Ship rescues 3 stranded in rough seas off Hawaii

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 11, 2014 at 9:14 pm •  Published: August 11, 2014
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HONOLULU (AP) — A container ship crew on Monday rescued three men who were stranded in a sailboat off the Hawaiian islands for about 24 hours as Hurricane Julio battered their vessel with giant waves and high winds that ripped off one of its hatches.

The sailors made it onto the container ship at about 8 a.m. and were in good condition, Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Gene Maestas said.

The men got into trouble while sailing the 42-foot Walkabout from California to Hawaii, Maestas said. The Coast Guard said it received their message for help Sunday morning after the boat became disabled and started taking on water about 400 miles northeast of Oahu.

The sailboat was stranded in 30-foot seas and winds of 92 to 115 mph, according to the agency. The rough conditions broke the vessel's mast, tossed its life raft overboard and blew off one of its hatches, worsening the flooding, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.

"Those are pretty much some of the worst conditions you could be in," Molle said. "The fact that they were rescued and there were no injuries reported — that's amazing."

The Coast Guard coordinated the rescue with the Matson Inc. container ship, which started out in Long Beach, California, and was on its way to Honolulu to deliver goods.

The sailboat was "so far away we could not send a helicopter that could make the journey," Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said. The container ship was the closest vessel that could help.

While the container ship was en route, a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane from Oahu unsuccessfully tried to drop supplies to the sailboat, including water pumps and life rafts.

In normal conditions, the plane's crew can drop a sandwich bag full of sand from 75 feet in the air with pinpoint accuracy, but dropping the supplies in hurricane conditions was futile, said Chris Canales, the plane's navigator.

When the Coast Guard crew made radio contact with the sailboat's captain, he reported having high blood pressure and chest pain from trying to bail water out of the boat, said avionics electrician technician Graham Gentry.

"There was some relief, but still he was on edge, obviously, considering the circumstances," Gentry said. "You could hear stuff clanging around. You could almost hear them bailing water out."

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