Kayakers found safe during Coast Guard search

A 47-foot rescue boatcrew

USCG file photo by Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangem

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Four kayakers are safe and on their way to Isle Au Haut, Maine, after prompting a Coast Guard search off the southern tip of Vinalhaven Island, Maine, May 12, 2011.

At 1:38 p.m., a kayaker used his cell phone to call Coast Guard Station Rockland, reporting he and another kayaker became separated from two other kayakers in rough seas while on a trip from Hurricane Island, Maine, to Isle Au Haut.

Before the phone connection was lost, station personnel were able to determine a vague location where the kayakers who made the call may have been based on geographic landmarks obtained and aids to navigation in the area.

“Because we lost our connection with the kayaker, we weren’t sure exactly where any of the four kayakers were,” said Lt. Nick Barrow, the command center supervisor at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “So we launched a search for all of them. The initial information we received led us to believe some of the kayaks may have capsized in rough seas and knocked a couple of the kayakers into the cold 46-degree water. Fortunately, the kayakers were wearing lifejackets and survival suits, which would have greatly increased their chances of surviving the cold water.”

The kayakers were not ejected from their kayaks.

Coast Guard Sector Northern New England immediately issued an urgent marine broadcast requesting mariners in the area to be on the lookout for the kayakers. A 47-foot Motor Life Boat from Coast Guard Station Rockland and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod launched to begin the search.

Good Samaritans aboard a ferry and two fishing boats in the area heard the broadcast and joined in the search. Maine Marine Patrol also assisted in the search.

The Station Rockland crew located two of the kayakers around 3:10 p.m., in their kayaks, just north of Brimstone Island, within the search area.

Approximately 10 minutes later while the helicopter crew was on scene searching, the other two kayakers were found in their kayaks by one of the fishing boats assisting in the search, between Vinalhaven Island and Isle Au Haut.

“It was great at least one of them had a cell phone and made the call to us for help,” said Barrow, “But this case also highlights the importance of having a hand-held marine VHF radio onboard as the primary means of communicating distress to the Coast Guard, as cell phone connections can often be unreliable in remote areas.”

The on-scene weather was northeast winds blowing 10-15 knots and gusting up to 20 knots with a small craft advisory in effect.

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