Thanks to ARRL for the following info.
HAM RADIO INSTRUMENTAL IN PACIFIC MARITIME RESCUE
Amateur Radio played a critical role May 4 and 5 in rescuing two people from
a foundering sailboat that had been en route to Colombia. Members of the
Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) and Intercontinental Net on 14.300 MHz
were involved in getting the man and woman aboard the 35-foot s/v Sailabout
to safety after they ran into trouble some 700 nautical miles southwest of
the Galapagos Islands in the South Pacific.
The couple, identified as Gunnar Hansen and Grethe Haraldsen, both Norwegian
nationals and neither an amateur licensee, put out a Mayday call on the
Intercon/MMSN 14.300 MHz frequency the morning of May 4 after Sailabout
sustained damage to its bow -- possibly as a result of losing a forestay,
which helps to keep the mast upright -- and started taking on water. Thanks
to its efficient pumps, the sailboat remained afloat.
The main concern was for the mast, which supported the antenna for the
vessel's HF radio. Fortunately, it remained standing. The conversation on
the MMSN reportedly was widely monitored by others in the sailing and
cruising communities. The Sailabout had only recently been equipped with an
HF SSB transceiver.
According to an account Assistant MMSN Manager Tom Job, VE3II, posted on the
net's Web site < http://www.mmsn.org/events/sailabout.html>
, handling the
incident involved multiple stations and relays to contend with problematic
propagation. Sonny Sides, N5OTB, on s/v Valentina, and Doug Reinthal, W7DUG,
relayed the Sailabout's Mayday on 14.300 MHz to Intercon Net Control Station
Wes Mullenax, KI0A, in Texas. Because of poor propagation, however, KI0A had
rough copy on the vessel's signal, so he turned the frequency over to
Fletcher Henderson, KA4BPR, in Alabama. Another report credits Ernie Polack,
6Y5RP, in Jamaica with intercepting the Mayday and assisting via
intermittent radio contacts and relays during the first few hours of the
event to get information to the Coast Guard. Compounding the urgency of the
situation were six to eight-foot seas and winds of 16 to 18 knots.
Amateur Radio relays alerted the US Coast Guard at Alameda, California, to
the Sailabout's predicament. At the Coast Guard's request, relayed via ham
radio, Hansen set off the vessel's Emergency Position Indicating Radio
. Job says Henderson -- assisted by several other stations --
passed critical information to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard contacted
and attempted to divert two vessels to the Sailabout's assistance, although
only one, m/v Belnor -- a Norwegian freighter -- eventually reached the
Another boat, s/v Damarri, reported some 50 miles distant, learned of the
situation. MMSN says Sailabout was able to get under way and changed its
course toward Damarri, which was sailing into the weather in an effort to
rendezvous with Sailabout. Once on scene, the Damarri's crew kept watch
through the night from a safe distance to avoid collision in the rough seas
but did not attempt to take Hansen and Haraldsen aboard. At the time, the
distressed vessel was contending with 14-foot seas and 25-knot winds. When
outside radio contact essentially became impossible, the MMSN secured for
The m/v Belnor arrived the next morning and took the couple aboard, while
Damarri's crew confirmed the rescue via radio. The couple was reported to be
in good health and spirits but had to abandon their vessel. The Belnor was
believed headed for Panama.
Throughout the ordeal, various Amateur Radio stations -- some of which
simply stood by if needed -- made themselves available to update the Coast
Guard, which never had direct contact with Sailabout.
SOURCES: MMSN/Intercon Net; Jack Richards, W4QVA; SailboatOwners.com,
Aftenposten, S/V Sailabout Web site - ARRL