When a Marina del Rey man’s boat washed up near the small Baja California town of Nopoló on Saturday, only his dog was aboard.
A frantic search is now underway to find Bill Austin, who his friends say was anchored on the north end of Isla Carmen — an island just off of Loreto.
His catamaran — named “The Cat” — was found beached about five miles south of Loreto, said Scott LaMay, commodore of the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club to which Austin belonged.
When it washed ashore, the boat wasn’t damaged. Both engines worked and the sails were down.
When boaters who shared Austin’s dock in Marina del Rey learned what happened, they immediately started reaching out to find help in Baja California, LaMay said.
A search party formed, but LaMay said rough seas forced them to call it early Saturday night. By Sunday, three boats and two planes, in addition to the Coast Guard, were scouring the area, he said.
But local Mexican authorities on Tuesday morning said Austin still hadn’t been found.
“The search and rescue continues,” said Enrique Hernandez Brandi, of Loreto’s Civil Protection, in Spanish.
LaMay said Austin’s disappearance has devastated the local boating community. Besides being a top-notch captain, LaMay described Austin as “the nicest guy that you’d ever meet.”
“Always willing to help, always had a smile on his face,” LaMay said of Austin, who has two daughters.
Though many things could have gone wrong, LaMay suspects Austin fell overboard and was unable to get back on his Fountaine Pajot 39 Catamaran. Strong winds were reported in the area at the time, according to local sources.
“We’re trying to hold it together and have hope,” LaMay said.
Stoking the hope is the fact his friend is a “MacGyver,” he said, or someone with an extraordinary knack for unconventional problem-solving.
Austin’s dog, a mixed breed named Stogie, is now with a friend, according to Mariners Club members.
A California ID posted online by a Mexican boat fabricator, which appears to belong to Austin, says he is 60 years old, with blue eyes, brown hair and weighs 155 pounds.
In November, Austin sailed to Mexico for the Baja Ha-Ha Race, a yearly race from San Diego to Cabo.
“It was one of those bucket list things,” LaMay said.
Austin decided to stay awhile, to enjoy the water and have his boat painted, his friends said.
Before he went missing, he was en route to La Paz to pick up crew members and head back to Marina del Rey, LaMay said.
Shaylyn Austin, one of Austin’s daughters, flew into Mexico to aid with the search, LaMay said.
She wrote in a Facebook post that a couple reported talking to her father in Punta San Basilio on Wednesday morning. In the post updated 11 a.m. Monday, she wrote that there had been another sighting in San Bruno on Thursday — with photos taken that day depicting his boat in the background.
She added that it’s possible her father went for help on land, “and we are now focusing search efforts further inland in that same area.”
“The search teams are grateful for any tips or info anyone can provide!! Every little bit helps. Thank you all,” she wrote.
Anyone with information is asked to call Civil Protection authorities in Loreto at +526121679946.