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In mystery of missing Long Island sailor, focus, and hope, turns to Caribbean

Peter Farrell and his 29-foot sloop Blue Dog.

Peter Farrell and his 29-foot sloop Blue Dog. The U.S. Coast Guard said Farrell has not been heard from since leaving Fire Island Inlet bound for Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands on Oct. 13. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Tri-State

The U.S. Coast Guard continued searching Tuesday for a Long Island boater who set sail in October for the British Virgin Islands but has not been heard from since. Despite that, searchers and his sister held out hope he and his 3-year-old Rottweiler will turn up safe.

Peter Farrell, 72, was living on his boat, a 1931 William Atkin-designed sloop built in Huntington, said his sister, Adrienne Tesoro of Babylon.

Farrell, a proficient sailor and author of several adventure-related books and travel guides, left Oct. 13 for Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, Coast Guard officials said. 

Conflicting reports had Farrell either sailing directly to the Virgin Islands or stopping first in Bermuda, which has led to some confusion as searchers combed a vast expanse of 310,767 square miles of sea, officials said.

Farrell's planned arrival date was Tuesday — meaning he's still not technically overdue but with each hour, the search for him and his Rottweiler, "Sunny," grows more urgent.

"Today is a pretty consequential day, according to his float plan," said Coast Guard Deputy Public Affairs Officer David Schuhlein, spokesman for Sector Long Island Sound, Boston. "The best information we have is that we kind of expected him to arrive in the British Virgin Islands today, so obviously we're hoping for a good outcome here."

The Coast Guard said it has flown sorties looking for Farrell and his sloop, including a Hercules C-130 out of Elizabeth City, North Carolina that searched an ocean grid all the way to Bermuda. Tesoro said she's been in almost daily contact with the Coast Guard command in Boston. 

Farrell grew up on the water and has sailed throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf, his sister said. He learned to love the ocean from his father, longtime West Babylon resident, sailor and clammer Edward Farrell, known to his friends as "Clammy." Edward Farrell died about 10 years ago at age 90.

Peter Farrell, who has a son in Oakdale and a daughter in Dunedin, Florida, has had the boat for at least 10 years, Tesoro said, and recently serviced it at a yard in Patchogue, painting the hull navy blue, and in the process, changing the name from Tally Ho.

"He's made this trip many times," Tesoro said, noting her brother has sailed as far as Panama and Costa Rica. He has even authored a book on Jost Van Dyke and the island's famous bar, Foxy's, she said.

Farrell was sailing to Jost Van Dyke with plans to update his guidebook on the island when he set off last month, Tesoro said.

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard said it planned to search the waters surrounding the island Wednesday morning.

Schuhlein said Farrell's sloop was equipped with a working EPIRB unit designed to set off a radio distress signal when triggered either manually or with any contact with water. As far as authorities could tell, Schulein said, the unit has not gone off.

"I don't want to speculate," he said, "because that's all it would be, speculation."

As of Tuesday, Schuhlein said, the Coast Guard still believed there's a chance Farrell is alive. The sailor's sister also struck an optimistic tone Tuesday. 

"I can say with authority he's an expert seaman," Tesoro said. "Five or six years ago, about 100 miles off New Jersey, his boat completely rolled over, did a 360, shredding all the sails, breaking all the mounting bolts in his engine, and he managed to hand-sew the sails back together and sail it into [a harbor in] New Jersey. Who does that? He does, that's who."

With Antonio Planas

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