by CARLOS ATWELL
A FORMER SHIP'S MASTER does not believe authorities are investigating the 11 dead men recently found off the coast of Barbados in the right way.
Retired Captain David Waight told the DAILY NATION on Sunday he was "99 per cent" sure the boat was a French vessel and could easily be identified.
"I am convinced it is a French pleasure yacht due to her shape. She [the yacht] is a multi-chined vessel [referring to the shape of the hull] with a 'great-cabin' aft and a 'sugar scoop' stern. Everything about her indicates she is either French or Dutch, but I believe she is French," he said.
In addition, the former supertanker captain said the vessel had an "unusual, distinctive and enormous" davits [an apparatus to haul a dinghy out of the water while the boat is travelling].
Waight said he felt the focus of the investigation should be taken off the men and Senegal, and be shifted to dealing with the French authorities to find out who the original owners of the yacht were and what could have happened to them. He believed the vessel was either stolen from its moorings or hijacked, which meant there could be murder involved as well.
The decomposed bodies of the men were discovered late last month floating 70 nautical miles off Ragged Point, St Philip. Authorities later determined their origin to be Senegalese and that they had died from dehydration and starvation.
The captain theorised that after the men obtained the boat, they tried to make for the Canary Islands which would have been impossible against the winds and tides.
They must have run into trouble, he added, losing the mast and having to rely on the engine which, in his experience, would have been inadequate for the journey. From there, he said they would have been caught on the Atlantic Circuit, a circular pattern of tides running from Africa to the Caribbean to Europe and back to Africa, and drifted here.
"The Atlantic Circuit is very predictable, with the winds, currents and the hurricane season. I used to cross it with a 200 000-tonne tanker and we had to re-route due to currents, so how can a small yacht go against it? It would be impossible; she wouldn't do it," he said.
Because of this, he said the men might have stolen the boat from as early as last December.
Waight said experienced seamen like him would be useful to authorities in the case and was willing to help. He currently lives on his boat on Burke's Beach, St Michael, and has plans to build a floating home, the first of its kind in Barbados.
Meanwhile, police public relations officer Inspector Barry Hunte said there had been no new developments but investigations were continuing "at pace".