ONE naked body, a second with a life jacket, a missing yacht, no mayday call and a lack of debris.
Mystery surrounds what happened to two elderly sailors – one from Duns Creek near Paterson, the other from Victoria – who were just hours from their safe harbour when something as quick as it was catastrophic caused them to enter huge seas in Stockton Bight, where they lost their lives.
The pair, who were on their way from Broken Bay to North Arm Cove, left at 2pm on Thursday and got into trouble sometime overnight. They were found washed up on a remote section of Stockton beach on Friday afternoon.
It is understood the pair, aged 71 and 77, were in constant contact with their families as they moved up the coast. They were last heard from, by relatives, late on Thursday.
It is understood their planned arrival time at North Arm Cove was about midday on Friday, however, when relatives could not raise them, they reported their concerns to authorities.
It is understood their mobile phones went dead about 3.30am.
When they never arrived, a full-scale search was organised along the sometimes treacherous waters of Stockton Bight.
The combined resources of water police, helicopters and surf life savers had found no trace of the men or their eight-metre yacht by Friday afternoon. Then, one of the men’s bodies was discovered by officers ‘‘on waters close to the shore’’, near the renowned Tin City, at around 3.30pm.
A sweep of the beach found the body of the second man 20 minutes later, at the tide mark about 500 metres south of his companion.
One man was naked, possibly because the large seas had ripped his clothing off. The other man, found lying face down and fully-dressed, was still wearing his life jacket.
As light faded on Friday night, police driving onto the beach with lights flashing were passed by recreational fishermen, four-wheel drive enthusiasts and tour guides packing up for the day.
Officers from police rescue had the grim task of driving six kilometres down the remote beach and photographing and retrieving the bodies from where they lay in the damp sand.
It was still unclear whether a dinghy and fuel tank also found washed ashore on Stockton beach, but some distance from the men, were linked to the tragedy.
The fact that there was no mayday call to authorities has baffled investigators. It could suggest the men had no time to call for help.
One theory is the men may have fallen asleep only to wake and find themselves in severe danger before jumping overboard.
Only one of the men had any noticeable injuries – a few marks to his head – but whether that points to their fate may not be known until an autopsy is performed.
Searchers had also not found any trace of their vessel or any debris if it had indeed struck trouble.
It is understood one of the men was from Smiths Gully in Victoria.
A relative of one of the men was travelling from the Hawkesbury area on Friday night to formally identify him. Police are preparing a report for the Coroner.