A 67-year-old man adrift for several weeks on board a disabled sailboat was rescued hundreds of miles miles off the coast of Alaska with help from a 984-foot containership and the U.S. Coast Guard.
At approximately 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Coast Guard District 17 command center watchstanders received a distress alert from the sailing vessel Miss Lilly, in which the man aboard reported his vessel to be disabled and adrift roughly 500 nautical miles south-southwest of Dutch Harbor, and he was in need of assistance.
The distress alert was communicated from the man’s 406Mhz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) to a search and rescue satellite that relayed the message to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Due to the long distance to the position, command center personnel requested assistance from nearby commercial vessels using the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) system. The Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast across a 100 nautical mile radius from the distress position to request local assistance for the stranded man using an Enhanced Group Call (EGC) over a satellite e-mail system known as Inmarsat C.
District 17 command center personnel diverted the 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Mellon and launched an Air Station Kodiak C-130J Hercules aircraft to assist with the search and provide a communications platform during the search.
The crew of U.S.-flagged containership President Eisenhower responded and diverted 30 nautical miles to assist the sailing vessel Miss Lilly. The President Eisenhower arrived on-scene and established verbal communications with the man who wanted to abandon his vessel and come on board due to his vessel no longer being safe or seaworthy. The crew of the motor vessel President Eisenhower launched one of their small boats, retrieved the distressed sailor and brought him aboard.
A 67-year-old man rows a small dinghy away from his disabled and adrift 28-foot sailing vessel Miss Lilly to the containership President Eisenhower. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)
On-scene weather was 10 miles visibility, calm winds, two-foot seas, overcast skies and an air temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This individual is very lucky the motor vessel President Eisenhower was relatively close and answered our urgent broadcast to assist-their efforts are commendable,” said Adam DeRocher, the District 17 Senior Search and Rescue Controller. “The sailing vessel Miss Lilly was so far away from our assets it would have taken much longer for us to arrive on scene to assist.
“For this case, the Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon and Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue components of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System quickly notified the Coast Guard and helped connect the motor vessel President Eisenhower to the sailing vessel Miss Lilly, ultimately saving this man’s life. All of the sailing vessel’s sails were ripped, the engine was inoperable and the electronics all failed except for his EPIRB, which he activated in distress. It is so important to have multiple distress devices on board so you can let people know you need help and are in distress.”
The disabled and adrift 28-foot sailing vessel Miss Lilly is seen through the window of the President Eisenhower, approximately 575 miles south southwest of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, June 4, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)