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Circumnavigator’s boat found adrift

There was no sign of David Cartwright, who was only a few months into his dream voyage

There was no sign of David Cartwright, who was only a few months into his dream voyage

British boatbuilder and single-hander David Cartwright left Newlyn, Cornwall, Dec. 22 for Madeira, Trinidad-

Tobago, Panama and California — the first legs of a voyage around the world he had dreamed of for years. Five months later, a megayacht crew found his 27-foot sailboat adrift 600 miles southwest of the Azores without Cartwright aboard.

His last contact with family was by cell phone the day he left, five miles off Land’s End, Cornwall. The 53-year-old sailor said he would phone again from Madeira, Portugal, within a month, but that call never came.

The megayacht crew found his steel-hulled sloop, Colros, drifting in the Atlantic May 30. They notified authorities, who asked the crew to board the vessel and collect Cartwright’s log and passport, according to Cartwright’s cousin, Barbara Smith. Smith had mobilized the cruising community to keep an eye out for the missing boat through e-mail notices and updates on boat-watch Web sites and boater forums.

Smith says the crew turned the items over to British authorities in Gibraltar, Spain. Police hadn’t released the log, but they say the last entry was Jan. 9, when Colros was about 180 miles west of Portugal’s southwest tip. Smith says police told her the log carries no clues to Cartwright’s disappearance.

“We assume he fell overboard, obviously the result of some kind of accident — a fall or a sudden squall,” she wrote in an e-mail update reporting the vessel’s discovery to cruisers. She says Colros’ distinctive red sails were “tattered” after four months adrift, and its mast was slightly damaged, but there were no signs that the boat had capsized and thrown him overboard.

Cartwright reportedly was carrying a DSC VHF radio, a ham radio (call sign MOSYC), and Winlink 2000 software that would have enabled him to e-mail position reports to a monitoring station via ham, but no position reports were ever posted on the Winlink site.

A boatbuilder and restorer for 25 years, Cartwright had owned his own shop in Linstead Magna near Halesworth, Suffolk, and specialized in building rowing boats for racing. He was an admirer of French circumnavigator Bernard Moitessier and his spiritual musings about men and the sea, and long had dreamed of sailing around the world. He worked for 2-1/2 years refitting and rebuilding Colros for the adventure. Designed by Lemstra Naval Architects of Holland, the steel-hulled sloop was built in 1966 at the Kuipers Shipyard, one of six like it built for the Dutch Navy.

Smith says the boat has been sighted three times now as it drifts westward, probably until it reaches the Gulf Stream, where it will be spirited up the U.S. East Coast and back into mid-North Atlantic. She says the family — Cartwright was divorced and has two stepchildren — would like to recover the boat because it is so closely identified with one they loved dearly. “I think it would be a miracle if we got her back,” she says. “I haven’t given up on that.”

She asks that anyone who sights the off-white sloop with red sails — home port Salcombe, Devon — e-mail her at .