Missing sailor met with misadventure, judge rules

RETIRED engineer Neil Qualtrough's dream was to buy a yacht and go sailing.

His dream cost him his life.

A coroner on Wednesday found the inexperienced sailor died from misadventure at sea after setting off alone from Hawaii to sail to Australia.

Judge Jennifer Coate said Mr Qualtrough's daughter, Sarah, had revealed her father had virtually no sailing experience other than maybe spending an afternoon on a friend's yacht about once a year. In late 2006 he decided to buy a yacht in America where they were cheaper and sail it home.

''Sarah expressed considerable concern to him about this plan but stated that her father seemed 'nonchalant' about the trip,'' Judge Coate said in her findings.

Mr Qualtrough, a widower from Box Hill, bought a 16-metre, three-mast yacht with a wooden hull and a five-person life raft and spent six months repairing it before becoming homesick and deciding to set off alone.

His daughter ''tried to talk him out of sailing alone but apparently to no avail. He reassured her that he had up-to-date navigation equipment, a ham radio and a distress beacon,'' the coroner said.

Marine engineer David Pawley said he was working on a yacht at Waikiki when an American who had been sailing with Mr Qualtrough, 64, told him the Australian could not properly steer his yacht.

Mr Pawley went to see Mr Qualtrough who told him: ''I know why you are here and I don't need your help.''

Sarah last spoke to her father on June 5, 2007, the day before he set off, when he told her he planned to sail via Tahiti, Fiji or Samoa and home to Victoria.

After four weeks without contact, she called the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

No physical search was conducted as Mr Qualtrough's proposed route was not specific enough. Interpol also found no trace of him.

One of several theories about Mr Qualtrough's fate is that pirates boarded his yacht somewhere in the Pacific.

But investigating officer Senior Constable Scott Stephens told Fairfax Media in 2008 that while he could not rule out a pirate attack, the most likely scenario was that Mr Qualtrough had either accidentally fallen overboard, been knocked over by the boom, or his yacht had sunk in heavy seas.

The story Missing sailor met with misadventure, judge rules first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop