Thirty-five years ago this past April 14, Maersk Line’s Capt. Ngoc Nguyen was a frightened 13-year-old crammed aboard a 35-foot fishing boat with his mother, three younger siblings and 60 other refugees fleeing their Vietnamese homeland six years after Saigon’s fall.
In the Tasman Sea, where muscular westerlies blowing unimpeded across the Southern Ocean pile up towering waves and ride the vortex of savage storms, yachts are swallowed with disturbing regularity, in winter especially. The 1,200 miles of sea between New Zealand and Australia known as “the ditch” — the Tasman Sea — is a nasty shrew at May’s end, when three months of winter descends on these parts.
Few things fire the imagination like a mystery at sea, where distances are vast, the heart of the deep is fickle, and ships and crews meet their end in ways upon which we can only speculate. Ships are lost or abandoned; crews disappear; ghost ships drift through fog-shrouded water; skippers go missing or, as we have just seen in the news, are found adrift and mummified.
By most accounts, the relocated Progressive Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key was a winner — a lovely venue overlooking Miami’s downtown skyline and Biscayne Bay, easy-to-find exhibits under air-conditioned tents and sea trials on boats tied up at temporary docks just a few minutes’ walk from the upland sales displays.
When Texan Pat Zagar moved his boat salvage business three years ago, he had to find a way to dispose of the 200 hulls stored on his property. “I’m in the boat recycling business, and I could not find a place that would take the fiberglass,” says Zagar, 57, of Houston, who dismantles boats for parts and sells them. So he dumped them into a landfill, where the fiberglass will sit for years. It cost him $40,000 to trash more than 1,100 tons of hull material.
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