Scenes reminiscent of the Marie-Celeste leave coastguards puzzled

A 12m (40ft) catamaran found drifting off the North Queensland coast with it’s engine running and a table laid for dinner has sparked an intensive rescue search in Australia. The yacht and her three crew are thought to have set sail from Airlie Beach to Townsville last Sunday 15 April. A helicopter spotted the vessel drifting on Wednesday, and sent a rescue team to investigate. They didn’t reach the boat until Friday, when they confirmed that there was no one aboard. All the vessel’s sails were up, although one was badly shredded, and lifejackets were still on board.

An air and sea rescue operation using 12 aircraft has been launched to retrace the yacht’s voyage, and pinpoint the search area. Rescue crews say they are puzzled by the mysterious disappearance: ‘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,’ said Jon Hall, a spokesman for Queensland’s Emergency Management office.

Mr Hall said rescue workers had recovered the boat’s global position system (GPS) device, which might give them more clues as to the crew’s whereabouts. ‘That will now enable us to track backwards where this yacht has actually been in the last few days, and we’re hoping that can pinpoint the search area for the missing crew,’ he said.