A one-legged sailor in his 70s, who claimed he was fleeing gangsters but could not remember his own name, has been found drifting in a busy Atlantic shipping channel around 200 miles off Portugal.
If it hadn’t been for the thoughtful action of crewmembers on a British registered charter yacht, this story could have been a lot more grim.
As it is the man has been towed to the safety of Portimão marina and admitted to hospital.
His boat, a 32-foot Colvic Atlanta, is believed to remain at the marina while authorities try to unravel this bizarre sea mystery that has been documented online in Italian – the language of the initial rescuers.
Isolaria Pacifico was the first crewmember on the Kaskazi Four to spy the drifting boat as she stood watch at dawn on July 27, after 25 days at sea – crossing the Atlantic from Bahamas en-route for the Mediterranean.
As she explains in her account on online magazine Tuttobarche: “It seems small. The radar does not beat, the AIS (automatic identification system) does not appear. Very strange. What is a ghost boat doing in a busy traffic spot?”
Her concerns – at a time when over 21 other boats and cargo vessels are passing – lead her to sound the alert.
“There is no mainstay”, she reports. “Only a genoa blowing in the waves. Where is the boat going? Morocco? Crossing the whole the TSS (a specifically organised route for marine traffic)? Madness”.
And so the rescue begins – and with it the multitude of questions that would be more at home in a mystery ‘best seller’.
The yachtsman, as well as being one-legged, has no food or water on board. His clothes are tattered. He talks as if there are other people with him. He even tells his rescuers to “leave me here. I will Mayday for help”.
They tell him gently that they are his Mayday, and begin a tense 13-hour tow to Portimão.
As Pacifico explains, the old man is lucky. The Kaskazi Four has a trained nurse on board, who mixes him up a reviving drink of sugar and water, and supplies some salt.
Is the man diabetic, the nurse asks? No, but he has heart problems, comes the answer.
How did the man remember the heart problems, if he cannot remember his own name?
And so the questions continued until the Kaskazi Four deliver man and boat to authorities in Portimão close to midnight.
As Pacifico explained, the crew wanted to accompany their charge to hospital, possibly enjoy a bottle of wine to celebrate his safe delivery.
But as he was wheeled towards the waiting ambulance, strapped into wheelchair to ensure he didn’t fall out, he showed no sign even of seeing them.
From the documents Pacifico and her crewmates found on board, the boat belongs to a Welsh pensioner resident in Gibraltar.
“Was that him?” She wonders in her account. “Was he sailing alone, or did he start out with someone? How long was he really at sea, and why was he in that state? Was he lost, or had his mind gone before he set sail?
Kaskazi Four resumed its route to the Med the next day, with Pacifico still full of questions:
The old man’s boat “remains moored, alone, behind… It seems to us beautiful, even in the state in which it is. It’s full, stuffed with stuff. Fuel Tanks, Clothes, Pillows. Perhaps the man lived here? But then, why is there no food?
“To us and the authorities he said he was fleeing gangsters and talked of murders . True or dreamed? Consequence of drift and dehydration, or the cause?
“We do not know for now, and we wait for his news. Of course we know what would happen if we had not seen him”.
The Resident has been in touch with Portimão Hospital, which said it cannot locate the pensioner due to the few details available. We are awaiting information from maritime police and ports authorities.
UPDATE: From the North Wales Daily Post: the yachstman’s name is Ross Beasley. The boat is the Doolou, and according to writer Tony Bonnici it was “discovered in a similar state in 2013 when the vessel was stranded in fog off the coast at Weymouth, without a GPS system and a broken radio”.
According to Portimão Hospital a patient with one leg and the last name of Beasley left the hospital “with his partner” after a few hours’ stay back in JUNE, not August. The spokesperson could not confirm that the patient had been rescued at sea. If anything, the mystery just deepened.
Photo: image of rescue as Kaskazi Four approaches ‘ghost boat’