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Flowers thrown into the sea, two miles out, was the sad, moving farewell to Ken Hall, the British yachtsman, 68, who fell overboard his yacht in the Indian Ocean at the end of last month. His partner, Louise, from the UK, flew out and performed a private ceremony, in the presence of her aunt and the two members of the crew from Kenís yacht, Mystic Lady.
Two more crewmen are being sought to assist crewman, Stephan Hauke, sail Mystic Lady back to the UK. Stefanie Kugele, who was the other crew member, decided not to continue the passage to the UK, and flew back to Germany from Cape Town.
"One minute Ken was there, the next he was overboard," Stephan told St Francis Chronicle in a sad interview. He had nothing but praise for the brave team from NSRI, who so speedily arrived and continued, despite the most unfavourable sea conditions, to search for Ken.
Photo: Cape St Francis
He was also overwhelmed, he said, by the assistance of other vessels in the search and by the kindness of all the people he had met locally. Stephan recounted that he met Ken in New Zealand and they had sailed seven times together there when Ken invited him to sail the Mystic Lady with him to the UK. They hired Stefanie in Australia, sailed to the Cocos Islands, Mauritius and Rodrigues Island - a distance of 4000 kms. "The sailing conditions were excellent, though we did have some challenging moments."
From Rodrigues they sailed to Durban and spent a fun week there, then it was a trip to PE where they spent one day. On Monday 25 July they set sail to Cape Town and the weather forecast had been good. However, it changed and soon they were in a situation where there were giant swells, 7-metre waves and gale force winds of 13-35 knots, about 9 nautical miles off Cape St Francis.
Photo: Stefanie and Stephan (with beard) on board Mystic Lady with NSRI crew members
"I was on the deck by the wheel, Stefanie was in the galley, and Ken went to the back of the boat to check something. He was holding with his one hand, the rail. Next minute I saw a giant wave sweep him overboard. I stopped the yacht immediately and saw Ken swimming in the sea while I turned the yacht around to fetch him.
But then suddenly all I could see were massive waves and no Ken. After five minutes searching for him I sent a May Day call." The NSRI was the first on the scene, and then other fishing vessels, plus a police helicopter was involved in the arduous search that lasted four hours - and the boats unfortunately had to return and give up their quest of finding Ken.
Some of NSIR's volunteer crewmen sailed the Mystic Lady into Port St Francis. One of them, Mark May, described the dreadful conditions in the sea, and he himself was battered about. Stephan ended his interview by again praising the real professional assistance from NSRI and its brave team.. "We are so grateful we had help to search for Ken, and to get the yacht back to shore safely.Ē Kenís clothing and books have been given to St Francis Hospice and St Francis Library. Stephan added that Ken was a great yachtsman, who just loved the sea.
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