Chattanooga-area relatives hold out hope as search for historic 70-foot sailboat is canceled

Chattanooga-area relatives hold out hope as search for historic 70-foot sailboat is canceled

July 6th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

The yacht Nina, center, is tied at dock at a unideentified location. The ship, which was sailing from New Zealand to Australia, has been missing since early June and the search was officially called off Friday.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga-area relatives of the captain of a historic 70-foot sailboat missing for a month between New Zealand and Australia with seven aboard were disappointed to learn Friday morning that an extensive search in the Tasman Sea had been called off.

News that the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand, the nation's search and rescue organization, canceled the search was especially disappointing for them because an undelivered June 4 text message recently found from the schooner Nina said its sails were shredded and it was traveling at four knots.

"It's definitely disappointing," said Ringgold, Ga., resident Julia Roach, who's the niece of the Nina's captain, David Dyche. "I was hoping when they read the last text, it would be a push in the right direction to continue the search."

Dyche's wife, Rosemary, and the couple's son, Davie, also were on board.

New Zealand authorities believe the Nina likely sank in a storm that day, but they conducted an extensive aerial search, hoping survivors might have made it into a life raft the boat was carrying or to land.

"While [the unsent text message] shows that Nina had survived the storm up to that point, very poor weather continued in the area for many hours and has been followed by other storms," Nigel Clifford, Maritime New Zealand's general manager of safety and response services, said in a statement.

The undelivered text message, which was released by cellphone provider Iridium, indicated the Nina would update its position six hours later, which it never did, Clifford said.

Dyche's fraternal twin sister, Cherie Martinez, is a commercial airline pilot who lives in Chattanooga.

"Nina will either have to be sighted by other ships or limp back to port by her own power," Martinez said Friday in an email, adding, "It's been rough this morning."

Martinez is the mother of Julia Roach. They were among a small group of family and friends who flew to New Zealand just over a year ago for Roach's shipboard wedding to her husband Josh.

"My uncle ... became a minister in order to officially marry us as the captain of the Nina," said Roach, a veterinarian who works at Wally's Friends in Red Bank.

Dyche offered to officiate Roach's wedding years ago after the deaths of her father and stepfather.

One of Roach's friends who accompanied her for the wedding ceremony said something that touched Roach.

"David is not lost," Roach's friend told her. "We just don't know where he is."

Roach said, "I have no doubt he's going to show up with a hell of a story to tell us."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.