Coast Guard responding to sailors abandoning ship 172 miles off N.C.

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., is responding to four people in a life raft, 172 miles east of Wilmington, Friday.

The operator of Kekoa, the 50-foot sailboat, called the sailboat owner on shore reporting that the vessel was demasted and sinking. The owner then contacted watch standers at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina at 7:25 a.m.

Coast Guard rescue crews aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Elizabeth City were dispatched to the scene.

The sail boat operator reported all persons aboard the vessel are wearing personal flotation devices, activated their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and have abandoned ship and are in their life raft.

The Coast Guard stresses the importance of having a registered and serviceable EPIRB aboard, and also suggest the following safety tips:

  • Wear your life jacket! 85 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing life jackets. In an emergency there may not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.
  • Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are aboard your boat, as well as destination and arrival plans.
  • Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock.
  • Have nautical charts for the area you’re boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication aboard your vessel. A VHF-radio is the best method of communicating while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area.
  • Mariners may obtain a free vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out to the water. Vessel safety checks are courtesy, penalty-free examinations, which verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations

The Coast Guard wants all mariners to know that beginning Feb. 1, 2009, only distress alerts from 406 MHz beacons will continue to be detected and processed by search and rescue satellites worldwide. Older model Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons or Emergency Locater Transmitters that transmit a distress alert on 121.5 MHz or 243 MHz will not be instantly sent to search and rescue personnel. The only way these signals might be heard is by a passive radio listener tuned in to the 121.5/243 MHz frequencies.

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