Hubert Marcoux sailed the world alone for 18 years, survived a wreck in Micronesia and rebuilt his shattered sailboat after Hurricane Juan.
The Canadian adventurer is lost in the Atlantic Ocean, but his ability to bounce back has convinced his sister and friends that the grizzled sailor is still alive.
Mr. Marcoux, the author of Around the World in 18 Years, was reported missing late this week when he failed to arrive on time on his voyage to Bermuda from Halifax. It was his first trip after six years of scrimping to repair his 14-metre sailboat, Mon Pays, which was damaged in port in the 2003 hurricane.
The 67-year-old left Halifax on Nov. 9. About three days later, his planned solo route would have taken him into several days of 120-kilometre-an-hour winds and 10-metre seas.
Four aircraft from Canadian and U.S. rescue services have scoured Mr. Marcoux's planned route without finding a trace of his boat. They will widen their search, accounting for where he might have drifted.
Mr. Marcoux's only means of communication is a short-range VHF radio. He couldn't afford a satellite telephone or electronic radio beacon, according to his sister, Lucy Milroy.
But Ms. Milroy is not discouraged. She's certain that her brother sailed into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to avoid the storm, or was blown there, and is working his way back.
"I still have plenty of hope, I'm very optimistic that he will be found or touch land at some point. I have full confidence in his sailing abilities," Ms. Milroy said from her Halifax home.
"He's a very happy, positive person. He never gets discouraged no matter what happens in his life. He has a way to rise above."
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick said searchers share some of Ms. Milroy's optimism. Crews have found a sailboat that followed one day behind on Mr. Marcoux's planned route. The boat limped into port in Bermuda yesterday, several days behind schedule, after surviving the storm.
Mr. Marcoux first set sail in 1985, selling two modestly successful Montreal businesses, one manufacturing flight suits, another building picture frames, and putting the cash into his first boat, the Jonathan. He was divorced with a teenaged son.
"He was 44 years old and just decided he wanted to experience freedom, experience something different," Ms. Milroy said. "It was the same point in life where many men look at their lives and feel if they're going to do something different, they have to do it now." Over the next 18 years, Mr. Milroy touched the Galapagos Islands, Cape Horn and the Great Barrier Reef. There were bumps along the way.
In 1992, he wrecked the Jonathan on a reef in Micronesia. Scavengers from a nearby island looted the craft, leaving behind an empty husk. He spent the next few years teaching English in Japan and setting up a jewellery company in Australia. He built the Mon Pays and set sail again in 1998.
He got back into the jewellery business and wrote his book after Juan wrecked the ship in a Halifax port in 2003. He patiently rebuilt it while living with Ms. Milroy and her husband.
Serge St-Martin, who helped Mr. Marcoux write the French version of his oceanic adventures, said his friend had the skill to stay afloat in the storm.
"He's been in dire straights before," said Mr. St-Martin, a fellow sailor who lives in Mont St-Hilaire, Que.
"He knew what he was doing, and he had a very good boat. He wouldn't have gone out in a half-assed boat.
"But if he had the chance to pick his way to die, this would be it."