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Aerial search continues for missing LI sailor

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

One more day, no word, as the U.S. Coast Guard continues its aerial search for clues on the whereabouts of a Long Island sailor who set out for the British Virgin Islands in October, but who has not been seen or heard from since.

The longtime seafarer, Peter Farrell, 72, who had been living aboard his 1931 William Atkin-designed 29-foot sloop built in Huntington, set sail with his 3-year-old Rottweiler, Sunny, out of Fire Island Inlet on Oct. 13. Adrienne Tesoro, of Babylon, said her brother planned to sail to Bermuda before sailing south to Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands, but said it also is possible he changed course and bypassed Bermuda en route to Jost Van Dyke.

A Coast Guard spokesman said that according to the so-called float plan, or sailing itinerary, Farrell was scheduled to arrive in the Virgin Islands no later than Tuesday — and that as of Wednesday he is being considered overdue. The Coast Guard previously has search a vast expanse of 310,767 square miles of open ocean using a C-130 Hercules out of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Deputy Public Affairs officer David Schuhlein, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard District 1 in Boston, said a C-130 crew was again searching "surrounding waters and approaches to Jost Van Dyke" on Wednesday, but said so far there have been no sightings of Farrell or his sloop.

"We always hope for the best outcome possible, in this case him arriving at his location and letting everyone know he's OK," Schuhlein said.

Adding to any confusion might be that Farrell changed the name of his boat from Tally Ho to Blue Dog when he repainted the hull from white to navy blue during a recent overhaul at a boatyard in Patchogue. The Coast Guard said it had not received any distress calls from a vessel called Tally Ho, but said it was unclear if anyone had checked for distress calls from one called Blue Dog. Schuhlein said the Coast Guard would check the logs Wednesday for calls under the new name.

The Coast Guard said the 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, Schuhlein said, the unit has not gone off.

The area being searched by the Coast Guard is considered to be in the southeast corner of the notorious Bermuda Triangle, Schuhlein said. Maritime folklore is that the area is somehow more treacherous than other bodies of ocean water, though both the Coast Guard and a feature by History.com point out that while there are many unsolved and mysterious disappearances of boats, ships and even airplanes in the vast area stretching from Miami to Bermuda south to roughly Puerto Rico, just west of the Virgin Islands, those disappearances are not more common than other nautical areas — and that the Triangle is navigated safely on a daily basis.

In other words, it's just lore.

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 Blue Dog for at least 10 years, Tesoro said, and has sailed it as far as Panama and Costa Rica, as well as Jost Van Dyke. In fact, Farrell, who has authored several novels, even authored a book on the island and its famous bar, Foxy's, and was making this trek to Jost Van Dyke to update that guidebook, Tesoro said Tuesday.

"He's made this trip many times," Tesoro said, adding: "I can say with authority he's an expert seaman. 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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