The Trail Went Cold – Minisode 14 – The Patanela

November 8, 1988. Botany Bay, Australia. A radio operator receives three calls from Ken Jones, the skipper of a steel schooner called the Patanela. The yacht is currently in the midst of a month-long voyage to Airlie Beach, and Ken Jones’ wife, Noreen, and two crew members, John Blissett and Michael Calvin, are also on board. Ken claims the boat has run out of fuel, but after his final radio call is abruptly cut off, there is no more communication from the vessel. When the Patanela fails to arrive at its destination ten days later, a massive search comes up empty, and neither the yacht nor its four passengers are heard from again. There are enough suspicious things about the disappearance to fuel rumors that the boat was hijacked, but aside from a lifebuoy and a message in a bottle from one of the missing crew members, no trace of the Patanela is ever found. This week’s minisode of “The Trail Went Cold” chronicles our very first mystery about a missing boat.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

3 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Minisode 14 – The Patanela

  • One suspects, whatever the scenario postulated, that the vessel never was at the claimed position outside Sydney. Unless there is DF-steer evidence substantiating that the transmissions originated from this direction, one must be skeptical, and the alleged request for directions to a town 200 miles to the south makes no sense–why would an experienced skipper who was in full possession of his faculties need directions to such a place anyway, when one look at a chart would suffice? I would also say that the life ring evidence was compromised, and that the ring could have been afloat much longer than was generally assumed. The message in a bottle has little or no bearing on the case, as it pertained to an earlier phase of the voyage. If we suspect that the skipper suffered a stroke or some other debilitating neurotrauma which left him severely disoriented, this might explain the confused behavior and uncertainty about position; if disoriented, he might have gotten the misimpression that there was no fuel and/or sailed off east into the vastness of the Pacific, thinking that he was sailing west into land. The vessel would likely just disappear in that case. The final message was scratchy, suggesting that the transmitter was far away by the time contact was attempted, and might have been out of range thereafter. I am less enthusiastic about the piracy scenario: those waters are not known to be infested with large numbers of pirates, and the probability of running into same by sheer accident would be quite low.

  • I’m thinking Ken’s somewhat odd wording & Michael’s cut off call to his dad might be the key pieces of evidence here. Sounds to me like hijacking is the best bet for what happened.

    • And I just read the carbon monoxide theory on Reddit. That’s definitely a contender as well. Explains the weird inconsistencies, as well as the comment about how the boat could have sunk…the area was a busy commercial shipping zone, they could have all been passed out/dead and the yacht struck by a massive commercial vessel which wouldn’t even notice it.

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