Jim Gray, computing pioneer, missing at sea. Help find him.

Click HERE for the “Help Find Jim” website  | Tenacious (Jim Gray’s Boat) Search blog. 

The satellite pictures at Amazon have all been scanned and those identified as important are now under review. Amazon reports this amazing volunteer effort:

During the last 5 days, Mechanical Turk workers looked at more than 560,000 images3 satellites, covering nearly 3,500 square miles of ocean.

The New York Times is covering the story as is Amazon’s Werner Vogels.

Current news stories click here

Enter comments below

Tom, a very experienced sailor himself, just informed me of Jim Gray’s misfortune:

He was sailing offshore, alone, in good weather with a well-equipped yacht. He’s said to have “more than 10 years’ experience,” but reports from friends say he’s been sailing much longer than that.

My guess is man-overboard. He would have known about keeping a harness on at all times when offshore if he’s as experienced as has been said, but he was on a trip to scatter his mother’s ashes and his emotions may have clouded his judgement. Or he might not have been as experienced as his friends thought and he may not have been clipped in.

Honestly, when I was young and dumb I went out alone, but I wouldn’t want to go out offshore alone. Or would I? I’ve been from Salem to Marblehead and to Gloucester without anyone on board. He was going to the Farallon Islands, though, which is ~25 miles out. That’s pretty far out to be alone.

Other possibilities are:

Container collision: containers are a lethal hazard offshore. Containers overboard from a ship float awash for months and can kill a yacht in seconds if the yacht rams them at an angle that staves in the hull.

Ship collision: thought to be somewhat less likely b/c the weather was good and he was out for a day sail.

Catastrophic health issue: he is 63, but in good health.

Equipment failure: As you may recall, this can be a problem.

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54 Responses to Jim Gray, computing pioneer, missing at sea. Help find him.

  1. JoeDuck says:

    😀 Attention 😀

    These are 49 comments from the initial blog post at Joe Duck:

    […] a satellite seems like a possibility, but how can we find the right needle in the haystack? Joe Duck is on the job up in Oregon, which is now in the expanded search area. There’s a collective […]

    Pingback by Jim Gray missing at sea « tharwood.blog | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Tom I just wrote Scott who has some Google contacts. I think we could round up a lot of people to manually review high rez satellite imagery, which must exist for that area though I’m guessing much of it is from classified sources where they are unwilling to examine it for this purpose?

    Comment by JoeDuck | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    I am here and ready to assist. Just point me to the data to start reviewing…

    I have been following this case for a few days.

    Comment by glenn | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    The Coast Guard has been favored with excellent search conditions, and say even if Gray was in a small raft, they would have spotted him.

    So are they saying the boat must have sunk? How could they cover all the possible square miles out there with a visual inspection?

    Comment by JoeDuck | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Well, there are a lot of square miles to the ocean. It has the advantage, though, of being more or less flat and featureless. I’m not sure what the effective search radius of a Herkey-bird might be, but it would be considerable.

    On the other hand: I recall my father-in-law’s diaries of life on the Enterprise in 1942. The most common aircraft loss scenario was “went on patrol and was never seen again.” These SBD scout bombers would have similar flight characteristics to a C-130, and they were looking for a 900 foot long aircraft carrier to return to.

    My default theory remains man overboard, but in a MOB situation they’d find the boat. I presume the islands have been thoroughly searched…

    Comment by Tommo | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Not much searching required. They’re more rocks than islands: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/sanctuary/images/big/sanc0110.jpg

    Comment by aptosca | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    C&C 40 vanishing without a trace of floating debris or skipper? And so close to SF? Amazing! Would think the boat would be spotted by now if were afloat. I’ve done a fair amount of sailing, some of it just offshore. My worst fear and my worst scares offshore happened when too close to land or shoals.

    Could Jim have hit a submerged rock just off the Farallons? If that happened the same time riding a swell down the impact could possibly hole the hull. That or if attempting to anchor off one of the Farallons a mishap could have occurred resulting in man overboard, the boat then getting smashed against the island and sinking out of sight. Farfetched, I know… just thinking aloud.

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Farallons… a could be treacherous landfall . . http://snipurl.com/GoogleMapFarallons

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Thanks for the photo link, aptosca. The islands do look pretty easily searchable. There’s also sign of habitation.

    Looks like there’s considerable reef area, which could play into your scenario, Kip. If the boat grounded, filled, and sank off the Farallons, though, I would expect some sign of the vessel — if not Jim himself — would be on the islands.

    Comment by Tommo | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Tommo, certainly I agree with you… you’d think there’d be some sign of the boat somewhere. baffling..

    “Google engineers are also helping in search by looking at their Google Earth satellite photos for any signs of a boat in distress, according to Gray’s daughter Heather”

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    I, too, am at something of a loss. Where’s the vessel?

    – No sign of the vessel despite an effective search
    – Search suspended
    – Harbors checked
    – No evidence Jim intended to do himself harm
    – Google folks reviewing sat imagery

    If she hit a container, there would probably be time for a Mayday. I have heard of craft filling in seconds after such an event, though.

    Seems unclear whether Jim had an EPIRB on board. I must confess I don’t carry one, either.

    Other scenarios that could be considered?

    Any smuggling going on in the area? Seems too busy for much smuggling or piracy.

    Comment by Tommo | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Good find on the Google stuff Kip.

    Tom I think smuggling and piracy are almost unheard of in that area. There are bandits down in Mexico, esp. I understand from Tijuana to Ensenada, but I’m not sure if problems extend offshore.

    Comment by JoeDuck | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    BTW, just to clarify — “I” in Joe’s original posting is me, tharwood.

    Joe’s not nearly so dumb as I am and would not go offshore in a small boat by himself. He has gone out in a small boat with me, and we did once require rescue. In my defense I would just point out that I was 13 at the time 🙂

    And, of course, tharwood == Tommo depending on whether or not I’m logged in to wordpress.

    Comment by tharwood | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    A few news report snips . . .
    “Just before losing his cell phone coverage, Gray called his wife and his daughter, reporting gorgeous conditions.”
    “The weather was clear, the winds were light, the waves 4-5 feet high, according to weather reports.”
    “The Coast Guard reports that Tenacious is believed to have a liferaft and EPIRB aboard but that the EPIRB has not been activated.”

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Brin was exploring whether recent satellite imagery provided for the company’s popular Google Earth mapping software could be used to spot Gray’s boat, a Google spokeswoman said.

    This from a KTVU report – sounds great though if the USCG is right and they have covered all the territory, then this won’t help?

    Comment by JoeDuck | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    The EBIRB should have deployed and auto-activated if Tenacious sank. If Jim went overboard, then Tenacious should be afloat or wrecked, but either way some evidence of her would more likely than not be found.

    Hull speed of a C&C 40 is 6.7 knots. [Hull speed is the maximum speed a displacement hull, such as the C&C 40, can attain in normal conditions] In light winds, she might make 3-5 knots.

    If she hit a container at speed, and especially if her balsa core was wet, then she might go down very fast. This is starting to seem a likely scenario… argh.

    With the Google guys already looking at imagery, I guess there is little we can contribute. Anyone know if a search was done of the Oregon harbors?

    Comment by tharwood | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    I don’t know if sat imagery at Google’s resolution could differentiate one sailboat from another well enough to make a positive ID. It will be very useful for scouring the coast for wreckage, alas.

    Comment by tharwood | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    “with the help of Microsoft engineers and Cingular Wireless, they have determined that the last evidence that Gray’s PDA was operating was 7:30 p.m. Sunday”
    “She also said there has been no sign of cell phone pings, since Gray called his wife and daughter on Sunday morning from the yacht.”

    You’d think Jim would have called his wife later in the day after he got back within cell phone coverage area. Since he did not and his PDA still working at 7:30 pm would seem possible he was still in the vicinity of the Farallons at that time, 2 hours after sunset.

    Anybody know if it has been reported whether he planned to scatter the ashes on shore, or at sea just offshore from the islands?

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    Farallon Islands – historical tidbits . . .

    “The first European to record the islands was the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, who landed on the islands on 24 July 1579, in order to collect seal meat and bird eggs for his ship”

    “The Russians maintained a sealing station in the Farallones from 1819 to 1838, decimating the islands’ population of fur seals”

    “Noonday Rock, at 5 km WNW of the North Farallones derives its name from the clipper ship that struck it in 1862 and sank within one hour.”

    from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farallon_Islands

    Comment by Kip | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    So sunset is about 1730 in the SF bay area? Plenty dark out on the water two hours after sunset. If he was running hard to get back to port, he might not have been checking the cell for coverage all that frequently; although, under similar circumstances, I’d be calling home as soon as I were in range. So perhaps there is a parallel to the Kims’ scenario, and the PDA established a data connection while the voice service was still out of range? I don’t know enough about the physics behind wireless to comment. But on that hypothesis, one could build models of the data/voice coverage zones and get some idea of the zone he was in. If only Eric F. worked down there…

    Comment by tharwood | January 31, 2007 | Edit

    There seems to be a bit of cruel irony in the fact that Gray’s pioneering efforts included MS Terraserver which paved the way for the computer mapping applications now in widespread use, but not helpful enough to find him.

    Comment by JoeDuck | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    (21) Joe yes ironic indeed!

    Comment by glenn | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    Ed Lazowska, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington and a friend of Gray said “This is an unbelievable mystery, in addition to a tragedy,” Lazowska said. “How does a 40-foot red sailboat disappear off the face of the earth? … Jim’s a very capable, very cautious guy. I can’t imagine what could have happened.”

    Fair weather, 40′ boat vanishes. No trace. Incredible. Could Jim have scuttled her?

    Comment by Kip | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    Can’t find any worthy Jim Gray news reports anywhere dated today. Anyone know of a website tracking in detail who is doing what, where, now …in connection with whatever search is happening, completed or planned?

    Comment by Kip | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    Kip, last I heard was that USCG planned to suspend their search at 1300 PST “unless.” No news since then, so I presume they did suspend. Various reports of private search parties waiting to pick up the slack, but nothing concrete that I know.

    Something about scuttling or intentional harm doesn’t feel right to me. I’m still thinking accident, but that’s not backed by any rationale.

    Comment by Tommo | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    Whoops, news now is that the search has been suspended: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/nation/16601818.htm

    Comment by Tommo | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    I do not know what sort of resolution the various satellites have but since these are aerial views perhaps family photos of the yacht might be digitized to aid in analyzing satellite images to locate the target vessel.

    A slightly submerged container, a whale,… there are a lot of possibilities but most yachts have automatic equipment aboard though sometimes the epirb devices are stowed.

    Comment by Fools Gold | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    Tommo, are you on the east coast? I’ve sailed out of Newport heading Nantuket way, some. Often would leave NP early evening and sail through part or sometimes all the night. Had some wonderful times. A few scary ones too! I was brought up on the West Coast and boated / sailed it quite extensively. I found sailing the east coast so very different. more hazardous I thought too. Extensive shoals, frequent fog. The odd hurricane. But loved every moment!

    Comment by Kip | February 1, 2007 | Edit

    by marinist 15 hours ago – digg.com comments:

    “I hope he didn’t get in the water around the Farallones, because that’s one of the worst great white shark areas. It’s a breeding ground for seals and consequently a feeding ground for sharks. Even in good weather, it’s an unpredictable area due to tides and interacting currents. A rogue wave could surprise even a capable skipper”

    Comment by Kip | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Amy Marrs called Gray’s disappearance a mystery because the weather was good, he was in good health and the boat was equipped with radios, flares and an emergency beacon.

    Tom Barclay, Gray’s colleague at Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Center, said Thursday that three private pilots were searching the coastline.

    “We’re still hoping Jim had some kind of engine malfunction and he just limped into a cove,” he said.

    by Marcus Wohlsen, The Associated Press
    Feb 2, 2007 2:15 AM

    Comment by Kip | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    I know that in the sixties a rather large number of yachts were lost at sea in perfect weather and it was suspected that robberies/murders were taking place and perhaps the vessels were being used on drug runs rather than being scuttled. I don’t think things like this go on today though. There was on rather broke couple in Orange County who answered an ad for a yacht-for-sale and killed the owners while ‘taking her out for a spin’. But overall, I do not see foul play as at all likely in this particular incident unless it took place in a sheltered cove.

    Something sudden. A rogue wave, derelict debris, the amorous attentions of a whale…something. The boat was well equipped (although query as to battery freshness in that epirb) and well sailed. Weather was fair and the seas relatively calm. The only negative might be that the epirb was stowed in a locker or something.

    I wonder as to older versions of satellite images? Is there some way of going through the historical images and identifying his yacht and its track? At some point the “next” satellite pass would fail to show the yacht and we would atleast know where and when whatever happened. Its a large ocean but with recent position information and course and wind information, it should be a simple matter of ded reckoning to figure out from where he went missing.

    Comment by Fools Gold | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Anyone have details on the particular epirb that was aboard? Some of those can’t be stored upside down, some can. Are batteries for them replaced often? In an airplane’s annual inspection somethings only have to be ‘checked’ not replaced.

    If someone took a historical satellite image showing where the boat was moored that would give a satellite view of the vessel and you could look for unique views or arrangement of hatches, masts or something.

    Comment by Fools Gold | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Kip, yes, I am in the Boston area. Formerly based in Salem and Beverly harbors, north of town; for some reason I tend to head up to Maine, never went down to Nantucket or the Vineyard. Conditions around here can be amusing, it’s true.

    FG, I haven’t found any information regarding the model of EPIRB Jim is mooted to have equipped. I say “mooted” because one early story said he’d mentioned he was planning to get one, but the USCG seemed to think it had, in fact, been equipped.

    If that’s so, then it was probably a relatively new model. I see West Marine’s standard EPRIB models have a lithium battery with 5-11 year service life. (5 years is replacement interval, battery useful life estimated at 11).

    Comment by tharwood | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Oh! There are manual release and auto-release EPRIBs. I thought they were all auto-release.

    Comment by tharwood | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    For anyone who wants a flavor of Jim’s work, this interview has great technical and non-technical bits:


    Comment by tharwood | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Coast Guard and family continue to search:

    Comment by JoeDuck | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    They’re looking in Santa Barbara harbor? Wow.

    Comment by tharwood | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    (33) Tharwood we need to catch up…we have something common!

    Comment by glenn | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Incidentally killer whales were also spotted just off the coast of San Francisco on that day. I hope they are taking that into account.

    Comment by dipa | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    [39] – I’d think probability of killer whales a factor in the boat’s vanishing minuscule. They can appear scary to somebody not familiar with them but the chances of their attacking or colliding with a 40′ boat extremely remote. Possibly more of a hazard would be a snoozing gray whale.

    Comment by Kip | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    NASA photographed the search area today and scientists at Google, Microsoft and NASA are working with amazon.com analyzing the data.


    Comment by Kip | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    (41) Kip great article find. That is so amazing that so many people are now organizing and helping!!! Seems James Kim’s death is going to mean something to a lot of people in the future.

    Joe hats off to you again as you played a critical role in getting people together to do this kind of stuff.

    Comment by glenn | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    Kip I just came in to post the details and you’d already found it. They may need help at Amazon Mechanical Turk to analyze the data. That was a great use of that service…

    Dozens of colleagues at a number of tech firms had joined the search by Friday. Employees at Amazon.com, working with scientists at Google, Microsoft and NASA, had come up with an innovative solution to the eye-glazing task of scanning hundreds of satellite photographs of the waters off California’s coast.

    Amazon engineers were using imaging software to split photos from a DigitalGlobe satellite into smaller segments, and then loading them onto Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” website — where numerous “Friends of Jim” would be able to scan them from their own computers.

    The “Mechanical Turk” is a commercial service operated by Amazon that lets users recruit numerous helpers to do repetitive tasks that require human intelligence; For example, picking out a certain image in a series of photographs.

    Comment by JoeDuck | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    OK, here’s the Satellite imagery at Mechanical Turk. They’ve done a superb job of making it easy to help examine the images:

    Comment by JoeDuck | February 2, 2007 | Edit

    I wonder if solo sailors have available to them some sort of ‘dead man’s pedal’? Is there anything that countsdown and sounds an alarm and if the sailor doesn’t hit the alarm-acknowledge button, something happens such as an electronic ‘ping’ of some sort on gps equipment.

    Ofcourse I doubt such a system, even if it existed, would have been used on what was contemplated as being a brief trip.

    Comment by Fools Gold | February 3, 2007 | Edit

    Some of those sat pictures are really tough to decipher. Haven’t found anything yet…

    Comment by glenn | February 3, 2007 | Edit

    I have processed over 500 images so far on mturk. Couple of observations.

    Image quality is really bad. Man that is frustrating that in 2007 we don’t have the proper equipment deployed for this kind of survey.

    Cloud cover is really frustrating – gives you an idea of how pilots must feel when they just can’t peer through the clouds to see what is underneath.

    Joe for the record I didn’t see any evidence of global warming in the images I reviewed!

    Comment by glenn | February 3, 2007 | Edit

    I don’t know if visual wavelength images are all that is available or not. I would think InfraRed superimposed on the visual or contrasted spatially would be helpful for finding boats.

    Should be a simple machine-learning technique to get a computer to differentiate between ‘ocean’ and ’sailboat’.
    I guess the real problem is keeping track of which areas were ‘ocean’ and which were ‘cloud cover’.

    Comment by Fools Gold | February 3, 2007 | Edit

  2. tharwood says:

    Looking at the mturk imagery certainly gives one a feel for SAR operations: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, faintly possible something.

    It is a terrific way to organize a mass response, though!

    I have been thinking about a “regional autonomous search platform” — a year or so ago, I saw blue-sky designs for a cellular supertower on a UAV, flying in the high stratosphere, maybe 12 KM up. Flight duration was expected to be months or years; solar collectors on the wings for power. Now, imagine such a craft with imaging equipment and a downlink to transmit images to a group analysis effort such as this one. It’d be a lot easier to task than a sat, and it’d also bring cell coverage.

  3. glenn says:

    (2) Tharwood a balloon (or multiple) aloft in the area could do some similar work!

  4. glenn says:

    Anybody that has worked with mturk to review the images please let me know what you think of the interface…what is good, bad, etc?

    I think part of the dangerdata could be a component that can be used to review (higher resolution) images (with magnifying tools, etc) through a better interface than mturk.

  5. M Squared says:

    Glenn – Here’s a few thoughts.
    1. Location: A way to designate the location in the photo that is of interest. I have developed a method of using percentages from top & left (e.g. “25% down / 80% from left is a square object”).

    2. Rating: Ability to rate the quality of the area of interest. E.G. 1 = High Priority, I can see the logo on their shirt! down to 5 = Low Priority, “Gee, it looked kinda different fuzzy”

  6. M Squared says:

    UI Thoughts / Part II: Also, it takes too long to get started again on the next set of images. In fact, a simple client-side javascript line could position the curson on the first relevant input field under the first image & significantly speed up the process.

    But, don’t get me wrong! This is still a fantastic step forward in using technology!

  7. JoeDuck says:

    Glenn and M Squared –

    Very good observations. I’ve reviewed several of the pix but I have not been comfortable saying “nothing of interest here” because it’s not clear to me that I could detect an irregularity.

    I agree with M Squared, esp. that it would be nice for the reviewer to have a sense of where the images came from. Important to volunteering will be keeping people “informed” of progress, feeling their contribution is helping the project move forward.

  8. glenn says:

    Great points…the reviewing interface I am thinking about developing is totally in AJAX so we can take advantage of client-side capabilities and provide a more robust interface.

  9. M Squared says:

    Joe – Good point about knowing the progress. I was much more motivated when I saw the counter dropping from 900+. I ended working 3x longer than I planned … just to help finish it up!

    Also, it’s essential to be able to zoom in/out when “squinting” these pix.

    And, lastly … to Joe’s point about not being comfortable. If you knew that at least 2 or 3 other people were reviewing the same photos… would that help? (Or, would it make it easy to say “No” without looking as hard???)


  10. glenn says:

    (9) M^2 yes I think multiple people reviewing is key…btw I am answering your email out here if you have noticed. 🙂

  11. Kip says:

    Feb 3 NY times “High-Tech Hunt” article – – – http://snipurl.com/NYTimesJimGray

  12. Fools Gold says:

    Knowledge of images.
    I don’t know beans about Mturk and my vision is too poor anyway but I’d like to comment on some points raised upthread:

    If the analyst knows where the image is from it might help but I doubt you would want in a group effort everyone to be digging into the ‘exciting and high potential’ images and letting the routine review of acres of empty ocean lag behind.
    A ranking system for ‘unusual findings’ would certainly be sensible. I certainly think all those programs and techniques that automatically try to classify an image could be used: tank or truck, tissue or tumor.
    Good luck to you all.

  13. glenn says:

    (12) Fools Gold, I think it would be really good to be able to circle, high-light and comment as a layer on the image. I think markers like arrows, etc…will make the reviewing of marked images a lot faster.

  14. tharwood says:

    There is a new sequence of images over at mturk. They’re much higher resolution than the sat images; maybe from the ER-2?

  15. glenn says:

    Well we made short work of those sat images…this new batch is done. The images were much better this time but the turk interface still leaves a lot to be desired.

  16. mturk is amazing; could do without having to scroll on 2nd
    and subsequent hits, though.

    Any ideas what liferaft Jim had, or what that would look like
    from satellite ? (mine’s circular, and there’s lots of
    circular artefacts/eddies in the images)

    (I think Flash 9 has issues under Linux; it worked for a while
    then bombed 🙁 )

  17. glenn says:

    Good question regarding the liferaft. I am not sure.

    Flash won’t even install on IE7 under Vista for me…

  18. Fools Gold says:

    Liferaft, survival suit and dinghy are possible options. Photos might show the size shape and color of the dinghy and how it was normally stowed.

    I recall one man who set sail from San Pedro, CA to Catalina Island, a distance that despite the very popular song is not really 26 miles and wound up being rescued by the USCG several months later off the coast of Central America when his mast snapped. The trouble is the Catalina incident was a poorly equipped day sailer and the Tenancious is a well-equipped yacht with radios and emergency gear of some sort. Even de-masted he would have radios and plenty of juice in the batteries and would be likely to have been spotted by now. Whatever happened had to have been sudden and catastrophic such as ‘man overboard’ or collision so severe that it was a ‘no time for the radio, launch the life raft and get clear’ situation. I’m not a sailor but simply can’t imagine other scenarios. If the helm had been lashed (either physically or electronically) where would the boat have ended up?

  19. A UK correspondant writes:

    “The British RNLI have predictive programs that can pinpoint where a body or
    boat will be after a confirmed place and point in time taking into account
    wind, currents and characteristics of the target. They predicted a body
    would be found 10 days after a loss in the Irish sea and the body was found
    in Scotland. I don’t know if their programs cover any waters.”

    But as we don’t know what happened to Jim (if/when he stopped sailing and started drifting) it would not help much. I presume from earlier comments that the good satellite photos are taken after he was reported missing, so we don’t have any of him underway.

    Regarding lashing the helm, if an autopilot was engaged it
    would do its best to steer in a straight line forever (if GPS enabled), in a constant direction (on compass), or at a constant angle to the wind (if windvane enabled). All of which would fail if the wind changed enough that the boat would no longer sail. (A mechanical autopilot as used by offshore sailors would steer a wind angle, but Tenacious doesn’t show one in the photo)
    If the helm was just lashed at constant rudder angle, on some boats the main and foresails can be balanced so it will sail straight. Other boats don’t have a point of equilibrium like this. IMO, no-one does this anymore unless all the autopilots are broken. But with a favourable wind (wind abeam from
    either side) that an autopilot could cope with unattended, the boat would sail West about 100 miles/day.

    Anyhow, in these cases (man overboard) the CG would probably have found the boat visually or on radar, assuming Jim went where he said he was going to and isn’t holed up in a cove
    somewhere with a dead battery.

    Singlehanded sailors often trail a line off the stern that they have some chance of catching if they fall over when the autopilot’s on, but you’d have to be pretty quick and not e.g. concussed from the boom whacking you in the side of the head.

  20. Fools Gold says:

    Even the most experienced sailors can probably fall prey to a gradual easing of habits or to distractions caused by a particular occasion, however, I would doubt that forgetting to duck the swinging boom would rank high on the list of possibilities. I would expect that recent pre-disappearance satelite images would be available to give some indication of track.

    I imagine the worst would be to be tethered to a lifeline but ensnared in it as well.

  21. JoeDuck says:

    The pix are done and there is a new site up here:

  22. Fools Gold says:

    How certain are we of his intended destination?
    Was this based on someone’s recollection of an offhand comment about his intent?

  23. Fools Gold says:

    Navigation error?

    I’m trying to ‘start at the beginning’ and consider such things as: taking aboard a hitchhiker (unlikely) or deciding upon a different destination (unlikely). One thing might be ‘setting a course’: what is the PROPER course for him to have adopted? At each leg, what is the most likely error to have typed into a navigation system? What transpositions may have occured?

    I discount such things as ‘aiding a “stranded” vessel and having been boarded by pirates’. Collision with some derelict shipping container or amorous whale is more likely. Man overboard is always a possibility in all types of seas at all experience levels, but not too likely given the weather.

    I can not believe that the sail number just now became available.

  24. tharwood says:

    There’s a nice color poster at http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~dtliu/jg/jgmiss.pdf — getting that poster up around coastal southern Oregon would be a good thing. We have one up here in Boston but I don’t think we’ll see Jim any time soon…

  25. tharwood says:

    There is also a blog for the volunteer searchers that has a tremendous amount of information, including answers to many questions asked here: http://openphi.net/tenacious/

    Go through some of the previous posts to find entries regarding EPIRB (West Marine, a few years old), tether (he was wearing one), life vest, etc.

  26. JoeDuck says:

    Thx Tharwood – I’ve linked the official site and blog above.

  27. Fools Gold says:

    Cell phone call.
    He made a cell call to his wife indicating he was soon to be out of cell phone range. Is this a common thing for him to do? Is this a common thing for other sailors to do?

  28. tharwood says:

    Personally, I’ve never made a call to announce that I was going out of range — but one comes to know the local coverage areas, so the conversation may well have ended with, “I’m going out of range now, see you when I get back.”

    Alas. I just finished reading Andrew Tannenbaum’s amusing apology for Linus Torvalds and Linux, and it reminded me that writing a simple ACID database is harder than writing a simple OS or a simple compiler. Jim is one of the two authors of the book I keep open beside me whenever I go into anything that needs decent transactional semantics.

  29. Fools Gold says:

    I hesitate to suggest this since I would classify it as “low grade ore” but in the interests of being thorough and unbiased:

    Has anyone checked ships recently arrived in harbor for signs of freshly scraped paint? I recall that from time to time there are airliners that take off with unnoticed ground damage and I just wonder if some container ship unloading in the harbor might have some unnoticed telltale fresh scratches and red paint on it.

  30. Fools Gold says:

    Tharwood,,, yes. Thank you. I’m sure the conversation about going out of cell phone range must have been as you suggest. That is far more reasonable than the unusual conversation that I had been thinking of.

    As to ‘damage to inbound shipping’, I now realize that this had already been considered and based on the cell phone call timing it is felt he was already out of the shipping lane at the time.

    I wonder if some of the fundamental assumptions are incorrect? His experience is of atleast ten years and I understand it was not what one might refer to as a ‘Sunday Sailor’. His boat was well equipped. His friends have used planes, satellites and ocean current modeling with nary a clue being developed. If we were to start over … what have we missed? I can not fathom the cell phone call having been faked or forced in any way. So he was okay at that point. Now it used to be common to pick up a dockside ‘hanger on’ as crew from time to time but its not that way any longer and one would be unlikely to invite a stranger along on a solemn occasion. What about an encounter at sea such as by a low power radio call or a faked distress situation? Surely the waters are too crowded for something like that to be effectively planned and executed. Yet I just don’t see an experienced sailor disappearing in calm weather without any trace of his well-found yacht!

  31. Scott Nelson Windels says:

    Sorry to have to report this link here – http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/02/16/state/n181516S21.DTL

    It appears as if most avenues for search have been exhausted at the moment.

  32. Fools Gold says:

    Avenues: I guess the only two that remain are imaging of the ocean floor and re-analysis of surface imaging with a particular attention to intentional activity.

  33. Tommo says:

    FG, sorry to be so long replying to your posting. The idea about inbound shipping was a good one, and I believe there were some efforts to vet the shipping against Tenacious’ route. Keep thinking! 🙂

    I must confess that I am at something of a loss regarding Jim’s fate. I no longer think man-overboard is the most likely scenario, presuming that Tenacious would have been located adrift under those circumstances. Catastrophic damage and EPIRB deployment failure is possible.

  34. Fools Gold says:

    I know there have been changes made to the devices and sometimes its a matter of just where and in what manner they have been stowed, but I thought they were designed to be automatic. Unless stowed inside a latched locker in a compartment of the vessel that remained intact, how is it the EPIRB never emitted a beep.

  35. Fools Gold says:

    It seems the hydrostatic release mechanisms are a hundred dollar option that is available.

    Does anyone know the exact brand of EPIRB that was onboard?

  36. Tommo says:

    I recall a posting on http://openphi.net/tenacious/ where Jim’s wife said he had a West Marine EPRIB of fairly recent vintage.

    I talked to my Dad about his EPRIB yesterday. He said that his requires that it be turned on before any automatic activation modes are enabled. His is also a West Marine model, and he thought that this type of arrangement was pretty common — he and my brother-in-law, an ex-Coastguardsman, scoffed a bit imagining the false positive rate that lots of not-well-maintained auto-freak-out EBIRBs would produce in the Tampa/St. Pete area.

  37. Kip says:

    Neil Gunther had this comment on his blog today and I thought it appropriate for a ‘repost’ here.

    “Regretfully, Jim Gray is still missing, but I thought Amazon.com deserved more kudos than they got in the press for their extraordinary effort to help in the search for Gray’s yacht. Google got a lot of press coverage for talking up the idea of using satellite image sources, but Amazon did it. Why is that? One reason is that Amazon has a lot of experience operating and maintaining very large distributed databases (VLDBs). Another reason is that it’s not just Google that has been developing interesting net tools. Amazon (somewhat quitely, by comparison) has also developed their own net tools, like the Mechanical Turk. These two strengths combined at Amazon and enabled them to load a huge number of satellite images of the Pacific into the Turk database, thereby facilitating anyone (many eyes) to scan them via the Turk interface, and all that on very short order. Jim would be impressed.”


  38. Fools Gold says:

    EPIRBs seem to have an ‘off’ position, an ‘on’ position and an ‘armed’ position which enables a “triggering mechanism” which can be based on sensing hydrostatic pressure indicating water immersion. I realize false alarms are always a problem and so ‘hair triggers’ have to be avoided but was wondering if the failure to receive an EPIRB signal should be considered suspicious or a routine failing.

  39. Fools Gold says:

    Improving EPIRBs??

    A combined GPS/EPIRB unit. It ‘knows’ whether its on a store shelf or in a FedEx truck or in the middle of the ocean and sends no false alarm if it is merely being jostled at a dock side marina.

    A timing mechanism that arms the epirb at the beginning of a cruise but shuts itself off unless re-activated each morning?

  40. Fools Gold says:


    My idea of a long-term ‘armed status’ is to make the EPIRB be automatically activated upon a catastrophic event that takes place without warning, such as a rogue wave event or a sudden attack by a whale or something. A ‘one day’ timer would prevent false alarms but have the epirb react to sudden events that took place in calm seas.

  41. Fools Gold says:

    Most yachtsmen deal with a ships chandlery at some marina and ofcourse they may have online purchases too. Surely the merchant’s records and credit card records might well enable the family to know precisely which particular model of EPIRB was involved and whether it would or would not have activated itself or had to be ‘armed’ first.

    Does anyone know if seafloor imagery is to be attempted or if hydrophone analysis is to be attempted?

  42. glenn says:

    Is there any new news on this case?

  43. Fools Gold says:

    No, I don’t think there is any news at all.

    I had been trying to find out if the talk about imaging the ocean floor got beyond the ‘talk’ stage but I don’t know if anything has happened on this case at all.

  44. Fools Gold says:

    Catamaran found off Australian Coast: Three Missing.

    The catamaran’s sails were up, but the headsail was “shredded,”. There was no indication of any other damage. The engine was running, the computers were running, there was a laptop set up on the table which was running, the radio was working … and there was food and utensils set on the table ready to eat, but no sign of the crew,”.

    The crew _ Australians aged 56, 63 and 69 _ had set out Sunday, and was planning to sail around northern Australia to Western Australia.

    “They were just going to stop every night, anchor close to shore all the way back around the top and down the coast,” she said. “It was going to be their trip of a lifetime.”

    Greg Connor, a forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology, said the sailors would have faced moderate southeasterly winds of about 22 mph, typical weather for this time of year. “It would have been excellent sailing conditions,” he said.

  45. Fools Gold says:

    Australian ‘ghost ship’ catamaran
    Fenders had been deployed as if at the approach of another vessel.

  46. Fools Gold says:

    Australian search efforts terminated as it is well past the maximum survival time since GPS indicates ship had not altered course for several days prior to being boarded by the authorities. It is now thought that some foul weather the previous Sunday washed the entire crew overboard as well as deploying the fenders although it does seem strange how the authorities found a cabin that was not in disarray and did not describe the food as stale or spoiled. It would seem rather easy to determine if food were three days old or not. The vessel was not long at see and would have been using fresh perishables rather than long-lasting staples.

  47. Fools Gold says:

    Australian family continues search:

    As is common in such incidents, family members are convinced that the missing people are still alive and have chartered three yachts to search nearby uninhabited islands in the hope that the three crewmen were able to swim to safety after some sort of accident with the boom knocking them off the boat or a wave washing them off the stern while fishing.

    There are conflicting reports of clothing folded at the stern of the vessel and of videotape indicating fishing was underway.

    Official search is over. Officials are discouraging rumors of piracy.

  48. Fools Gold says:

    Australian ghost yacht.

    Police had theorized crew swept overboard by boom that shifted in high windss of afternoon of Sunday April 15th, but yacht issued a normal position report at 6:45pm that evening which was several hours after the high winds had already peaked. Position report, had it been passed on to authorities earlier, would have changed area of initial search.

  49. Fools Gold says:

    No precipitation, just high winds which seemed not to have affected the yacht since routine position report was three hours later. High visibility. One of two rudders fouled by fishing line indicating intent to catch Spanish Mackerel.

  50. Fools Gold says:

    Family of missing Australian yachtsmen vote to continue their privately funded search and to concentrate on a mangrove coastal area inaccessible from land. Family aware of difficulty involving elapsed time and surf driving survivors into a mangrove coast.

  51. Fools Gold says:

    Australian ghost yacht: ALL scenarios troubling.

    Most probable according to police appears to be that the yacht was grounded on a sandbar and the entire crew went over the side to free it with wind and wave action taking the yacht away from them. Seems improbable but is supported by missing sunglasses and presence of towels on the fantail. Engine was idling, gear shift in neutral.

  52. I just don’t have anything to say these days, but eh. Today was a total loss. Pretty much nothing seems worth bothering with. I’ve more or less been doing nothing worth mentioning.
    I haven’t been up to much , but maybe tomorrow.

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