The winds were 45 knots and the seas 25-30 feet when the aluminium ketch suffered a knockdown and lost its mast this week 1400 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The French flagged yacht Roule ta Bille was returning across the Atlantic to Europe when the incident happened, and, as so often happens today, it was merchant ships as well as traditional rescue authorities that came to the rescue.
The U.S. Coast Guard, reports that they, the Canadian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Halifax, a Canadian Forces CC-130 Hercules and two merchant vessels worked together to rescue the four French sailors more than 1,400 miles east-northeast of Provincetown.
The 600-foot tanker Unique Sunshine, an Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) member, and the 250-foot oil rig tender Maersk Chancellor rescued the sailors after their boat, the 36-foot red-hulled sailboat, reported their predicament by satellite phone to the skipper's father.
JRCC Halifax personnel contacted the first Coast Guard District Command Center staff in Boston at 9:40 p.m., Wednesday, reporting the sailboat had capsized with four people aboard after they received notification from the sailboat captain’s father. The captain called his father in Quebec, Canada, to notify him of their situation and location.
At approximately 9:50 p.m., the District Command Center also received an alert from the boat’s 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, as well as notification from the SPOT GPS messenger response center. SPOT is a commercial emergency system that sends a vessel’s GPS location to the company’s emergency response center.
Unique Sunshine first and provided the sailboat with shelter from the wind and provided the Coast Guard with information while the Maersk Chancellor (pictured) was en route.
'It's great that the sailors have so many means of communication aboard their boat,' said Tim Carton, the search and rescue specialist for the first District Coastguard. 'We recommend all mariners have multiple means of communication, such as marine VHF-FM radio, satellite phone and an emergency beacon, especially if traveling far offshore where cell phone and radio communication to shore could be unreliable. These men went a step further and also had the commercial GPS locator. All these resources helped us ensure we had the correct location of the vessel.'
The Canadian CC-130 was diverted to the sailboat’s location and dropped a sea rescue kit that contains a life raft and survival gear to the sailors.
The Unique Sunshine arrived on scene first and provided the sailboat with shelter from the wind, maintained communications with the sailors and provided the Coast Guard with updated information while the Maersk Chancellor was en route.
The Maersk Chancellor has two rescue vessels and the crew is trained in offshore rescues.
Once the Maersk Chancellor arrived on scene, the oil rig's crew rescued the sailors as the Unique Sunshine continued to shelter the vessels from strong winds and heavy seas.
'The AMVER program is an invaluable resource for us that extends our search and rescue capabilities outside the normal operating area of our Coast Guard assets,' said Chief Petty Officer George Bannon, a search and rescue watchstander at the District Command Center.
AMVER, sponsored by the Coast Guard, is a computer-based voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea.