2 missing Canadian sailors safe in Chile

Two Canadian women have reached Chile safely after their families reported them missing at sea more than a month ago.

'Military style' skipper rationed food, spurned radio contact

Josée (Jade) Chabot and her husband, Martin Neufeld, are pictured in this undated photo. ((Family photo/Canadian Press))

Two Canadian women — one from Quebec, the other from British Columbia — have finally arrived in Chile after their families reported them missing at sea more than a month ago.

Montrealer Josée (Jade) Chabot and Lisa Hanlon of Nelson, B.C., were part of a five-member crew taking part in a training course aboard the 13-metre sloop SS Columbia.

Also on board were the skipper, Polish-born French national Boguslaw (Bob) Norwid, his Chilean wife, and 23-year-old Australian Mitchell Westlake. They all arrived safely at the port of Coquimbo on Sunday.

The vessel had left Salinas, Ecuador, on Jan. 16 and was supposed to have arrived at Coquimbo between Feb. 24 and Feb. 27, the day an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile.

During the ordeal, the Columbia became stranded in the Pacific Ocean in a zone where there was little wind, thousands of kilometres off the Chilean coast.

Crew members were not aware of the quake that killed nearly 500 people until they arrived in port.

Food rationed, no radio contact

Martin Neufeld, Chabot's husband, said he had doubted that his wife was alive.`

"One moment it was hope, another moment it was despair," he said.

Lisa Hanlon, right, and Mitchell Westlake, the Australian on board, get outfitted in Ecuador before the trip in January. ((Family photo) )

After Chabot landed in Chile Sunday and Neufeld finally spoke on the phone with her, he said he experienced mixed emotions.

"I mean elated, obviously, excited … also disturbed," he said.

Neufeld said his wife told him that Norwid had refused to let anyone on board use the radio to contact relatives.

Hanlon made the same claims, her father Larry Hanlon said.

"We spoke to her yesterday [Sunday] on the phone, and the captain was just a miserable old sod — a salty old sea captain as they might say. They wouldn't let them use the radio to call out and they rationed food," said Hanlon.

"It was pretty bad. She said they would get a cup of rice for dinner and share a can of tuna between the five of them," he said.

Chabot told the Montreal Gazette the skipper had a "military style" of running things and wanted to "go with the wind wherever it takes me."

Chabot, who spent her 50th birthday on March 28 adrift at sea, is expected to return to Montreal on Thursday. Hanlon is now scrambling to make flight arrangements and is hoping to return to Nelson in the next few days, said her mother.

Waiting for word on the fate of her 24-year-old daughter has been awful, said Barb Hanlon.

"Not knowing anything is really hard, and being hopeless, not being able to do much, was the worst part," said Hanlon.