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Coindre’s Search Turns Up Wrong Ocean Rowboat

August 6th  2003  

by Alan Pollock

 

            CHATHAM — If it were a novel, the story of Emmanuel Coindre’s quest to find his boat would be a little too implausible.  After losing his boat and finding it, losing it and finding it again, the French rower still hopes to retrieve his ocean rowboat and try again to cross the Atlantic this year.

            On July 26, Coindre rowed away from Chatham in the 19-foot Ladybird, hoping to make his second solo west-to-east row from Cape Cod to France.  But less than two days into his journey, a wave capsized the boat and Coindre was unable to turn it upright.  Under water, its satellite beacon was unable to transmit the boat’s location, and after eight hours, the technicians tracking the signal made the emergency call-down, assuming there was trouble aboard the boat.  Coindre was hoisted to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter, but his boat was left adrift.

            Almost as soon as he reached shore, Coindre began looking for his boat.  With financial backing from several Chatham families, he chartered a local fishing boat and later an airplane to search for Ladybird, without success.  A second air search was underway last Thursday afternoon when the New Bedford lobster boat Atlanta called to report it had spotted an ocean rowboat.  The crew reported that they had tied the boat temporarily to the Atlanta’s fishing gear, with plans to bring it ashore in a few days.  In the meantime, the second aircraft hired by Coindre flew over the site, and saw the ocean rowboat.  But there was a serious problem.  The boat was yellow, not red, the color of Ladybird.

            Given the tiny odds of finding a 19-foot ocean rowboat on the Atlantic, searchers couldn’t at first believe they had spotted the wrong one.  But upon closer examination, the boat turned out to be the ocean rowboat Ukraine, which had been rowed out of New York Harbor on July 2 by ocean rower Theodore Rezvoy.  Rezvoy’s voyage was cut short eight days later when he was taken aboard a U.S. Navy frigate and his boat was set adrift.

            Last Friday evening, the Chronicle telephoned Rezvoy’s stepfather, Kenneth Crutchlow of the London-based Ocean Rowing Society to inform him that searchers had found the Ukraine.  Over the weekend, with help from John Ambroult and his pilot, Chan Lofland, George and David Hitchcock, the crew of the Atlanta and the crew of another fishing boat, the Rose Marie of New Bedford, Crutchlow and Rezvoy made arrangements to retrieve the “Ukraine” in the next few days.

            The news was certainly bittersweet for Coindre, who was still searching for his own ocean rowboat.  But there was a glimmer of hope on Sunday, when Coindre learned that his boat had been spotted by another fishing boat, the Humbak of New Bedford, less than 100 miles southeast of Chatham.  The captain of that boat sent the Ladybird’s coordinates to the Coast Guard and then continued on his fishing trip.

            Bad weather on Monday and Tuesday prevented Coindre from acting on that information, though.  As of Tuesday morning, he was attempting to arrange another salvage mission using a local fishing boat, but with every passing hour, the Ladybird drifts farther away from its last known position.

            “It’s a big, big problem,” Coindre said.  His local benefactors have already paid for several search missions, without success.  Coindre said he is willing to spend another several thousand dollars, but only if there is a guarantee he will get his boat.

            “This week, I must find it,” he said.  If the boat is found, will he attempt another crossing this year, so late in the summer?  Coindre can’t give an answer.

            “I must see my rowboat.  Perhaps there is a lot of damage,” he said.  If the boat is in good shape, Coindre said, he will most likely try again this year. 

If he does so, Coindre will be tempting fate.  When he started last year’s row on July 29, he set the record for the latest departure for a successful transatlantic ocean row.   If he recovers his boat and leaves this month, he will almost certainly encounter dangerous storms off the coast of Europe in September and October.

 

Contact Alan Pollock at alan@capecodchronicle.com

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