizabeth was screaming her daughter's name. Then the satellite phone went dead. The couple could not be reached after that.

The boat had no automatic identification system (AIS ) which would have allowed maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. It also lacked a type of maritime radio to provide long-range communication.

With the help of the yachting community, the family issued an alert to all vessels traversing the Atlantic Ocean to be on the lookout.

No one knew what happened until six days later, when the crew aboard a cargo ship chugging towards Brazil in South America spotted the lost yacht. It was a mere speck in the deep-blue sea.

The M/V Orange Star launched a rescue vessel. There was only one person to save – Elizabeth.

Her story was heart-breaking. The couple's trip had been uneventful, and the Vagant, at full sail, was headed to Barbados, when Stanislaw fell into the ocean.

His panicked wife, who had no training in sailing or navigation, said she threw life rings and sail cloth into the water, before the yacht sailed on, leaving behind its owner.

That was when the Elizabeth, 69, made that call to her daughter and spent six miserable days at the mercy of the wind and currents.

When Elizabeth Dabrowny was taken off the yacht by the crew of the cargo ship, it had to be abandoned. And the 'ghost' boat sailed on.

On December 1, the fishermen of Lambeau spotted the vessel caught on the reef at Little Rockley Bay, and hauled it ashore.

The Express spoke with villagers Ancil George, Tafari Gill and Brian Lamorelle, who said fishermen who recalled the shock of seeing the yacht on the reef in a part of Tobago that is avoided by all vessels with a deep draught.

One of the men said he planned to free dive at the reef to retrieve the keel.

An effort is now being made for the personal possessions of the Dabrowny couple to be returned to Poland, said their daughter Aga Blazowska, who communicated with the Express this week.

She said that her mother was taken by the cargo ship's crew to Brazil, where she was received by Poland's ambassador that country. Blazowska flew to Brazil to take her mother home.

Blazowska said her mother was recuperating and seeing a therapist to help deal with the trauma.

The family has made contact with Poland's honorary counsel in Trinidad and Tobago, David Lewis, who is helping secure their property.


The Vagant caught on the reef off Lambeau. Photo courtesy Derek Whitling

The family is not giving up hope. Earlier this week, they posted an appeal directed at the people of the Caribbean.

“We all believe that our dad and husband is still alive,” the post stated.

The missing man's daughter said an effort was under way to search every hospital and crew house in the West Indies.

“It is likely he had already been found. He may have a memory loss or be unconscious. If anyone found him, please let us know,” she wrote.

The official search for Stanislaw Dabrowny ended seven days after he went missing.

But up to Monday of this week, Dabrowny's daughter was still actively searching.

"I received information that on Cayman Island, Antigua and Barbuda, he wasn't spotted" said Blazowska.

"Hope dies last", she said.

 Missing: Stanislaw Dabrowny