Coast Guard rescues sailor off of Fort Bragg, Calif.

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – A Canadian sailor was rescued by the Coast Guard after he abandoned his sailboat 55 miles west of Fort Bragg, Calif., Sunday evening.

At 6:55 p.m., the Coast Guard received a mayday broadcast from the sailing vessel Amica after the 27-foot boat lost its rudder and was knocked over by steep waves and gale force winds.

After receiving the mayday call, Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay dispatched a 47’ motor lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Noyo River, the Coast Guard Cutter Dorado from Crescent City, Calif., and an MH-65C helicopter from Air Station Humboldt Bay. The 26-year old skipper of the Amica reported he was alone and had plans to sail from Vancouver, Canada to San Francisco. He was seven days into his transit from Neah Bay, Wash., when he lost his rudder and began drifting.

The Coast Guard helicopter reached the Amica at approximately 8 p.m., and established communications with the sailor.

“Due to the relatively small size of the vessel and the numerous white capped waves and fairly large swell, it was difficult to spot the vessel, even with an accurate GPS position,” said Lt. Todd Vorenkamp, the helicopter pilot. “Thankfully, the rescue swimmer spotted the sailboat as we flew around the position the Amica had passed.”

“Fortunately for him, Amica’s captain was prepared for his ocean voyage and was equipped with a personal locator beacon, survival suit, GPS, and marine VHF radio,” said Lt. j.g. Brent Hardgrave, co-pilot. Getting into the survival suit before abandoning his boat into the cold waters of the Pacific was, definitely, the right thing to do.”

After the skipper abandoned ship the helicopter moved over him and rescue swimmer Petty Officer 1st Class James Force jumped out of the helicopter into 12-foot seas. Force swam to the Amica’s captain and signaled that the man was ready for hoisting by the helicopter.

The flight mechanic, Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Syndes, quickly rigged the rescue basket to the helicopter’s hoist and lowered the device to Force and the survivor. Then, Sydnes hoisted the sailor into the aircraft and retrieved Force as a 15-foot swell washed over him.

After the rescue, the helicopter crew flew to Ukiah Airport where EMS took the sailor into medical custody.

The Coast Guard recommends that all mariners undertaking an ocean voyage stock their vessel with safety gear including life jackets, survival suits, a marine VHF radio, GPS, and an emergency beacon.

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