Search underway for missing sailor travelling to Victoria from Hawaii

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a Salt Spring Island sailor who left Hilo, Hawaii, almost eight weeks ago.

Paul Lim, 68, reportedly left Hilo on Aug. 1 bound for Victoria aboard the 35-foot sailboat Watercolour, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday in a statement. The coast guard estimates that Lim should have arrived in Victoria by Sept. 10 or 11. His family reported him overdue on Wednesday.

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Radio calls have been put out to all mariners along the Pacific coast, including Alaska and Hawaii.

On Thursday, a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 plane from Honolulu searched between Hilo and Victoria. There was no sign of the vessel, but a fishing boat said it made contact with Lim in early August about 480 kilometres north of Hawaii.

The Canadian Coast Guard is in contact with Lim’s family, providing them with information on the search.

In August 2011, Lim was rescued off the southern coast of Western Australia after his yacht encountered 10-metre swells.

Lim left the Coast Harbourside Hotel and Marina in James Bay in March 2008 on a solo around-the-world voyage aboard Kekuli, a 35-foot Spencer 35 yacht.

When he encountered rough seas on Aug. 1, 2011, the engine came apart from its mounting and Lim set off his emergency beacon.

The beacon, given to him by a friend during a stop in Chile, expired in 2002, so there was no guarantee it was going to work, Lim told ABC News in Australia.

“When I switched it on, I thought, well, in a couple of days, I might get a response if I’m lucky.”

But within two hours, an Australian rescue crew was flying overhead. It took six hours to get Lim onto Kohju, a Panamanian bulk carrier that was diverted to his location, about 250 kilometres southwest of Cape Leeuwin.

Winds gusting at 50 knots made the rescue challenging, said a report from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Lim did not need medical attention after the rescue.

Before abandoning his yacht, Lim allowed water to flow into the hull to sink it so its wreckage would not be dangerous to other sailors.

Lim chose the Australia route, known to be challenging at this time of year, because he was eager to get back to Canada.

The Watercolour is a white hull Spencer vessel with white sails and a blue canvas dodger. Lim was also towing a nine-foot pink dingy behind the Watercolour.

Anyone with information on Lim or the Watercolour is asked to call the U.S. Coast Guard at 510-437-3701.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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