Published May 18. 2014 12:28PM Updated May 19. 2014 8:02AM
Mystic — Daniel Strelczuk had spoken for days about following the Charles W. Morgan to New London Saturday aboard his sailboat Cassiopea.
“He said, ‘I’m going, nothing’s stopping me,’ ” said his daughter Aleksandra, of Killingly, as she sat in her brother Adam’s Mystic home Sunday. There, Strelczuk’s wife, three grown children and other relatives had gathered to await news from the Coast Guard regarding the search for Daniel.
Daniel Strelczuk, 62, of Thompson, went missing from his sailboat early Saturday evening after following the Morgan to New London and then heading back to Spicer’s Marina in Noank, where family members said he has docked his 1974 30-foot Dufour sloop for the past 12 years.
The Coast Guard suspended the search for him at 2:30 p.m. Sunday after covering more than 740 square miles over 19 hours.
The search was focused on an area 3 miles southeast of Fishers Island where another boater came across the abandoned sailboat and reported it to the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound command center at 6:43 p.m. Saturday.
Family members describe Daniel, who works as a machinist in Worcester, Mass., as an avid sailor, voracious reader and history buff.
“He loved history,” said his wife, Danuta, explaining her husband’s interest in watching the Morgan set off. “He just was amused at how it’s such an old boat.”
Danuta said she first went sailing with her husband when the couple were in their early 20s and living in their hometown of Gdańsk, a port city in Poland. She said the two would occasionally rent boats to sail on the Baltic Sea. However, it wasn’t until the family migrated to the United States that Daniel’s love for sailing blossomed, she said.
Adam said it was about 20 years ago that his father purchased his first sailboat, a 19-foot O’Day Sailor that he would sail on Quaddick Lake in Thompson. Daniel purchased the Cassiopea six years later, and a dozen years after that began docking it at the mooring at Spicer’s, according to Adam.
Daniel taught himself to sail from reading books, according to his daughter Meg, of Warwick, R.I. Adam said sailing was a spiritual experience for his father, who often sailed solo. Danuta said her husband slept like a rock on his sloop.
“He didn’t like motors,” said Meg.
Aleksandra added, “It was the water and the wind that powered you, really.”
So it came as a shock to the family when the Coast Guard called them around 7 p.m. to tell them Daniel’s boat had been found adrift off the coast of Fishers Island.
“I got the phone. I just panicked right away,” said Danuta.
Adam said the engine was running and the sail was up when the boat was found. He said he last spoke to his father around 1 p.m. Saturday, when his father said he was turning back from New London. He planned to stop by Adam’s house around 5 p.m. Adam, who also sails, said that it’s common for sailboats to run behind schedule due to unpredictable wind conditions.
“I was starting to wonder. It’s not uncommon for my dad to start hanging out on the boat a little longer, watching the sunset,” he said.
Family members said they were thankful for the aid of agencies that participated in the search.
“We didn’t even have to ask and they were already doing everything possible,” said Aleksandra.
Involved in the search was an MH-60 helicopter and HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, the Coast Guard Cutter Chinook, a 25-foot rescue boat and a 45-foot rescue boat all from Coast Guard Station New London and a 47-foot rescue boat from Coast Guard Station Montauk. Also participating in the search were boats from Fishers Island, Groton and Mystic fire departments, the Fishers Island constable, Southold N.Y., police and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The Coast Guard said it suspended its active search for Daniel “due to saturation of the search area and searching beyond the calculated survival time given the current conditions.”
The Strelczuk family hopes boaters will keep their eyes open and that Daniel might return home safely, and that they can at least find out what happened.
“He was never too weak to do something, too tired to do something,” said Aleksandra. “He was just so tough, it wouldn’t surprise us if he walked in the door.”
Anyone with information regarding Daniel Strelczuk is asked to contact Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound at (203) 468-4401.