Legends of Diving Articles


Joe Strykowski
Author of Books on Understanding the Oceans

Reunion, Madagascar - Quen Cultra has spent a good portion of his life building a pair of oceangoing sailboats at his home amid eastern Illinois' corn fields and piloting them around the world.

Now his relatives and U.S. Coast Guard officials say they're looking for the 69-year-old Quen Cultra of Gilman and marine naturalist Joe Strykowski of Crystal

River, Fla., who they say are missing in the Indian Ocean after one of those crafts capsized in a storm off Madagascar.

Another member of the crew, 56-year-old Leo Sherman of Gilman, Ill., was found Thursday clinging to the hull of the vessel, a 43-foot catamaran called the Queequeg II.

After swimming into the capsized boat a week ago Friday, French naval divers have given up their search, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"They did numerous dives into the vessel and were not able to locate anybody inside the boat," Petty Officer Stephanie Strivens said Friday from Miami. The Coast Guard station

Joe Strykowski

there received an emergency signal from the boat via satellite and alerted rescue crews on Reunion, a French-controlled island east of Madagascar.

Divers searched for the two missing men Friday, said Strykowski's daughter, Nicole, of Oregon state, but their efforts turned up nothing. She said her family is distraught over the decision to call off the search. They hold firm to the belief that her father could be alive.

"This is not your average man lost at sea. This is someone with a really good shot of surviving," she said, adding that her father always stressed safety first.

She said Cultra and her father have been friends for 40 years.

Strykowski, 76, who lives in Florida, is the author of a number of books on diving and the environment. He holds a doctorate in environmental studies and is the founder of The Star Thrower Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of ocean wildlife. His daughters said he grew up in Portage Park and has always considered Chicago his home base despite his extensive travels.

"He lived his life on boats and in the water," Nicole Strykowski said. "He's an adventurer."

Coast Guard officials say a private vessel pulled Sherman from the hull of the catamaran. Sherman told his rescuers that Cultra was swept overboard Tuesday.

"They said he was swimming toward the vessel and then a very large wave came and took him under and they didn't see him again," Petty Officer James Harless told The (Kankakee) Daily Journal.

According to the Coast Guard, Sherman said he and Strykowski spent the next day and a half in the vessel's cabin before deciding that the water inside was rising too high and they needed to swim out.

Sherman said the two were attached at their waists by a rope, but he never saw Strykowski after they left the cabin.

Sherman's daughter, Melissa Sherman said Friday she's still hopeful the other two men will be found alive. She declined to comment further.

Nicole Strykowski said her father and Cultra began their latest adventure in September 2007 and had tentatively planned to return to the United States this summer. The Web site Queequeg II - Around the World chronicled the trip.


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