Coast Guard, partners rescue ocean rower off Tahiti

Photos courtesy of the merchant vessel Baker Spirit crew and Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircrew

Photos courtesy of the merchant vessel Baker Spirit crew and Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircrew

HONOLULU — Coast Guard, Rescue Coordination Center Tahiti, and merchant vessel Baker Spirit crews rescued a mariner in distress 1,210 nautical miles north of Tahiti, Friday.

An Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew located the mariner after being given his last known location by RCC Tahiti and conducted three drops of life saving equipment to include food rations, life rafts, and communication equipment.

“This recent search and rescue operation stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment and remarkable capabilities of our international partners,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Birkner, a search and rescue duty officer at Coast Guard District 14. “The outcome of this search and rescue case highlights the significance of effective communication between our partners in the Pacific, the diligence of our aircrews, and willingness to assist from high seas mariners.”

At 6:30 a.m., May 28, Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand received notification that the ocean rower “Smiles,” with one person aboard, was in need of assistance after losing battery, navigation, and communication systems due to sea waves while crossing the South Pacific.

The mariner in distress had been posting his trip on social media which led to his fans notifying RCC New Zealand about their concerns.

Upon notification, RCC New Zealand contacted RCC Alameda requesting assistance who then diverted two merchant vessels, the Voyager and the Mandalay, to assist in the search.

On May 31, JRCC Tahiti assumed primary search and rescue responsibility after receiving alerts for the vessel in distress approximately 1,240 nautical miles northeast of Tahiti. JRCC Tahiti requested three nearby merchant vessels to join in the search while a safety net broadcast continued.

Upon notification, an Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew, in Tahiti assisting with a separate search and rescue mission, flew four hours before arriving on scene, locating the master of the Smiles within a life raft, and conducting equipment drop-offs.

At approximately 1:08 PM, Friday, the merchant vessel Baker Spirit recovered the mariner and is now enroute to Oahu.

The mariner was reported to be in stable condition.

*All times are in Hawaii Standard Time (HST)

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