An Ottawa sailor last seen on his 35-foot yacht on the Ottawa River Saturday afternoon “knows this river like the back of his hand”.
Stephen Cozzette’s three-masted boat, the Elmo Earleywine, was discovered late Saturday afternoon, stuck on a shoal near the Quebec shore, its small auxiliary engine still running with no one aboard.
MRC des Collines police were called, and they requested assistance from Ottawa emergency services who joined in a search launched from a marina in Constance Bay.
Ottawa police located Cozzette’s car at the Nepean Sailing Club on Saturday evening, then informed his family at about 8 p.m. A missing persons report was subsequently filed, and on Sunday night police were appealing to the public for any information into the man’s disappearance.
Cozzette, 57, is described as being of Italian descent, stands about five feet, seven inches tall, weighs 170 pounds and is balding with short grey hair. He also has a small scar above his right eyebrow.
Aylmer resident David Paquet and his girlfriend said they found the boat when they left their cottage in their own boat to do go fishing near Plage-Charron just before 5 p.m. on Saturday
Paquet said they watched from their dock earlier in the day as a fleet of sailboats headed upstream toward Quyon. One boat was straggling behind what seemed to be an organized group, he said.
Later they noticed the same boat moving strangely, first in a straight line and then in a loop. When they went fishing, they saw it headed toward the shoal.
“It was a pretty big boat, with a long keel that could get very stuck,” said Paquet, who said he is familiar with the shallow waters in the area. “I decided to go check if whoever was on the boat needed some help to get it out.”
But there were no replies to their knocks or whistles, and the engine just kept on idling; “it was very weird,” said Paquet. They called the police, who asked them to go on the boat and turn the engine off.
Paquet said he looked through the hatch and saw a cellphone in the sink and a medical box open on a couch alongside some clothes, but no one on-board.
When police arrived, Paquet helped them to anchor the boat. While police investigated, Paquet said, several of Cozzette’s sailing friends tried to contact him via radio from Quyon.
On Sunday afternoon, three slightly sunburnt men stood looking at Cozzette’s boat at the Nepean Sailing Club after it was towed back by Ottawa police.
Mike MacQuarrie, Chris Giles and Ben Ellacott had sailed in their own boats alongside Cozzete on Saturday for the annual Quyon Run.
“He knows this river like the back of his hand,” said MacQuarrie, whose father is a good friend of Cozzette. “There’s no reason for this to have happened.”
MacQuarrie, 37 said he had last seen Cozzette’s boat at around 11:45 a.m. near Île Mohr.
Giles described the sailing trip as having intended to a “boys’ weekend.” The group’s plan was to sail west along the Ottawa River and arrive at the ferry dock in Quyon, sleep in their boats and sail back the next morning.
The group set out at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Gile said. Once they arrived in Quyon at around 5 p.m., worry started to set in as hours passed with no sign of Cozzette.
“We called his cell, no answer. And then we called the police department and we ended up hearing that the boat was ashore. We all were in shock,” Giles said.
MacQuarrie described Cozzette’s disappearance as “inexplicable.”
“Steve Cozzette is a skilled sailor. Always has been, always single-handing his vessel. No one would ever question if he was out there on his own,” MacQuarrie said.
Ottawa police said there were no signs of violence on the boat and were continuing to investigate. The marine rescue units of the Ottawa police and fire services and MRC des Collines had searched the river in the early hours of Sunday morning, but Ottawa police would not say on Sunday night whether the search was continuing.
Cozzette’s family declined to comment.
Police were asking anyone with any information to contact the missing persons unit at (613) 236-1222 ext. 2355 (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or (613) 236-1222 ext. 7300 for 24-hour assistance.
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Source : Ottawa citizen Online