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The Gig Harbor Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard are looking for an overdue/missing single-handed sailboater. 72-year old Benjamin Johnson departed Panama City, Panama on May 28, 2012 and was destined for Gig Harbor, Washington. He was due to arrive between 6 – 8 weeks later, which would have put his arrival no later than the end of July. He has not been heard from since before his departure.

Johnson’s boat is a 29-foot homemade sloop named “Northair” with a home port of Houston, Texas. Johnson lives aboard the boat. The boat is white with a light blue/green cove stripe. It is thought that he was taking a route that would put him well offshore.

 

I thought that with the popularity and reach of Sailing Anarchy (especially on the West Coast), a reader may have seen the boat at some point. Other investigative avenues are being pursued, but any possible information from your followers would be appreciated.

 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks.

 

Kelly Busey

Sergeant

Gig Harbor Police Department

3510 Grandview Street

Gig Harbor, WA 98335

(253) 853-2422

GH120920 missing boater info.pdf

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Prayer said and fingers crossed.

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I hope when I'm 72 I'm doing something like that. I hope the commercial guys out there are on the look out and those returning from the Pac Cup....

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6-8 weeks from Panama to PNW in a 29'er??? I think that's pretty ambitious! Not being seen or heard from during that time is unsettling however. Was he planning on taking the clipper route? He could still be well offshore.... and behind schedule.

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6-8 weeks from Panama to PNW in a 29'er??? I think that's pretty ambitious! Not being seen or heard from during that time is unsettling however. Was he planning on taking the clipper route? He could still be well offshore.... and behind schedule.

That's what I was thinking: the distance is 3700 miles straight line air miles (overland) so I would guess that the shortest actual sea miles needed to be traveled is closer to 5000, which would mean that with the 75 days elapsed time so far he would have needed to travel nearly 70 miles a day non stop to keep to his schedule. Given head winds, tacking, leeway, side trips to ports of call, longshore current and waiting for weather windows it's likely he is still in transit. I seem to recall a boat that went from Panama to Victoria BC via the Hawaiian Islands and ended up getting taken off by the CG somewhere close to Hawaii. I think if it were me I might have made it about as far as Santa Barbara in the time given.

 

Hope he's okay, keep an eye out!

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Hi all, thanks for the well wishes and replies. I'm Ben's nephew. He planned on being about 500 miles out from the shipping lanes (and drug cartels). I think the police officer made a mistake saying he planned on making the trip in 6-8 weeks when Ben said when he left he would touch base with us in 6-8 weeks (at some point along his route). But I think by this time, he'd have to have stopped in Mexico or CA by now? Not sure how long his supplies would last but since he lives on the boat perhaps he could stay at sea longer. So basically it's been 12 weeks since he said he'd be some place along the route to be able to contact us. So that's a month over due for getting somewhere he could contact us. Maybe a month off schedule could be normal-ish? I don't know. Trying to give mum some hope. Thanks again for your replies!

 

Jay

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The trip is dead upwind and hardly ever attempted by modern sailboats as a straight slog all the way. Or old ones either for that matter. The few that I have heard of go WAY out, much of the way to Hawaii, to make a big semicircle and are no where near land until they make port at the end of the trip. This is detailed in old sailing directions for clipper ships. Do you know what comm gear is on the boat?

VHF?

SSB?

SAT PHONE?

SPOT?

EPIRB/PLB?

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The trip is dead upwind and hardly ever attempted by modern sailboats as a straight slog all the way. Or old ones either for that matter. The few that I have heard of go WAY out, much of the way to Hawaii, to make a big semicircle and are no where near land until they make port at the end of the trip. This is detailed in old sailing directions for clipper ships. Do you know what comm gear is on the boat?

VHF?

SSB?

SAT PHONE?

SPOT?

EPIRB/PLB?

 

Trying to find out what kind of Comm equipment he uses on the boat. At least it's some good news. Having to do a semi-circle "... WAY out, ...", it would make sense he hasn't been able to reach land and contact us for awhile. So perhaps it's a good thought to hold on to. A) He is Ben Johnson, B) He is a VERY experienced sailor. My bet is he will turn up at some point hungry for Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor. When he gets there, I'll fly up there and go to Tide's with him! Thanks so much.

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Thanks StayinStrewn. I think it's a little too early to panic myself. Unless he ran into a hurricane I'm betting he's fine and slogging his way upwind.

 

These were his provisions:

 

 

he had charts to Mexico, 70 gallons of water, canned food, not much fuel, and two vhf radios.

<br class="Apple-interchange-newline">1:34pm

If you were an experienced sailor, would those provisions be okay for a trip like this? Trying to give my mom some hope here.

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They are checking Hawaii. He said he would go there but changed his plans before he left. It's entirely possible he diverted (I know I would divert to Hawaii!). He's a vegetarian but has caught and eaten fish many times. So with enough water, even without food, he'd be okay I would think.

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Hello. My gut tells me he is fine. Plenty of water and food VHF is good for about 12 miles so no contact does not mean much. Since he is experienced he knows to slow down take care of his boat and enjoy the trip.

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The trip is dead upwind and hardly ever attempted by modern sailboats as a straight slog all the way. Or old ones either for that matter. The few that I have heard of go WAY out, much of the way to Hawaii, to make a big semicircle and are no where near land until they make port at the end of the trip. This is detailed in old sailing directions for clipper ships. Do you know what comm gear is on the boat?

VHF?

SSB?

SAT PHONE?

SPOT?

EPIRB/PLB?

 

Twenty-some years ago, coming home after Transpac, and motorsailing through the Pacific High, a small boat emerged from the gloom with the skipper waving his arms. It turned out to be one Lester (?) from BC who had been sailing down to PV. His last Port of Call had been in Southern California, two and a half months previously. Apparently he was blown far offshore, and had decided to return home. When we found him, his vocal cords barely functioned, and he was down to one gallon of water, and hadn't eaten in three days. We topped him up with water, a bunch of rice and the usual canned food, and were putting some canned ham in his kit when he said, "I am sorry, I don't eat meat." Somehow, we all found that hilarious, and so did Lester. We bid him farewell, and off into the gloom he bobbed, topsides covered in growth. We telephoned his daughter over SSB, and told her to expect him inside of a month. I believe someone confirmed that he made it, but it was a while ago.

 

I hope Ben Johnson finds some returning Pac Cuppers to reprovision, and makes it home safely. Otherwise, we should all be so fortunate to go out doing something we love.

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Hello. My gut tells me he is fine. Plenty of water and food VHF is good for about 12 miles so no contact does not mean much. Since he is experienced he knows to slow down take care of his boat and enjoy the trip.

+1

IMHO, It's disappointing to see resources being spent on this situation...

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Hello. My gut tells me he is fine. Plenty of water and food VHF is good for about 12 miles so no contact does not mean much. Since he is experienced he knows to slow down take care of his boat and enjoy the trip.

+1

IMHO, It's disappointing to see resources being spent on this situation...

 

Aside from a local police/CG bulletin asking people to keep their eyes peeled, exactly what resources are being spent on this situation?

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I got goose bumps reading about Ben. He was a few slips down from me in a Tampa FL marina for a few years and was an experienced single-hander. He moved to a free basin in St. Petersburg to save money for his trip. One of the photos of his boat is from that mooring. He took off for Houston (to see his daughter, I believe), and has emailed us numerous times about his several month stay around the Canal. Haven't heard from him in a few month though. Knowing Ben as we do, I wouldn't be surprised if he is lounging around in Cabo San Lucas or the like. That said, our thoughts are with him and hope he remembers to call in.

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Hello. My gut tells me he is fine. Plenty of water and food VHF is good for about 12 miles so no contact does not mean much. Since he is experienced he knows to slow down take care of his boat and enjoy the trip.

+1

IMHO, It's disappointing to see resources being spent on this situation...

 

Aside from a local police/CG bulletin asking people to keep their eyes peeled, exactly what resources are being spent on this situation?

Sgt Busey says she's doing an investigation. Dont get me wrong, I hope he's OK, and people should look for him, but the fact that he's late, in and of itself doesnt mean he's in need of assistance...

 

Agreed. I'd hope that if I was 2-4 weeks overdue, someone would make mention of it to fellow mariner's, especially with my intended route crossing paths with lots of boats returning from Hawaii. I thinks that's all it is at this point.

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They are checking Hawaii. He said he would go there but changed his plans before he left. It's entirely possible he diverted (I know I would divert to Hawaii!). He's a vegetarian but has caught and eaten fish many times. So with enough water, even without food, he'd be okay I would think.

chances are when hes done with this he wont be a vegetarian any more

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Ben left at the end of May, it's well into August, he is more than merely overdue a couple weeks. If he was on land in Cabo or anywhere, he would have contacted his family very soon after arrival. The situation was explained to the police and coast guard and they made the determination to act as they saw fit given the facts presented to them based on the time he left, his route etc. Our family is very worried, this is not like him.

 

Some folks look for answers, others look for ... -- Robert Hunter ;-)

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Lets hope its gear failure and he makes slow progress.

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Ben left at the end of May, it's well into August, he is more than merely overdue a couple weeks. If he was on land in Cabo or anywhere, he would have contacted his family very soon after arrival. The situation was explained to the police and coast guard and they made the determination to act as they saw fit given the facts presented to them based on the time he left, his route etc. Our family is very worried, this is not like him.

 

Some folks look for answers, others look for ... -- Robert Hunter ;-)

 

I'm sure that you know that he knew about our summertime Eastern Pacific weather patterns? I hope? I'm pretty sure we had our first named Mexican 'cane on May 25th this year (which in actuality is pretty early), but our official 'season' is May 15th thru September something---and August & September seem to be most active. Regardless I'm also hoping he's just out there unharmed, kicking back and enjoying the voyage. Please keep us up to date....

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I've known and sailed with Ben for 12 years. He is not renowned for speedy passages, or speedy anything for that matter! In my last communication with Ben in May, he said he may be out of touch for 5 or 6 months, and not to worry until Thanksgiving! I sailed with Ben on an engineless and sinking 40' sloop from Miami to Tampa in 2002 and never saw him anxious in least. This is the guy that sailed from the west coast to Hawaii with a Rand McNally Atlas and a transistor Radio in the 70's and thought it normal!

 

I expect him to show up somewhere, eventually, and wonder what the fuss is about. Just Sayin' !

 

Keep the faith.

 

Milt

S/V Natana

Tampa Bay

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I've known and sailed with Ben for 12 years. He is not renowned for speedy passages, or speedy anything for that matter! In my last communication with Ben in May, he said he may be out of touch for 5 or 6 months, and not to worry until Thanksgiving! I sailed with Ben on an engineless and sinking 40' sloop from Miami to Tampa in 2002 and never saw him anxious in least. This is the guy that sailed from the west coast to Hawaii with a Rand McNally Atlas and a transistor Radio in the 70's and thought it normal!

 

I expect him to show up somewhere, eventually, and wonder what the fuss is about. Just Sayin' !

 

Keep the faith.

 

Milt

S/V Natana

Tampa Bay

 

 

 

Ah ha, just the latest reincarnation of Joshua Slowcum?..... :P

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More like a guy with the luck of a drunk, or a small child! More than once, I thought he'd died on his boat, only to discover he'd been sleeping for 4 days! Ben gives new meaning to "laid back".

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He'll feel perfectly at home here in So Cal then----it sometimes takes us a half hour just to make 3 minute eggs.....

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UPDATE:

 

Good news! Ben was stuck on a sea of glass with no wind and was carried the wrong way on the North Equatorial Counter Current at a rate of 1 1/4 miles every two hours. He was finally able to make it to Mazatlan today and contact his family.

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UPDATE:

 

Good news! Ben was stuck on a sea of glass with no wind and was carried the wrong way on the North Equatorial Counter Current at a rate of 1 1/4 miles every two hours. He was finally able to make it to Mazatlan today and contact his family.

 

86 days at sea singlehanded!? At 72 years of age. That's incredible. Would love to hear more details on this story. Amazing.

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UPDATE:

 

Good news! Ben was stuck on a sea of glass with no wind and was carried the wrong way on the North Equatorial Counter Current at a rate of 1 1/4 miles every two hours. He was finally able to make it to Mazatlan today and contact his family.

 

"I'm sailing backwards for Christmas...." Good news indeed.

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Ha, told you so! Knowing Ben, he probably managed to gain weight as well. He is the only "portly" vegitarian I've ever known. We have long suspected that he keeps 100 cans of Spam on his boat that he has relabeled to read Tofu!

 

Glad you're safe "Burlap Ben"

 

Milt Brown

S/V Natana

Tampa Bay

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Great news!

 

Ben Johnson just contacted his relatives by email…from Mazatlan. Wow! Slow goings. He spent his time reading romance novels and working on Arts and Crafts projects (really!). Anyway, thanks very much for putting the SA world on notice. Cancel lookout.....

 

Kelly Busey

Sergeant

Gig Harbor Police Department

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So he's about 1/2 way there - if he doesn't hurry up the winter storms are going to shut down his ability to get past SF Bay, which is a thoughtful task even on a good day for a 29'er.

 

Time to service the motor & do some motorsailing

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Ha, told you so! Knowing Ben, he probably managed to gain weight as well. He is the only "portly" vegitarian I've ever known. We have long suspected that he keeps 100 cans of Spam on his boat that he has relabeled to read Tofu!

 

Glad you're safe "Burlap Ben"

 

Milt Brown

S/V Natana

Tampa Bay

 

Does he eat fish??? Not sure how a vegiterian last at sea for 90 days?

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That's about 2,400 miles in 2,000 hours. A faster boat would be nice for Ben.

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That's about 2,400 miles in 2,000 hours. A faster boat would be nice for Ben.

I can beat that - I lapped the race track at about 0.4 knots in my Moth last Sunday.

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86 days at sea singlehanded!? At 72 years of age. That's incredible. Would love to hear more details on this story. Amazing.

I think he should keep going and hook up with Reid Stowe up that river in Guyana. They could swap stories about endurance sailing!

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86 days at sea singlehanded!? At 72 years of age. That's incredible. Would love to hear more details on this story. Amazing.

I think he should keep going and hook up with Reid Stowe up that river in Guyana. They could swap stories about endurance sailing!

 

Just think of the epic meme!

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