Warning: A graphic photo of the sailor’s mummified remains appears at the end of this article.
German sailor Manfred Fritz Bajorat began a new journey on his yacht, Sayo, after his wife died from cancer in 2010.
The couple had sailed together for years and had begun their first worldwide sailing trip in 2008. Media reports suggest Manfred Fritz Bajorat traveled the world by sea for 20 years. They sailed to Martinique, however, where she died, the Local reported. She was 53.
So, he set off alone on a new voyage that October, traveling between Europe and the Pacific. Six years later, the Sayo was found off the coast of Philippines, 12,400 miles away, drifting and damaged, with Manfred Fritz Bajorat’s mummified body resting behind a desk, reaching for the radio.
Investigators call his death a “riddle” and a “mystery.” No one knows when he died or how. And according to the Telegraph, Manfred Fritz Bajorat, 59, was last seen in 2009, though a friend heard from him through social media last year.
An autopsy on the man’s mummified remains found no evidence of foul play, and suggests he died of natural causes, the Independent added. The working theory is that the man died while attempting to call someone after suffering an unexpected emergency.
Manfred Fritz Bajorat and the Sayo were discovered by Filipino fishermen last Thursday. The 40-foot yacht was found drifting and half-submerged during a routine fishing trip off the coast off Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island. It was 40 miles off the coast.
The ship was in rough shape — its main sail was broken and most of the cabin was underwater. The fishermen went on board to investigate and found tins of food, clothes, photo albums, and valuables scattered around the cabin.
Behind the desk and apparently reaching for the radio, they spied a grisly sight: the mummified remains of a man. The deputy police chief of Barobo town on the island, Insp Navales, said the man was slumped over his right arm “like he was sleeping.”
“It is still a mystery to us.”
Manfred Fritz Bajorat was only identified by paperwork found on the boat.
A German forensic criminologist, Dr. Mark Benecke, said that “the way he is sitting seems to indicate that death was unexpected, perhaps from a heart attack.”
The scene offered some clues, but mostly added to that mystery. There were no signs of a struggle or evidence that anyone else had been on board the yacht. Though Manfred Fritz Bajorat’s cause of death wasn’t immediately apparent, but there were no signs of foul play and no weapons were found. His wallet was missing, but the boat’s valuables — a radio, GPS, and other items — were still board, ruling out a robbery.
However, some personal items on board have helped investigators piece together the sailor’s life — and it’s a sorrowful tale.
Manfred Fritz Bajorat wrote a 30-word letter to his dead wife, Claudia (the Telegraph reported that the pair split up in 2008, but the Local didn’t corroborate that fact). The words appear to be his last and were posted on an online forum for German sailors.
“Thirty years we’ve been together on the same path. Then the power of the demons was stronger than the will to live. You’re gone. May your soul find its peace. Your Manfred.”
He was also surrounded by family photos, including snapshots of trips in Paris and Luxembourg, and one of the man holding a baby, possibly his daughter, captioned “Our first time with our little Button on the sea.”
Unconfirmed reports spoke of a daughter who’s the captain of a freight vessel, but those couldn’t be confirmed. According to the Guardian, the authorities are trying to reach his family and friends in hope they can add clues to the mystery.
Back in 2009 in Mallorca, another sailor, named Dieter, said he met Manfred Fritz Bajorat, and described the fellow yachtsman as experienced.
“I don’t believe he would have sailed into a storm. I believe the mast broke after Manfred was already dead.”
The authorities believe that his body was preserved by ocean winds, hot temperatures, and the salty air.
[Photo via Barobo Police Station Facebook]