Chicagoan's empty boat discoveredNovember 17, 2001
BY GARY WISBY STAFF REPORTER
The empty rowboat of Nenad Belic, missing in the North Atlantic since Sept. 30, was found Friday near Shannon, Ireland.
Discovery of the upside-down craft was the final blow to the hopes of his family.
When searchers on Oct. 1 found a floating beacon activated by Belic, "our hearts sank," said Jenifer Clark, a Maryland oceanographer who had been talking with him twice a week.
"But there was no debris, so we thought maybe he was still out there but couldn't communicate with anyone. It gave us false hope."
The Irish and English coast guards combed 1,000 square miles of sea for about a week. Then the search was taken up for several days by private planes hired by the family of the retired Chicago cardiologist. Irish and Spanish fishing boats also continued the search.
"We had told him he needed to have the beacon attached to his body," Clark said. "I told him it was likely he would be capsized."
Belic, 63, had never experienced higher waves than those on the Great Lakes. "I don't think he took it seriously," Clark said.
His enclosed boat was painted yellow, but had a gray bottom. "It was pretty close to the color of the sea," said Jerome Stone, Belic's father-in-law. Had the bottom been yellow too, the boat might have been found sooner, he said.
Rough weather shortly after he took off on May 11 from Massachusetts held Belic up for a month. Otherwise he would have reached land long before the storm season arrived.
Having crossed 2,500 miles of sea, the oarsman was only 230 miles from land. "He was so close," Clark said. "In [the movie] 'The Perfect Storm' they thought it was worth the risk. I think he did too."
Belic sounded happy every time she spoke with him. "He brought some books on tapes, but hadn't listened to a single one of them," Clark said. "He told me he was thinking and whistling."
Stone said: "He was the only person I know of who could be in a rowboat at sea for over four months and enjoy every day. He would describe this feeling of freedom and euphoria, the thrill of being alone on the sea. He was in rapture."
In addition to his wife, Ellen Stone Belic, survivors include
two daughters, Dara and Maia; two sons, Roko and Adrian, and a brother,