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A Sneak Preview of An Independent Report

July 27, 2014
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To follow up on previous postings about my sighting of a glowing orange plane on the night MH370 disappeared,  hardly anything is known about what happened to that flight after it disappeared from radar – and it seems that even that data is under review.  That is a good thing in my opinion, since the independent scientists who are looking into my sighting seem to be having issues fitting it with what they already believe happened.

Now, I’m not a scientist, but I know what I saw.  And contrary to what some critics might be saying out there on the world wide web, I have not been changing “what I saw” to fit what the experts believe.  On the contrary, I have refused to change my testimony, even though it doesn’t fit (yet).  I have been clarifying it to make it more intelligible, though; first with the help of Cruisers Forum members, who asked question after question to tease out the details (and that was much appreciated, since there are things I wouldn’t have thought of mentioning otherwise), and now with the help of the scientists on Duncan Steel’s independent team.  Various independent investigators have approached me, and worked hard to present theories which fit with my sightings.  I hope to publish the work of those investigators who give me permission to do so, since each theory is deserving of thanks.  The scientific analysis, of course, gets done over at Duncan’s place!

Stewart Stoddart, a flight test engineer kindly contacted me a while ago, with the intention of taking what I had seen, working off the assumption that it was MH370, and putting it into a viable flight plan.  He has done so, and very patiently, given the apparent confusion over timings and positions of the craft.  He has questioned me over and over about timings.  He has teased out further thoughts and common sense applications of those thoughts, and despite great difficulty to make my timings fit with the published timings that are known from earlier in the flight, he has worked with them to create a flight plan that seems to work for both sets of timings, even though mine seemed to go against almost everything the investigators previously believed.

Observation Graphic of MH370’s passing of SY Aaza Dana: Stewart Stoddart

The first image he is sharing reflects the timing of when the aircraft passed me.  I believe I have been able to narrow down the time of the sighting to the time at which I preformed an accidental gybe.

The image reflects the elevation angles I witnessed the craft at, and the Azimuths (position relative to boat) I witnessed.  From that he has been able to calculate things such as altitude, and airspeed. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Stewart for his patient work, and look forward to seeing his full work published.

An interactive version of our track can be downloaded here: Kate’s GPS Track in .kml format, which automatically opens in Google Earth.  It’s quite a big file, so don’t do this on your mobile phone’s data connection unless you have a mega package!

If you are interested in how I established the timings, I have posted the process of elimination over at Duncan’s Blog.  Duncan Steel, I believe is listed amongst the top four scientists in this world (see his info page!) and it is an honour to have been in communication with him.  He’s a fantastic teacher, who very patiently puts things into perspective for me in words I can understand.   I can’t thank his dedicated team enough.  They have all shown a professional interest. I’d particularly like to thank Dr Bobby Ulich and Henrik Rydberg; but everyone has shown admirable dedication to the cause.

overview 1

A potential Northern route which MH370 could have flown, which fits the published data plus my sighting: Stewart Stoddart

This second image is an overview of what he currently believes the Northern part of MH370s course could have been.  I can’t say too much about it, since I don’t understand it fully, but I do know that it is one possible scenario which so far fits with both my data and the technical data which has been made available to the public.

Potential flight route for MH370s Southern leg, which fits the lower speed and altitude I witnessed, as well as the Inmarsat data.

Potential flight route for MH370s Southern leg, which fits the lower speed and altitude I witnessed, as well as the Inmarsat data: Stewart Stoddart

Finally, the last image shows a potential Southern route for MH370.  This is based on the assumption that MH370 was flying at a low altitude and at a reduced speed; in other words, as I saw it. It demonstrates that it is possible for MH370 to have met those Inmarsat timings even if it were flying disabled.

I am very grateful to Stewart for sending me these graphics with permission to share, since I understand that he is not yet ready to publish his full report.  Many investigators, including Stewart and his team, are dedicating a huge amount of time and expertise to trying to unravel this mystery, and so sharing what we can is what it’s all about.

I realise I haven’t expressed (here on my own blog anyway) my heartfelt sympathy for the families and friends of MH370. Rest assured, there truly are people who are working their fingers to the bone to find out what happened to your loved ones.

 

 

An Alternative Theory… with a Better Illustration

July 24, 2014
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Below I have copied some of a post made on Cruisers Forum (posts #622 & #634) by member Blackkettle. Ed signed up to post a theory into which he has clearly out a lot of effort and research into already, and I believe he intends to investigate further.  I hope he does, because his theory is a very plausible one.  In fact, it sort of illustrates what I had decided this sighting was in the first place.

In a nutshell, his theory is that what I witnessed was a DHL cargo plane, which was being illuminated somehow.  And that theory fits very snugly with my original thought, at the time, that it could be a cargo pane with a bad exhaust.  Especially since some of these planes are painted bright yellow.  In fact, it was one of the images of a DHL cargo plane which another member (Jess28) photo-shopped to best illustrate what I saw, and it was close, so I am open to believing this theory.  For full theory and illustrations, please see the CF thread.

What I am here to say, though, is that the follow up post by Blackkettle contained an image which contains three planes, with a sodium orange colouring this time.  And I feel it is a much better match to what I saw.  The colouring that is.  So I would like to share his image.  He has changed the colouring for this image a little, it is brighter than it was on the version he posted at CF.  And I suspect this is the closest colouring we’ll get in an image.

Now, he also asks if it was possible that what I saw was any of the others.  I don’t think so.  Until I couldn’t find the windows when looking for the source of the ight, I was 100% convinced that I was looking at a passenger plane.  But at the end of the day, I am not a plane spotter, and if asked in a court of law whether I could be certain if the nose was that of image 1 or 2, I couldn’t be certain.  I remember it looking like 1, but as people keep pointing out, my memory of this may have been corrupted by having seen so many images of B777s since I hit Google with a frenzy back in June.

The other details are easy.  The body was like 1, the wings were in the middle.  I know that because I was looking for landing lights and wheels.  But I don’t recall seeing a logo.  Either on the tail or on the body.

Below is the pertinent part of Blackkettle’s post, but I urge you to take a look and read his whole theory.  If you are interested, I also suggest you review Duncan Steel’s Blog (He’s the leader of the independent MH370 investigation team), which shows some very perceptive and intelligent theories and questions about what happened.  I am overawed by the amount of work this diverse team of people has put into finding MH370.

 

Here follows an extract from Blackkettle’s post:

Saucy,

Another long post but one I felt impelled to share.

A few things in your (very nicely done BTW) well summarized round up of your experience with the mystery plane in post #628 got me thinking again. So here’s a bit more food for thought.

It hit me that the impression you had that the aircraft appeared “to long and pointy to be a cargo plane…” and “The black trail seemed more obvious, and at this stage I wondered if it’s too much or too little oil in the mix that makes the exhaust black” may not be unrelated phenomena. Another minor AHA moment if you will…

The combination of those two observations tends to describe the now aging (and getting fairly rare to see in active duty) Boeing 727 (introduced in the 1960’s), and the later (1980) but beginning to get less common McDonnel Douglas MD-80 series. Both generally appear in profile as “long and pointy” because they have engines mounted at the rear of the fuselage, rather than wing mounted, have a generally narrower width to length ratio (and thus a “longer looking”) fuselage compared to most of the more recent wider bodied aircraft. The 727’s primarily differ from the MD-80 series in that have 3 engines at the rear (one center mounted at the base of the vertical stabilizer) while the MD-80 family (which includes the similar looking MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, MD-87, and MD-88) only have two engines. The later generation MD-90 (1995) and the MD-95/Boeing 717 families (1999) are also similar in appearance.

All these aircraft, by virtue of their rear mounted engines and more aft set wings, are vastly different in profile than the 777 family of which MH370 belongs to. The MD-80’s have a particularly long looking forward fuselage and more pointed nose that the 727’s:

Alternative Illustration, with much better colour suggestion: Ed Truthan

Alternative Illustration, with much better colour suggestion: Ed Truthan

Are the two lower profiles more like what you saw than the 777-200 (MH370) one?

Comprehensive Eye Witness Sighting of MH370 – Update 1

July 16, 2014

Update 1, 21st July: I have updated my report to include some relevant observations, which I initially forgot to include, about the plane’s track, and what I believe is the time window of my observation.  I have included my updates in red.

Below is a more comprehensive account of what I saw the night a glowing orange plane flew past the back of our boat.  It is perhaps the sort of thing I should have thought about carefully, and written and submitted before going public, but then again ‘going public’ wasn’t on my mind at the time, and neither was the scale of the incident..  I was just responding naturally to what was an overwhelming reaction to a simple post I made asking for advice: http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f108/i-think-i-saw-mh370-127132.html

Anyway, here is the more considered version (which I wrote without referencing or reviewing any of my previous statements, although I have added in footnotes to address some issues which I forgot to include in my first draft, but which were pertinent)

Aaza Dana Eye Witness Sighting of MH370

Although supposed to be a report, this is more of an account, which contains a lot of my thoughts which I kept out of the twenty minute phone conversation I had with ATSB, since I was trying to keep to facts only.  However, I now realise that the thoughts I was having do explain some things which I couldn’t pinpoint logically at the time, so I am including them.  And I had a lot of thoughts, since thinking is really all there is to do on a night watch alone.

On 20th February 2014, Sailing Yacht Aaza Dana left the port of Cochin in India, bound for Phuket with three people onboard; Marc Horn, his wife Katherine Tee (myself) and one other British crew member. It was a 19 day passage, passing through heavy weather when we rounded Sri Lanka, during which the boat got soaked, important things kept breaking (including rigging), we had no working life raft, my suggestions were being dismissed instantly by the Captain, and tempers soared; resulting in Marc and I not communicating from about a week into the passage, and that lasted until we dropped the anchor at Phuket.  Two weeks is a lot of time to be at daggers with your partner under any circumstances.  On passage, when there is nowhere to escape to calm down and reflect, two weeks can be excruciating.  And Marc and I were truly at each other’s throats. By the time this happened, my rucksack was packed, and I intended to leave as soon as we cleared immigration.  I was in a low state of depression and furious with the world.

At some stage towards the end of our long passage across the Indian Ocean (which we have subsequently narrowed down to the night of 7th March, details in Note #1), I was on watch alone, and we were on a Port tack, heading approximately West to East.  Since I had decided to do what I wanted when I wanted, I hadn’t been standing regular watches until this point, merely going on deck when I felt like it, and the Captain and Crew were both exhausted.  The Captain was below at this time, getting his first decent sleep in over a week.  The crew was on deck sleeping – he wasn’t a good sleeper, and was in the habit of grabbing a few hours when he felt weary. I was enjoying the first alone time I’d had for weeks and wasn’t about to give it up.

This in way of explanation as to why I didn’t wake anyone – we were in no danger, they needed to catch up on their sleep, and I decided I was witnessing an experimental air show for an audience of one, and I was fascinated (Note #2 explains why I didn’t report it when we arrived and I heard the news).

What I first saw... just an orange glow, like a bright star.

What I first saw… just an orange glow, like a bright star.

After a few hours on watch, I noticed a bright orange glow above the horizon, about 8 o’clock relative to the boat’s heading.  My first thought was to wonder if it was Mars rising, but Mars wasn’t supposed to be there, and besides it was in the North. I then wondered if it was a meteor, as it quickly got bigger and brighter. I thought it was heading towards us (ie, moving from North to South). I considered the possibility of it wiping us out.  Then I thought it’d just be more likely to land near enough to cause a massive tidal wave and wipe us out, which I thought was typical, since we’d just got the boat dried out. Then I decided I’d rather it hit us, since that would be an easier escape from the marriage than a painful divorce.  That was when I realised that my thinking was insane. From that point on, my thoughts were all about rationalising what I was seeing, and trying to explain it logically (much as forum members did).

And then I saw what looked like black smoke behind the orange glow, which resembled a contrail, but black (see note #3)  The sky was very dark, so I suspect it may have been illuminated by the glow.  It was difficult to see, and I wasn’t sure about it at this stage, although I did become sure later.  ‘Missile’ crossed my mind for a second, but at that stage the orange glow started to look like a plane. I momentarily panicked, thinking it was a plane on fire.

But I couldn’t see any fire or flames, or anything like that, it was just a plane glowing orange and surrounded by an orange glow like a halo.  As though it were being lit up by sodium lights, but I couldn’t see sodium lights. As it came a little closer, I could clearly see the hull was glowing orange. I considered the lights might be orange landing lights, but couldn’t see any lights under the hull, and there were no wheels down.  I could see the hull of the plane very clearly from this point onwards. The ‘halo’ was fuzzy though.

I tried to pinpoint the source of the light. By this time I doubted it was a fire, because I could not see any source of the lights.  The black trail was still present, and was present throughout.  It simply looked like a black contrail.

A few times I checked behind it, waiting for the fighter planes and fire engines (not so rational!!) which I assumed would be chasing it if it was indeed a passenger plane on fire.  There were none, so I relaxed.  There were two planes higher than it, and they appeared to be regular airliners cruising at high altitude (one was at a lower I altitude than the other).  They were travelling from South to North (the opposite way from the glowing plane) and appeared to have regular nav lights. I wondered where they were going and considered Bengal or Russia.  I assumed that if the plane was in distress, the pilots would report it.  It never occurred to me that it was not visible to the higher aircraft and they would not be able to see it either on their instruments or visually.

The glowing plane did not have nav lights, which made me wonder if it was a military plane, conducting some experiment.  It was low and I even wondered if it was high enough to do a hop and pop, and I had the impression it was coming in to land, but logically couldn’t understand where, as there was nothing in the direction it was heading except the white glow (which we had assumed was a maintenance vessel which by now I suspected might be a research vessel connected with this experiment, although the glow was no longer in sight) and I didn’t note a change it altitude.  I felt it was travelling slowly.

 

A rough illustration a friend kindly made.  This is very close to what I saw, although the wings weren't in shadow, and I could see the cockpit windows.

A rough illustration a friend kindly made. This is very close to what I saw, although, it wasn’t this bright, the wings weren’t in shadow, and I could see the cockpit windows.  It was level, not ascending: Jess Jessop

As it moved behind us, I could see the shape very clearly, and it was that of a passenger plane.  However, my impression of the hull was that it was monocolour, I assumed light matt grey, although it appeared orange and had an orange ‘halo’ around it.  I do not recall any markings of any kind.

I looked for the windows, to see if it was maybe emergency lighting from inside, but I couldn’t see any.  I could see where the windows were supposed to be, but the whole hull was glowing uniformly and I could not see windows.  I decided it had formerly been a passenger plane, but had its windows blocked out to act as a cargo plane, since it appeared too long and pointy to be a cargo plane.  At this stage I decided it must be military.

As it came behind us, I think the elevation angle was about 30° (Note #4 explains how I arrived at estimate for elevation angle).

There was a gap in my observation then, as I went below.  When I exited the cabin the plane had moved past and was at about half past 5, relative to the boat, and appeared to have borne away.  The black trail seemed more obvious, and at this stage I wondered if it’s too much or too little oil in the mix that makes the exhaust black, and even as I thought it I realised that applies only to boats.  I couldn’t understand why the smoke was black.  It was a concern, but I believed that everyone knows where all large planes are all the time, and if it were in trouble there would be more action around. I dismissed it with the final thought he should get his exhaust fixed.

From then on my observations were patchy, but I did observe it a few times briefly, and it appeared to be moving to the South, but getting further away from us; at about 5 o’clock relative.  (Update 1: Note 5 illustrates my observations and describes some thoughts which might be relevant to establishing our position at the time)

I have absolutely no idea of the time scale of this observation.

I have been asked about clouds at the time.  I can’t remember. They were not of particular interest to me. I do remember at that stage the weather had calmed down a lot. I know the skies were clear and stars visible between the orange plane and the two “airliners”.  For some reason I thought I had observed clouds behind it when I first saw it, but I suspect this was the smoke, before I identified it as such.

In response to questions about the moon, I don’t recall the moon at that time, but it wasn’t a point of interest. I do recall that the sky was very dark, that it was hard to make out the black smoke. Because I found it difficult to see, I spent a lot of time looking at it to see if it was indeed black smoke.  I think I first thought it was dark cloud, until it became a trail. The black trail was much clearer as the plane moved away at 5 oçlock relative.

I believe I think caught some sleep. When I awoke, there was an orange glow (like a dome) over the horizon, in the approximate direction I felt the plane had flown.  My first thought was “Shit, it has crashed after all”, but the orange glow was not flickering in any way.  It was very similar to the white glow we had seen two and three nights previously.  I noted it over several observations, and the intensity remained constant.  I stopped worrying again.

 Note #1, Narrowing down time of sighting:

  • I narrowed down the day using Marc’s observations of the bright white light, which we all observed over the nights commencing on the 4th and 5th.  The night of the 6th we did not see them, and the night of the 7th I believe I saw the same lights, but glowing orange rather than white, after the plane had passed (heading that way).  I know we had already passed those lights, as one of my thoughts was that the plane was involved (I suspected experimental research) with those lights, since it was headed back towards the area we had observed them after it passed us.
  • On the morning of the 8th, Marc and the crew observed what appeared to be a search vessel zigzagging around on our Starboard side (south of us). I do recall this was after I had seen the orange plane.
  • I narrowed down the time of the observation because it was the only time during the two possible nights that we were on a Port tack heading Easterly, that I was on watch.  We did head Easterly for a short time during the night of the 6th, but it was not that night.  On the night of the sixth, I had seen a ship when we were on the Port tack, which required us to throw in the tack.  However, I was making a point, and refusing to make decisions, so I pointed it out to the crew, and threw the responsibility on him.  He also refused to make the decision, and woke the skipper, so I went back to bed, smug in the knowledge that I had even further disrupted Marc’s sleep, and made it clear that I wasn’t going to be his (First) Mate only when he wanted one, if he wasn’t willing to accept my decisions all the time.  It certainly wasn’t that night – nobody was sleeping then except me.

Note #2, why I took so long to report the sighting:

Because I couldn’t believe what I think I saw. I mean, I saw it, but it was just so unlikely. Plus I was stressed by the time we hit shore. Very stessed. And although I didn’t report it, I did say what I’d seen to cruisers at the Yacht Club, and to other people of two later occasions, all of whom dismissed it, and pointed out that it was over the South China Sea, not the Andaman Sea.

And I wasn’t absolutely sure of what I had seen, and can’t even be positive it was that night. I don’t follow the news, not even when ashore (I barely have time to do my job, it’s lucky I have an understanding boss), and for the two months after we arrived in Phuket I was living on the yacht at anchor, with limited internet access, no A/C electricity onboard to charge devices, and zero interest in the news.

The reason it started bothering me when I did report it was because of a news item I heard on Thai Radio saying the survey boat was heading back in due to technical difficulties, and it peaked my interest.

 Note #3, Possible tyre fire:

I was asked if the smoke resembled a tyre fire.  Yes it did, although I’m not sure if it was as dense as tyre fires I have seen.  Also, the wheels were not down, I ascertained that when looking to see if the glow could be coming from landing lights.

 Note #4, Elevation Angles:

My initial estimate of 30° to 45° was based on a piece of paper I had folded into a triangle. When asked if it could have been lower, I procured a protractor, and checked my angles more carefully, at which stage I realised it could well have been even lower than 30°.  Since that time I have observed planes on take-off, and have realised that not only was the angle 30° or lower, the plane itself had to be at quite a fairly low altitude and close in order for me to see the hull so clearly.)

Note #5, Possible Position:

Illustration of my limited observation of the plane moving away

Illustration of my limited observation of the plane moving away

Attached is an illustration of my limited observation of the plane’s track as it approached and as it moved away.  I first emailed this to ATSB on June 6th.  There are a few points I’d like to clarify.  In an email to a contributor to Duncan’s Blog on June 23rd I explained:

i) The boat’s position on the track is irrelevant, so ignore the chart data.  The green arrow is simply where a forum member suggested I was at the time the plane passed, so I drew it there.  The plane’s track is relative to the boat only.

ii) I drew two lines for the plane’s track as it moved away.  The light blue track is the line I first drew, but the dark green track is the strongest image I had, based on when I first saw the plane after it’s turn as I was returning to the cockpit from the cabin.

In a subsequent email to ATSB on 12th June, I stated:

“Looking at our track, seems likely that we hit a lull [at approx 1920] and went into an accidental gybe (not unusual in itself) then I decided to stay on the new tack. It would have been at this time my scan picked up the orange glow coming towards us from 8 o’clock relative. I held that tack for 5 minutes, which would have been the time in which I watched the glow turn into a plane.

At that stage I would have gone below to turn on the engine battery (there is no question about the engine having gone on at this stage, since that’s the only thing which would have allowed us to head up as we did)” That would explain why I went below.

Maybe I was right about MH370, after all…

June 1, 2014

OK, so I have been contacted by a freelance journalist, who asked to interview me.  I answered her questions, but posted them on Cruisers Forum where I work.  She is freelance and has submitted her article to a Sydney based newspaper. It remains to be seen if they will run it, but they might just decide that I am making it all up for a bit of media attention.  Not that it matters.  Having buried my head in the sand regarding what I saw, my fellow members have done an awesome job of asking the right questions to draw out what I can remember.  I have, of course, been googling it obsessively today, since before last night I know pretty much nothing…  The last I heard of the matter, back in mid March, was that people thought it was hiding somewhere in Vietnam… another reason I thought I must have been mistaken.  Since admitting what I think I saw last night (and only since then) I have found out that the plane could well have been where I saw that strange strange glowing orange plane.

I have reported the issue to the relevant authority, and who knows they might believe me.  But I didn’t believe what I saw, so why should they?  But I do hope that perhaps what I saw helps clarify what happened.   We also posted our complete track data for the period of time in question, since Marc and I decided that complete disclosure was the best way to go; despite a few warnings from concerned members who suggested I pull the blog post and request that the thread be deleted since they thought I might face a media barrage.  The CF members have been awesome in finding evidence that would support my sighting, so maybe it will help someone somewhere to know that it was burning.  Not a big fireball, or anything dramatic, just a glowing orange plane moving across the horizon.  You should check out the full thread on CF if you’re interested.  But this was the image that convinced me, posted by europaflyer:

Detail of the boat track and CPA. Shows the flightpath passing astern from port to starboard. (boat track-up not north-up) Swap the lower two boat track labels round, for some reason they are flipped at larger scales.

Detail of the boat track and CPA. Shows the flightpath passing astern from port to starboard. (boat track-up not north-up) Swap the lower two boat track labels round, for some reason they are flipped at larger scales.

 

Now, one thing I have to say is that I feel shit about this.  Because I doubted my sanity at the time, I didn’t report it when I got to land and heard about the missing plane.  Because I assumed I was wrong and the plane had gone the other way to Vietnam I didn’t report it. Because I assumed the other two aircraft I could see at the time would report it if I was seeing was real, I didn’t even consider putting out a Mayday at the time.  Imagine what an idiot I would have looked if I was mistaken, and I believed I was.  Now I feel shit.  Will this help either the authorities get closure?  I have no idea; but I chose to sweep it under the carpet, and now I feel really bad.

The moral of the story?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should have a little more confidence in myself.  But I am sorry I didn’t take action sooner.

I think I saw Flight MH370

May 31, 2014

OK, so between February 20th and March 10th we were crossing the Indian Ocean the wrong way from Cochin, India to Phuket, Thailand.

On the night in question (7th-8th March), I was standing a night watch alone. Well, sitting, really. Watching the stars, since I had been spending the passage identifying and learning a new constellation every night. And I thought I saw a burning plane cross behind our stern from port to starboard; which would have been approximately North to South. It was about half the height of other flights which I had been gazing at during that part of the passage.

Since that’s not something you see every day, I questioned my mind. I was looking at what appeared to be an elongated plane glowing bright orange, with a trail of black smoke behind it. It did occur to me it might be a meteorite. But I thought it was more likely I was going insane.

At the time we were at the tail end of a very, very harsh passage into the weather which was mountainous, having been flooded badly from the anchor locker and swamped from the companionway so EVERYTHING was soaked, and stays breaking amongst other stuff which just piled up to make me flip. By this time my rucksack was packed, and the divorce planned.

When we hit land everyone was talking about the missing plane and asking if we’d seen anything. Since I had doubted what I saw and was emotionally in a bad way, I brushed over what I thought I’d seen, and focused instead on the stories of Boatie who was ‘missing’ on the Atlantic, and Eric and Charlotte who’d scuppered in the Pacific.

Besides, I thought, they’ll find it.

But tonight I heard that they were looking in the wrong place, so HWMO and I looked back through our GPS log, and lo and behold, what we saw was consistent with the confirmed contact which authorities had from MH370.

My questions are:

1 – Who should I tell? And should I bother?
2 – If it was a plane on fire that I saw, how long would it maintain its flight and where would it be likely to end up.

Attached are screenshots of where we were at that time (the highlighted portion of our track).

Screenshot 2014-05-31 16.38.57

The red highlighted part is our track from midnight to 4am on the morning in question.

The red highlighted part is our track from midnight to 4am on the morning in question.

Edit:

I also posted this on Cruisers Forum, which is absolutely the best sailing forum out there, and got some helpful responses.  Member ‘category4jay’ was particularly helpful in forcing me to clarify my thoughts.  I have printed our conversation below.  My responses to him are in red:

Jay, I agree entirely with all these points, and they all factor into why I didn’t report it sooner. I’m answering in red since I can’t be bothered splitting all the points into seperate quotes:

[QUOTE=category4jay;1553637]Wow what an incredible story. Leave it to a cruiser to break the biggest mystery in history. You obviously have a moral and/or ethical duty to report your story to the appropriate officials. But beware and be prepared you’re gonna get grilled (questioned).

1. Why did it take so long? Seriously. There are tons of publicity hounds out there willing to lie to make the news.
Because I couldn’t believe what I think I saw. I mean, I saw it, but it was just so unlikely. Plus I was stressed by the time we hit shore. Very stessed. And I wasn’t absolutely sure of what I had seen, and can’t even be positive it was that night. I don’t follow the news, not even when ashore (I barely have time to do my job, it’s lucky I have an understanding boss). The reason it started bothering me today was because of a news item on Thai Radio saying the survey boat is heading back in due to technical difficulties, and it peaked my interest.

2. “On the night in question (7th-8th March).” Was it the 7th or 8th?
We were on passage, I don’t even know what day of the week it was. I only know it was defintely toward the end of the passage, but not right at the end. I had no idea we were even in that area at the time. That I only found out tonight when we reviewed the situation.

3. “I was standing a night watch alone.” No corroborating witnesses. Exactly. And I was fearing for my sanity. Who’d believe me anyway? I found it hard to believe at the time. And when I got ashore I was focused on fixing my personal problems and catching up on work.

4. “I thought I saw a burning plane.” Thought??
I saw something that looked like a plane on fire. That’s what I thought it was. Then I thought I must be mad. Especially since I was highly stressed at the time.

5. “It was about half the height of other flights which I had been gazing at during that part of the passage”. What “height” was it? Half of what?
It was much lower than the planes which had passed overhead that night. That’s one reason I can be sure it was within those few days, since there were no planes passing over when we were in the middle of the ocean. So, if planes normally cruise over oceans at around 30,000 to 40,000 feet, this was approx 10,000 to 20,000 feet. That’s my guess. Now I reflect on it, I also think it was at approx the same height that short haul planes cruise down the Arabian Gulf.

6. “I questioned my mind… I thought it was more likely I was going insane.” Thats not gonna play well.
But it’s the truth. I know that. Who’d have believed me when I had a hard time believing what I was seeing myself. That’s why I didn’t report it then

7. “At the time we were at the tail end of a very, very harsh passage into the weather which was mountainous, having been flooded badly from the anchor locker and swamped from the companionway so EVERYTHING was soaked, and stays breaking amongst other stuff which just piled up to make me flip. By this time my rucksack was packed, and the divorce planned.” Relevancy?
Not relevant. Just explaining to fellow members why I was stressed, and hence doubting my sanity.

8. “I had doubted what I saw and was emotionally in a bad way.” The sound of a solid witness? Not really.
I absolutely agree. That’s why I didn’t bother saying anything.

SS I’m not discounting what you thought you saw or anything you’ve said. Just be prepared. Very prepared…especially if you are right and you did see MH370. Your world will never be that same if you provide THE clue. Good Luck.
If the authorities are interested, they can ask. But I am sure that the few other witnesses who saw it near Malaysia and Vietnam have quickly much settled back into their life post their 5 minutes of fame.
[/QUOTE]

I am guessing that what I saw won’t add much to what they already know, although I don’t know much myself about what they know. I repeat, I don’t follow the news.

You remember the thread that ran right after it? I glanced at it, said a prayer for Pelagic’s friends, considered posting what I saw, then moved on without taking action. Was I right to dismiss what I had seen? I don’t know. But I seriously had my head in the sand for a few months after that passage.

 

Holes in the Deck…

May 26, 2014

So, the first thing Mike did after getting the boat up on the hard (and BTW, that’s the owner of ProCarpentering based at Boat Lagoon in Phuket) was have his guys take away the teak from the side decks, which had become spongy over the past year.  And then he dug a hole into it.  Well, that was an eye opener.  The decks and hull are made of a balsa sandwich, which is a layer of balsa wood, coated on each side by a ton of fibre glass. This was common practise back in the late seventies and early eighties when fibre glass was a relatively new material in the industry, and the boat builders didn’t really trust its strength.  And the majority of seasoned cruisers I know of (and that’s a lot, given my work) prefer these old builds to the new flimsy fibre glass hulls which you can see the light through, and which bend if you kick them.  That said, this deck was bending if we even just walked on it….

The first thing Mike did was dig a hole in the deck.  Hmmm...!

The first thing Mike did was dig a hole in the deck. Hmmm…!

Now, what happened is that ten years when we lifted the boat, we noticed some bulging around the side stays (they’re actually called shrouds on a yacht, but I’m a beach cat sailor by origin, so bear with me – od habits die hard). So we lifted the teak, and found the core was rotten.  So we cut out the decks and replaced them with a core of expanding foam.  That I just found out.  I believed until 30 seconds ago that it was plywood. Hm.  Well, that clearly didn’t work, cos there’s nothing there now.  So we’re going to replace it with proper stuff… Marne ply I think, which is the usual practice.  I had actually thought we used plywood (I guess I should have been paying more attention back then, but it wouldn’t have made any difference back then since in those days I knew next to nothing, and left the decisions to the Captain while I went out t work to pay for the boat)!!

"Hi, sir looking tense" Baljit Pawar

“Hi, sir looking tense”
Baljit Pawar

So, all in all it looks like I might have been just a little bit right when I suggested that perhaps when we do this we will find lots and lots of other things to replace as well as the teak deck…

 

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The Teak Deck Project Starts – The Hunt for a Yard

May 16, 2014

Note: This post will be published with an earlier date than today’s.  This is common practice for me, since I am really hopeless at blogging, and therefore have massive gaps.  By publishing with the dates on the photo, at least it keeps my ‘memories’ in chronological order!

So, today we lifted our boat out of the water.  It is in desperate need of repairs. During the ocean crossing from Cochin to Phuket, we got absolutely drenched in  heavy seas, since we were beating into the wind at the wrong end of an ocean.I will write up a post about the passage when I have come to terms with it, but for now all I will say is that it was the most stressful passage of my life, and probably even the most stressful life event I’ve ever had.

Anyway, after having sat on a mooring completely alone for three weeks after we arrived (Marc had to fly to Kuwait for work, and the States for a conference), then a few more weeks with Marc, just healing our relationship, we then started looking for places to lift the boat.  So we tootled around Phuket in our little renatl car with the dogs in the boot, and checked them all out.  We saw some lovely places.  Our favourite was Premium Yard up in the North of the island. It was beautiful, with an approach down a small track through a gum tree plantation, and was an idyllic location, and quiet to boot.  But they lift on a ramp with a trailer, which has a two meter draft, so that was out.  Second choice was the G&T yard in Ao Po, since they had wide open beach and little portakabins with french windows, terraces and patios for the boaties to stay in when they lift.  But again, the trailer thing, so no good for us.

AN old fashioned yard with old fashioned rails and old fashioned fishing boats

AN old fashioned yard with old fashioned rails and old fashioned fishing boats

Since we have a deep draft, we were limited to two places only.  The first was Ratanachai Slipway, in old Phuket town, which was my first choice.  It was an old fashioned yard, using old fashioned rails to lift boats, and there was plenty of space.  Up a river, it is adjacent to the fishing harbour, which is colourful and vibrant.   Of course, I never even thought to take a photo of those, since they weren’t relevant to the lifting of the boat!  Like I said, I’m rubbish at blogging!

The other downside, of course, was that being slap bang in the middle of town, we’d have had to rent a small room close by, and the dogs would have had no space to run around.  Or stay where we are, and drive through the most nightmarish of traffic to get there every day.  Plus you’d have to import labour and pay extra to bring them in, plus they have a reputation for charging lots of add ons.

So when they said the tide was too high, I didn't believe them!!

So when they said the tide was too high, I didn’t believe them! Now, the photo is taken from the boat in the water, everything behind this guy is the hard stand. And this was after the tide had been falling for an hour!

Anyway, we were basically forced to lift at the very expensive Boat Lagoon in Phuket.  At least they have a travelift, but they also have problems with boats grounding in their channel.  It takes about half an hour to motor up, and they provide a pilot in the fee to bring you to avoid this nonsense.  Plus you have to go up at high tide.  Although they dredge it, ay low water you can clearly see where they dump the mud, making huge drying areas which you can’t see at high tide of course.

So, we dutifully arrived at high tide, the pilot efficiently met us outside the harbour mouth exactly on time, and we arrived with no difficulties.  Just to be told we couldn’t lift at 11am, as per the booking.  They told us the tide was too high.  We replied that the tide could never be too high!  They disagreed and told us to go get some lunch.  We obeyed, and then saw what they meant.  The entire lift area was built BELOW the water level at high tide.  This photo was taken two hours after high tide, when the edges of the lift bay were at least visible.  The water was a metre higher than that an hour earlier!!!  I’d love to find out who engineered that one, and ask them why!!

Anyway, we got the boat lifted, pressure washed and sat on the hard stand without any problems. And I have to say, all the staff, all of them, were very polite and very helpful.  And surprisingly efficient.   If you can afford to lift there, I’d recommend it.  At least you’ll know that they know what they’re doing.

 

 

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