This time I was very worried once again because we had no idea when they ran into trouble and even worse we had no idea where to start looking. Even the computer searching models that ABSAR had couldn’t really help us. I grabbed Jordan from JHR Caribbean who speaks French in case we needed to speak with any authorities in the French Islands and took off to the airport. Festus’ son Bruce is actually the co-pilot as Martin is the main man behind the helm. I had grabbed a hand held VHF radio from Jolly Harbour Marina. All the employees there were in shock. Everyone loves Festus and we were all very worried. The first people to be concerned about the late arrival were actually Festus’ family. The owner and manager of Kokomo didn’t seem or appear to think that anything was wrong. Bruce was quite frustrated over the phone as you would imagine. I made about 20 phone calls trying to get as much info before we got into the plane. The boat had never had proper sea trials. They didn’t have a life raft. They didn’t have a dinghy. They didn’t have life jackets. They didn’t have an EPIRB which I spoke about on my big crossing blog. They didn’t have a satellite phone. They guys on board didn’t have visas to enter the French islands in between (Martinique and Guadeloupe). They didn’t have roaming on their cellular phones. The picture wasn’t looking pretty at all, but I told Bruce that the last two facts could be very positive reasons why we hadn’t heard from them. If they had run into a little trouble and ducked into one of the islands where they couldn’t use their mobiles and couldn’t clear customs and immigration, then maybe they just couldn’t get in touch. I told him that they were probably just off shore limping back into Antiguan waters as we spoke. I was hoping this would be true. The fuel was finally topped up and we boarded the aircraft. We didn’t get proper clearance so the plan was actually to return to Antigua that night whatever the result. If we had to look more we would leave Antigua early the next morning. While they were doing their last checks and speaking with the tower I sent a text to my crew, family and girlfriend to say that I would be returning later that night. I was waiting for the last of the texts to be delivered when a call from the Manager of Kokomo. As I answered it, Bruce was instructed to tell me to turn off my phone. Interference was coming through on their headphones as they were speaking with the tower. It didn’t matter……..Her words were clear to me: “They have been found!”
I grabbed Bruce as he turned to tell me off and have him the good news. It’s a good thing I had been a little naughty with my phone otherwise we would have been out there searching in the Caribbean Sea until dark seeing nothing but haze and unforgiving waters.