Looking for the Niña and her crew

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“She has been sailing since she was nine years old. She loved it,” her mother said, notably switching between verb tenses.
That verb tense switch is the constant question for Robin Wright, mother of Danielle Wright, a UL student who left a New Zealand port along with a crew of six others on a schooner called Niña June 4. They were bound for Australia and chances are you know the rest of the story’s big specifics.
The boat ran into multiple storms. The New Zealand government launched their largest search ever for the missing boat, finally declaring that the boat was believed to have sunk during a storm. Shortly after the New Zealand search ended, a lost and somewhat cryptic satellite text message was recovered and led the Wrights and others to believe that New Zealand’s search crews may have been looking in the wrong place. To New Zealand’s credit, their search for the Niña was the biggest search they’ve ever performed.
But they didn’t find the Niña.
Or its wreckage.
“In third grade geography, Danielle had to create her dream vacation — it was sailing in New Zealand,” Robin told me. “This trip was a dream come true for her. When they said, ‘Come sail with us and spend the summer.’ She didn’t blink. We didn’t either. We trusted David as a sailor, the Niña as a boat and Rosemary to watch over her.”
Ricky and Robin Wright met David and Rosemary Dyche, along with their 17-year-old son David, about four years ago in Panama. The Dyches had been sailing the world over for nearly 16 years, and the Wrights were new to the life of living on the sea.
Robin Wright said that Rosemary Dyche is the person who taught her about living on a boat.
“They were our first sailing friends. She gave me books to read and recipes,” Robin said. “There are all sorts of means to keep your provisions longer on a boat. Not only did Rosemary know the tricks, but she was happy to share that knowledge with me.”
The Dyches had just come through the Panama Canal when the two families met.
Robin bristles at the idea that the Niña wasn’t seaworthy.
“They went to Ecuador and on to Galapagos and then the South Pacific. David was a professional captain,” she told me. “Do you really think Captain David would have his family on an untrustworthy boat? I don’t think so.”
For me, a visit with Robin Wright was a testament in faith, persistence, grace and delicious lemonade. By the time I left, my heart was full of hope for this mother with a missing child. She happily shared photo albums, smiles, stories of her daughter and other lost mariners who were eventually found after being missing at sea. Last week, when the Arizona couple was found after 91 days at sea on a broken boat, Robin’s spirits were buoyed again. New information found using volunteer civilians scanning satellite photos of the Tasman Sea on a website called tomnod.com has produced even more hope. Anyone with access to the computer and the Internet is encouraged to go to the site and scan high-def images of the sea to look for signs of the Niña or its life raft.
On the Facebook page, Bringing home the Niña and her crew, someone posted a map of the Tasman Sea where the Niña went missing. The map includes sites where other boats were abandoned, drifted and the spots where the boat was eventually found. For example, the Windigo was abandoned near Tonga and appeared on the Australian coast four months later. The Air Apparent was abandoned near the coast of New Zealand and drifted for 13 months before being found off the coast of Australia.
So even though the Niña and her crew have been missing for 85 days, the Wright aren’t giving up hope. The Tasman Sea is vast, with little sea or air traffic. The Wrights believe their daughter and the rest of the crew are drifting with no sails or power and could be found today, tomorrow or a long time from now.
“I could stay in bed and pull the covers over my head and never leave, or I can get up every day and do everything I can to try and find my daughter,” Robin said. “I know wherever Danielle is right now, God is with her.”
The Wrights are shepherding efforts to continue the search for the Niña. They’re working with Texas Equusearch and have narrowed the search area to about 300,000 square miles. The daily search flights cost between $15,000 and $20,000 a day to operate, and the Wrights are doing all they can to raise money to continue the searches for as long as possible. If you’d like to donate, contact the Community Foundation of Acadiana or go online to www.texasequusearch.org and add instructions to direct your donation to the Niña search.

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