The Pacific Seafarer’s Net relayed a call for help and contacted the US Coast Guard on September 28, after the SV Rafiki began taking on water some 230 miles south of Cold Bay, Alaska. At approximately 0300 UTC, Charles Houlihan, KD6SPJ, a net relay station, received the distress call from the sailboat’s caption. Houlihan, who was also at sea in SV Jacaranda, contacted Randy VanLeeuwen, KH6RC, a net relay station in Hawaii. He, in turn, got in touch with Hawaii USCG District 14 to report the incident and provide Rafiki’s location. The Hawaii USCG district then contacted the 17th USCG District in Alaska, which effected the rescue. VanLeeuwen kept in constant radio contact with the Rafiki until contact with lost. Fred Moore, W3ZU, in Florida, and Peter Mott, ZL1PWM, in New Zealand, also were on frequency and in contact with the vessel’s captain until a US Coast Guard rescue helicopter arrived.
The Jayhawk helicopter crew was able to hoist the captain and a crew member to safety at around 1000 UTC, after dropping survival suits. Both men were reported to be uninjured, but the vessel was abandoned. The two men were taken to Kodiak, Alaska, for medical attention.
The incident occurred just before the net’s daily roll-call, when a call is put out for medical, emergency, or priority traffic. The Pacific Seafarer’s Net convenes daily on 14.300 MHz at 0300 UTC to monitor the progress of maritime Amateur Radio operators sailing in the Pacific. Net control stations are located around the world. Traffic consists of daily position reporting and automatic posting of positions on several websites, message handling via e-mail relay, health-and-welfare traffic, phone patch services, search-and-rescue coordination, and vessel equipment inventories for search-and-rescue operations. Net control stations keep computer databases of participating vessels and their movements.
“This case emphasizes the importance of proper survival gear for the harsh and challenging Alaskan environment,” said Adam De Rocher, a senior search-and-rescue controller at USCG District 17. “The more prepared the better. Boaters making long transits are encouraged to have survival suits and life jackets for each person aboard, a life raft, a communication device such as a satellite phone, flares and an EPIRB. These items increase boaters’ chances of survival in an emergency situation.” — Thanks to the Pacific Seafarer’s Net and the US Coast Guard
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