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Durban yacht skipper says "I'm Sorry"

19 April 2012

The Durban skipper of a yacht which caused a major search operation after it was reported missing has apologised to worried family and friends, reported yesterday by Zama Nene from iOL News.

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The Durban yacht Dandelion arrived safelyin Pemba, Mozambique, after sparking a multinational alarm.

Durbanites Frank Joubert and skipper John Sergel, and the crew of the South African yacht Dandelion, were last in contact with port authorities last week, while travelling from the Mayotte Islands in the Indian Ocean to Pemba in northern Mozambique.

The Dandelion is said to have arrived safely back in Pemba on Monday night.

In an e-mail to the Daily News, Sergel said he was very grateful that they were not intercepted by pirates, but also “very sorry that so many people – partners, friends, families and organisations – were unnecessarily worried”, and that their late arrival caused so much trouble.

Sergel on Tuesday blamed bad weather, unfortunate technical problems and bad communications for the false alarm.

“I would like to thank all the amazing people, agencies and organisations that swung into action when we did not arrive – you were all incredible and my heartfelt gratitude to you for all your efforts.

“It is a wonderful feeling as a sailor to know that there are such dedicated individuals there to help. My words cannot express how grateful I am,” Sergel said.

He said they left Mayotte late on Tuesday last week in reasonable weather and had expected to be back in Pemba within two days.

Sergel said they had sent e-mails to their partners and the crew’s family and friends, which were never received and this seemed to have been part of the problem.

“Unfortunately the weather turned bad, with the wind in the wrong direction and the sea like a washing machine, and with no motors – as we were experiencing problems with the injectors – our progress was painstakingly slow under sail only,” he said.

“When it became obvious we were going to arrive later than anticipated, we started trying to call the radio network, but could only hear transmissions in what sounded like Chinese and though trying every day, just could not make contact.

“We also tried on VHF, and spoke to a ship at one point to ask for a weather report,” Sergel said.

“We finally spoke to an aircraft (pilot) to find that there was a full-scale search for us.

“Only later did I realise that the original e-mails saying that we had injector problems had not been received by families.” - Daily News