The disappearance of Thomas Tangvald, part 2

I have just found some new information regarding Thomas’ disappearance which I wrote about back in 2014 as the first post of this blog. I’m not sure of the validity of the source but given that it features a previously unseen photo (as far as I’m aware) of Peter Tangvald’s L’Artemis de Pytheas, in color, coupled with the author claiming to have met Thomas in Cayenne personally, I think there might at least be some amount of truth to it. This article seems to have been published in April 2017 but I haven’t been able to get through the “research-wall” to read (what I assume is) the original.

L'Artemis de Pytheas

Rare color photo of L’Artemis de Pytheas

If you read French you can check out the source here:

If you like me cannot read French, here’s a translation by (supreme alternative to Google Translate for the languages it supports) of this tragic ending to a beautiful sailor soul:

The son

In 1977, as the Artemis de Pytheas crossed the Bay of Bengal and the entrance to the Strait of Malacca, Thomas was born on board his parents’ boat. Quickly orphaned by his mother following a pirate attack in the China Sea in 1979, his youth was naturally very much linked to his father’s life, but also to navigation and the sea, having known nothing else at the time. His maritime youth took a second turn a few years later following Peter’s disappearance when the family boat crashed on the reefs of Bonaire in 1988.

He was then taken in by a friend of his father’s in Andorra, before heading for England for his university studies in naval architecture and fluid mechanics. After graduating, he bought a small cutter Melody and set sail again, without engine as he had left it, and crossed the Atlantic to Puerto Rico. He settled there with a young “local” girl. When Melody was no longer seaworthy, he bought an old traditional Puerto Rico fishing boat, the Oasis, which he considered to be one of the best yachts for coastal and offshore sailing. He first transformed it into a racing boat with which he participated locally in regattas, and then into a cruise ship to leave Puerto Rico with his family (the couple then had one child). In 2013, wishing to settle in Brazil, he and his wife decided that their second child would be born there in order to facilitate the administrative installation. So they leave the American island for the south. The second child was born in Oyapoque, then the family moved back to French Guiana, a place that Thomas knows very little about (he just made a short stopover there in 81 with his father) but to which he is very attached. This little retrace of their steps seems at first to be just a short stopover, but it became much longer than expected and will be the origin of the drama of Thomas’ life.

Thomas and Guyana

Back in French Guiana and 2 children later, Thomas lands with his family at the Degrad Des Cannes pontoons. Initially delighted to set foot on this territory again, he soon fell apart, because from the very first days, after having left his boat unattended at the pontoon, as he says he has done in all the other marinas in the world, he found it lying at 45° and the lively works largely out of water. Indeed, the 200 kg of ballast of his wooden boat have been stolen and the lightness of his boat means that it is almost entirely out of water and exposed to the harsh sunlight of the Guyanese dry season.

Buying back 200 kg of lead quickly in order to reimmerse the boat is impossible given the couple’s financial means. Oasis suffers very quickly from the sun, the wood shrinking as it dries and creating waterways all over the part below the waterline.

The months pass in Cayenne and what was supposed to be a quick passage turns into a calvary. Even though shipbuilding equipment is more accessible on the territory than in his father’s time, he lacks specialized and especially cheap equipment to quickly repair his sailboat. In the turmoil, his wife decides to go back to Puerto Rico with the children, and so he finds himself alone with his boat, keeping in mind as sole objective to reach Natal as soon as possible so that his family can meet him there and they can start a new life together, Brazilian this time.

Hanging around the marina a lot, it was at this time that I met Thomas. I spend a lot of time talking with him and discovering his story. I also try to help him, with my limited means, to tinker with his boat. His boat having deteriorated greatly, it becomes uninhabitable and Thomas finds a makeshift accommodation in a squat in Cayenne, in the company of a family of illegal Bolivian exiles. His daily life is limited to cycling to and from the marina to work on his sailboat, but it is difficult for him to keep his spirits up as the restoration is progressing very slowly. Life in the squat is also complicated because of the constant, round-the-clock checks by the border police. Knowing the little risk he runs, having the right papers, he takes a particular care to put himself “in the front line” during the controls in order to allow his roommates to flee and thus avoid them a passage to the Administrative Detention Center of Matoury. In spite of his morale, he managed to regain confidence in early 2014 and to see the end of this bad period. The Oasis is beginning to become navigable again, even if it is still very fragile. Thomas decides to leave the squat to rehabilitate his sailboat and spend more time each day working on its restoration. A small contract as a naval architect with a Guyanese aluminium hull builder (which he qualifies as a “new boat”) is signed.


In March 2014, in the midst of a depressive relapse, he decided to test his yacht by going as far as l’îlet la Mère. He then realized that Oasis was still taking on a lot of water, which would not improve his morale. He will then spend a few days working intensively on the final repairs and preparations. Unfortunately, his morale is at its lowest and therefore at the worst moment that he decides on a whim to leave for Brazil. Having never arrived in Natal, Thomas Tangvald was definitively declared missing at sea in May 2014. Since then no trace of Thomas or his boat has been found.

(disclaimer: as translated by, no edits made)


Looks like it was a combination of bad luck, unfortunate circumstances, combined with recklessness, brought on by desperation, along with the accompanying anxiousness, which lead him to ultimately head out to sea unprepared. And the rest of the world will never know what he had left in store.

3 comments on “The disappearance of Thomas Tangvald, part 2
  1. I was on a circumnavigation throughout the younger Tangvald’s early orphaned life but had read about the older Tangvald’s sailing adventures including his wreck on the north shore of Bonaire. Today prompted by the latest Compass Magazine, March 2023, I reviewed the life of Thomas Tangvald by browsing an article in Sail Magazine and others which led me to the above translation. I consider what is described therein as eminently credible and would suggest that sadly, it tells the end of the Tangvard Saga.

  2. bonaire has been kn own for its ship wrecks and has had its fill, I never thought I would live to actually be part of one, yes the Tangvald ship wreck at Washikemba Bonaires the east coast where he lost his younger sister and father. A windsurfer board he had bought here on an earlier visit saved his life, he paddled to shore…I hope to meet his sister he did not know he had from his dads previous marriage soon in Bonaire, what a kind young boy he was…

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