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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (CBSMiami/AP) — David Dyche has been doing what he loved, sailing the world with his family in search of adventure. Now, though, the search is for him, his wife, son, and four others who vanished nearly three weeks ago.

“We are just holding out hope that he’s ok. We just want to keep the search going,” a life-long friend John Gray told CBS4.

Family and friends are worried sick after his 1928 70-foot schooner, The Nina, disappeared while crossing from New Zealand to Australia.

“Knowing David my whole life and this is all he has ever known even as a little kid starting with little sailboats, he’s a very experienced sailor and he’s been in some extremely rough seas and he knows who to handle them,” Gray said.

He may have gotten in over his head. On June 4th, one day into his trip, the Nina called a meteorologist for navigation advice. They were caught in 60 mile per hour winds and 18 foot seas. The meteorologist told them to head south.  A day later, a text came from Nina for an update.  Everyone assumed they would pull through.

The last contact was mid-June when a scrambled phone call was made via a satellite phone. Nothing could be made out in the call. The group hasn’t been heard from since.

“He had planned to make this crossing maybe a month ago or so when the weather might not have been so bad. I think he was feeling the pressure to get it done,” Gray explained.

A broken engine had set Dyche back but he now had to make the crossing to Australia to catch a flight home for work and his son was going off to college. On May 25th Dyche posted on Facebook about the gales in the Tasman Sea. He wrote about leaving out after one passed. The post ended with, “No doubt we will be dancing with one or two of them.”

New Zealand authorities said they have searched 500,000 square miles of ocean. To give you an idea of how big an area that is, the State of Florida is about 50,000 square miles.

“It’s very hard for us.  We are trying to stay strong for him and we do think that David is very strong.” Kimberly Gray, John’s daughter told CBS4. The two of them continue to hold out hope. “It’s only been a few days that everyone has been looking and it’s a big sea.  So we are just holding out faith that they are going to show up at the marina in the Nina or they will be found in a life raft and everyone is ok.”

Kimberly Gray’s father added, “He’s a loving man with a big heart and we just want to keep the search going. With each passing day, the situation appears to be getting bleaker.  We are now 16 days out from the last communication. It’s our worst fear and it’s quite possible because we have no emergency signal or beacon that went off.  Something could have happened real quick and the sailboat could have gone down.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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