BRUNSWICK, Ga. — All was well when the 50-foot yacht, On the Weigh, left Charleston City Marina on the Ashley River Feb. 22 with Guillermo Gonzalez Losada and several others aboard.
But somewhere between Charleston and Jacksonville, possibly off the coast of Brunswick, something went wrong — terribly wrong.
Whatever happened remains a mystery that the Coast Guard is asking for help in solving.
"It is going to be a very hard case for our investigators," Petty Officer Jessica Potter with Coast Guard Public Affairs said Wednesday.
On Feb. 24, two days after departing Charleston, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Service air crew spotted several large pieces of wreckage of On the Weigh in the water about 22 miles east of the St. Johns River, off the coast of Jacksonville.
The body of 49-year-old Losada was found floating near the debris, alongside 10 life jackets, flares and an oil sheen.
Missing from the debris were two other Venezuelans and an American captain, identified only as Larry, who investigators believe may have been aboard.
More than a week after Losada was discovered, the yacht's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon activated 85 miles off the Brunswick coast.
Coast Guard investigators remain puzzled.
The beacon would not have activated immediately if it was stored in a locker or something that did not get wet until a week later, Potter said.
The two Venezuelan men, who were not identified by investigators, along with Larry, remain missing following a 56-hour search by the Coast Guard that covered about 3,800 square miles surrounding the wreckage, Potter said.
Investigators know very little about the circumstances that led to the wreckage.
"It was really lucky (Losada) had his passport on him. Otherwise we would not know who he was," Potter said.
"It is still pretty unclear who Larry is. We still don't know his last name."
Where the boat was when whatever happened to it occurred is also unknown, Potter said.
Identifying the captain may be the key to finding out what happened, she said.
"We don't know whether it crashed that night (Feb. 23) or why it happened," Potter said.
Family and friends of the Venezuelan men say they thought the boat was owned by Chong Kang Lum Valles, who had recently bought the vessel in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Potter said. They say they believed the men were traveling to Aruba, with several port calls planned along the way, Potter said.
Investigators have a fuzzy photo pulled from a surveillance camera at the Charleston City Marina on Feb. 22 they believe depicts Larry on the docks.
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking anyone with information about the American boat captain, known only as Larry, who might have been aboard On the Weigh or contacted to accompany the Venezuelan men on the yacht to call investigators at 904-564-7511.