Two French sailors disappear…along with a brand new boat worth a quarter million dollars.

A black and white headshot of Yves Emmanuel, a middle aged french man with a mustache.

Yves Emmanuel

Missing: Yves Emmanuel

Gender: Male
DOB: 1954
Height: 6’1”
Hair: Brown

A young french man, Laurent Hernas, with short brown hair and a blue shirt.

Laurent Hernas

Missing: Laurent Hernas

Gender: Male
DOB: 8/13/66
Hair: Brown

CASE DETAILS

It seemed like a routine incident at the time. A car heading towa. There were two men in the front seat and two in the back. Corporal Al Belanger, a security officer at a nearby naval base, made the stop:

“I approached the vehicle on the driver’s side, and said, ‘Good evening, can I see your license and registration?’ At that point I got virtually no response. I figured maybe he didn’t hear me, so I asked him again.”

Someone holding a missing poster for the two french men.

The search began for the missing boat

And again, there was no reply. Balanger recalls that one of the men in the back seat suddenly spoke a few words in a foreign language. Only then did the driver produce a passport. After checking the ID, Balanger decided not to give the driver a ticket for speeding:

“I never got any response from him. He never said ‘yes’ or ‘thank you’. The two guys in the front seat never spoke a word. I told them to slow it down and be careful.”

While reading his newspaper the next morning, Officer Belanger was startled to find photos of the two men he had seen in the front seat of the car. According to the paper, they were French sailors who were supposedly missing at sea. They had recently been the focus of an intense search by the United States Coast Guard.

The article identified the men as 37-year old Yves Emmanuel Pain and 24-year old Laurent Hernas. They had been hired to deliver a new sailboat to its new owners.

A dark compact car driving down a road at night.

Who was the third man in the car?

The vessel was a state of the art Antigua catamaran worth nearly a quarter-million dollars. It was outfitted with high-tech radar, a satellite tracking unit, and electronic navigation equipment…the most sophisticated craft of its kind. The Antigua’s unique construction made it “unsinkable” and virtually undetectable to radar. It was a perfect vessel for transporting weapons or drugs.

The two sailors had embarked on a 2,500-mile voyage from Annapolis, Maryland, to the island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. They planned to sail down the Chesapeake Bay, around Cape Hatteras, then parallel the East Coast before heading to Guadeloupe.

But the Antiqua failed to arrive on schedule and the Coast Guard was notified. Lt. Commander Jim Howe directed the search team:

“We searched for a little over two weeks. We also alerted all the cutters and aircraft who searched throughout the Caribbean every day for other things. Never saw one sight of the vessel. It never showed up, have never seen it since.”

A pilot in the cockpit of a small plane.

The coast guard searched for them

The Coast Guard discovered that the Antigua had been sighted a number of times, but not on the open sea. The boat was spotted several miles off course in what is known as the Intracoastal Waterway. The Waterway is a protected inland passage that stretches thousands of miles, from New England through Florida. Nobody can explain what the boat was doing there.

Two of Yves Emmanuel’s friends flew from France to South Carolina to launch their own investigation. They began by retracing the catamaran’s route. Their first stop was a bridge, 90 miles north of Charleston. There, they talked to a bridge tender, who remembered seeing the two sailors on the Antigua catamaran. But the tender had seen something else…there had been a third man on the boat.

Two large sailing boats pass by a raised bridge.

The boat was spotted several times

The mysterious “third passenger” was sighted by at least five different witnesses along the Waterway. Each reported that the man did not seem threatening — leading to rumors that perhaps one, or both, of the Frenchmen had been involved in stealing the boat. But, their families and friends don’t accept that theory. They argued that the third man might have commandeered the boat and forced the two Frenchmen to sail it.

Were the French sailors held against their will? Were they with their captors when officer Balanger stopped the speeding car near the marina? Or did the two crewmen fool everyone…and make off with prize worth nearly a quarter-million dollars?


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    aa

    damn

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    Ginger

    If Yves Emmanuel and his friend were ever members of the French military we have our answer.

    If they were and we add 1.) They were last seen sailing in a restricted USA military zone 2.) The last time they were seen was by a police man attached to the US Navy’s “near by” Weapons base.
    I think we can take a quite reasoned guess at to what became of them.

    In short. I think they were caught spying.

    If they did ever have any association with the French military, i think its a real possibility. Of course, the military connections could be coincidental.

    But stand back and look at what we do know. Secret US Weapons base, sailing in a restricted US military zone. And vague information about delivering a new boat, which are usually delivered by the company that makes and sells them. These facts, along with the lack of information, and the French government’s lack of interest (not to mention the French medias lethargy regarding the incident ), lead me to believe their disappearance was linked to espionage.

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Jennabeth

    Jean Michel, I am so sorry. I hope you someday have the answers you need. G-d bless you.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    i mean, however the 3rd person was had to know how to speak their language and be able to translate from English to french from time to time which means this person knew that they spoke French. I’m not saying it’s not possible that they were being held against their will, however one man holding 2 other men hostage can be outrageous. Maybe they needed an English speaking person to assist them in smuggling the boat. How were neither one of them able to call for help? Or maybe they were tricked into sailing the boat some place else. But if the boat was scheduled to go to one destination I’d feel like there could’ve been more done to get it there or signal for help.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Laurence Ternois

    bonjour y a t il des nouvelles de Laurent. je le connais depuis enfants. je n en reviens toujours . est il encore en vie merci .
    Laurence

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Ben P

      Just speculating here but Florida is a massive hub for drug smuggling. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were forced/tricked in to taking it to or near Florida where it was loaded with weapons (often drugs are sent in to the US and weapons are sent on the way back) and made to sail somewhere where it was loaded with drugs outside of the US but they were killed beforehand.

      The police officer may have seen them while they were being held against their will perhaps waiting for it to be loaded for another trip. Maybe they were cohersed to do it but also paid so feared being arrested and not believed may have gone along with it thinks it was their only way out.

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Jimmy bitts

      R.I.P.

      Reply

  6. Avatar

    isabelle

    IM sure he ‘s alive. ..

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    Person

    I think maybe they were lovers and ran away

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Jean Michel Pain

    I am “Yves-Emmanuel’s” cousin ..

    I have sailed with him several times when i was a teenager in the late 80th.
    I knew his girlfriend, Isabelle, and we have been in 1991 desperately searching for clues.
    Nothing ever came up except what is wriiten in this article.
    We have been searching for days…
    I miss him so much !!!!
    More than a cousin, he was like my Big Brother…
    Sometimes, i even dream that he planed this, hence… he is still alive somewhere…
    I know it is stupid, but i plan to see him again…. one day…
    Je t’Aime Yvé !!!!!!

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Al

    There is very little info. Which Naval base? Car description and state of registration?

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    Kathleen Peiffer

    When did this happen?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      unsolved

      The sailors were hired in October of 1991, and were possibly seen again December 22, 1991.

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Jean Michel Pain

      The Skipper’s name is PAIN.
      I am his cousin.
      In october 1991, the horrible news broke in, in our family…
      Yvé… “Iv-aie” was considered lost at sea…
      I was supposed to be on this trip…
      Please !!!!!!!! Anyone who knows about this, please email me at :
      [email protected]

      Reply

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