Unsure how to sail, not knowing how to deploy their anchor, out of fuel and essentially lost just nine miles north of St. Croix, the new owners of a sailboat deployed the boat’s emergency beacon Tuesday morning and waited for rescue.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received the Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon — EPIRB — alert from the sailing vessel Destination at 11:02 a.m. Tuesday and diverted a Coast Guard boat crew from St. Croix from a training mission and launched an Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to search for any signs of the boat, according to a Coast Guard press release.
Contacted by phone, the Destination’s previous owner told the Coast Guard the boat had been sold and the new owner had apparently not updated the EPIRB’s registration information.
Shortly thereafter, Coast Guard watchstanders received a phone call from the two boaters, who admitted to being inexperienced mariners unfamiliar with using a GPS or operating the vessel’s radio, and not having access to the vessel’s flare kits, according to the Coast Guard.
Using geographic references, the Coast Guard was able to locate the vessel at approximately 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, just west of Salt River Bay. The St. Croix-based 33-foot Special Purpose Craft then towed the adrift sailboat to Christiansted, where they conducted a post search and rescue boarding.
While safe, the day probably didn’t get much better for the new sailors, as the Coast Guard ordered the journey terminated due to unsafe operations and for not having a garbage and oil placard — essentially a small sign that has rules for how to dispose of garbage and oil.
“We are glad to have been able to assist and bring these mariners and their vessel to safety,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dillon Nether, Coast Guard coxswain for the case. “It’s of critical importance to always be familiar with your vessel and safety equipment before heading out on the water. This knowledge could save your life and the lives of everyone else on board your vessel.”
“Coast Guard Rescue Sub Center San Juan urges all EPIRB owners to maintain their registration information updated with the most current emergency contact information within the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration database,” said Chief Petty Officer Ricardo Santacana, Coast Guard Sector San Juan command duty officer. “This saves critical time during the investigation and prosecution of search and rescue cases involving EPIRBs, and could very well be the difference in a successful rescue.”