A Florida Keys sailor who was last seen last Thursday is alive and well
, but a bit shaken up, after being blown off course on his trip to Bimini in the Bahamas, his sister has confirmed.
“It sounds like he has a heck of a tale to tell, and I look forward to hearing it,” said Dawn Singleton, brother of sailor Ward Stogdill.
The last time Stogdill, 51, made contact with anyone was 10:30 a.m. last Thursday, Oct. 28, as he was making his way from the Middle Keys city of Marathon en route to Bimini aboard his 30-foot sailboat, the Bella Dawn, named for his sister. About two hours earlier, Stogdill posted a Facebook Live video in which he said he was going to stop in Key Biscayne first to wait out some bad weather and to get a COVID-19 test, which is required by the Bahamian government.
That was the last anyone heard from him Thursday morning, Nov. 4, when he sent his sister a brief dispatch via Facebook Messenger that he was safe near the Exumas, a group of islands in the Bahamas, but more than 250 miles southeast of Bimini.
“I’m so relieved; we are so elated,” said Singleton, 56, who is close with her brother.
“He’s my favorite person on the planet. He’s my baby brother,” she said Wednesday night, while she was still praying Stogdill would be found alive.
The Coast Guard, which began searching for Stogdill last weekend, also confirmed Thursday that he was alive and that the Bella Dawn was anchored near Exuma.
“We are very happy Ward Stogdill is alive and well,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Estrada. “By making regular family updates and telling them where he was going and when he would return, essentially filing a float plan, rescuers had a place to start searching. With all of our efforts informing the public of Stogdill’s distress, a fellow mariner, who was on the look out for Stogdill and the Bella Dawn, alerted Stogdill to the search efforts and Stogdill was able to reach out to family and us and report himself safe and sound.”
Although his message to his sister was brief, Stogdill told her he went through a series of storms, but he didn’t realize he was considered missing until he anchored his boat Thursday and a fellow boater said, “Hey man, they’re looking for you,” according to Singleton.
She said she’s not sure if the boat was seriously damaged on the voyage.
According to Singleton, Stogdill is a seasoned sailor with decades of experience on the water. He lives on his boat, mooring or anchoring in different places for any given amount of time. His last home port was Boot Key Harbor in Marathon.
Now that he’s safe, Stogdill faces another challenge. He planned on obtaining a six-month visa to stay in the Bahamas for a while, but apparently he never did get that COVID test. So it’s not clear if the Bahamian government will allow him to get one there, or if they’ll send him away, Singleton said.
“I’m hoping they don’t turn him away,” she said. “We don’t need another dire situation.”
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