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Madagascar - Quen Cultra has spent a good portion of his life building a
pair of oceangoing sailboats at his home amid eastern Illinois' corn
fields and piloting them around the world.
Now his relatives and U.S. Coast Guard officials say they're looking for
the 69-year-old Quen Cultra of Gilman and marine naturalist Joe
Strykowski of Crystal
River, Fla., who they say are missing in the
Indian Ocean after one of those crafts capsized in a storm off
Another member of the crew, 56-year-old Leo Sherman of Gilman, Ill., was
found Thursday clinging to the hull of the vessel, a 43-foot catamaran
called the Queequeg II.
After swimming into the capsized boat a week ago Friday, French naval
divers have given up their search, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
"They did numerous dives into the vessel and were not able to locate
anybody inside the boat," Petty Officer Stephanie Strivens said Friday
from Miami. The Coast Guard station
received an emergency signal from the boat via satellite and alerted
rescue crews on Reunion, a French-controlled island east of Madagascar.
Divers searched for the two missing men Friday, said Strykowski's
daughter, Nicole, of Oregon state, but their efforts turned up nothing.
She said her family is distraught over the decision to call off the
search. They hold firm to the belief that her father could be alive.
"This is not your average man lost at sea. This is someone with a really
good shot of surviving," she said, adding that her father always
stressed safety first.
She said Cultra and her father have been friends for 40 years.
Strykowski, 76, who lives in Florida, is the author of a number of books
on diving and the environment. He holds a doctorate in environmental
studies and is the founder of The Star Thrower Foundation, a non-profit
dedicated to the preservation and protection of ocean wildlife. His
daughters said he grew up in Portage Park and has always considered
Chicago his home base despite his extensive travels.
"He lived his life on boats and in the water," Nicole Strykowski said.
"He's an adventurer."
Coast Guard officials say a private vessel pulled Sherman from the hull
of the catamaran. Sherman told his rescuers that Cultra was swept
"They said he was swimming toward the vessel and then a very large wave
came and took him under and they didn't see him again," Petty Officer
James Harless told The (Kankakee) Daily Journal.
According to the Coast Guard, Sherman said he and Strykowski spent the
next day and a half in the vessel's cabin before deciding that the water
inside was rising too high and they needed to swim out.
Sherman said the two were attached at their waists by a rope, but he
never saw Strykowski after they left the cabin.
Sherman's daughter, Melissa Sherman said Friday she's still hopeful the
other two men will be found alive. She declined to comment further.
Nicole Strykowski said her father and Cultra began their latest
adventure in September 2007 and had tentatively planned to return to the
United States this summer. The Web site Queequeg II - Around the World
chronicled the trip.
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