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Amateurs Assist with Ocean Rescue

03/23/2011

At 10:04 AM PDT (1704 UTC) on Monday, March 21, Rex Weinheimer, KC5AGO, of Stonewall, Texas -- a member of Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) -- heard and responded to a weak and broken MAYDAY call. The call was from the sailing vessel Gloria Jean, a 30 foot sailboat that was in the Pacific Ocean about 120 miles west of Ensenada, Mexico. Weinheimer heard the distress call on 14.300 MHz, a frequency monitored by the MMSN.

MMSN Net Controller Lee Langford, KG4DZN, told the ARRL that through the combined efforts of several net stations, the net was able to ascertain the situation and the position of the stricken vessel. MMSN operators contacted both the US and Mexican Coast Guards and both services deployed assets to the scene. The US Coast Guard (USCG) dispatched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from San Diego and a C-130 Hercules plane from Sacramento. According to the USCG, the Gloria Jean had no propulsion, food, water or safety equipment.

“The sailing vessel Estarma -- an MMSN net participant -- changed course to assist the crippled Gloria Jean and provided information on scene,” Langford told the ARRL. A USCG rescue swimmer was lowered from the helicopter as it hovered near the disabled sailboat. The 77 year old sailor and his dog were hoisted aboard the helicopter at 2:50 (PDT) that afternoon.

“It was about 15- to 18-foot seas, with the boat dead in the water,” Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Mike Linehan told San Diego television station KGTV. “The waves were pushing it away from me as I was trying to get to it. It was challenging swimming to the boat. It was really hard to talk to him at first. We found out later that he didn’t have his hearing aids in.”

The sailor told USCG personnel that he had been stranded for days and that he was on his way to Tahiti. He was running low on food, water and safety supplies. “The boat was unable to sail,” said USCG Lieutenant Commander Chip Lewin. “The sails were ripped and the master and his dog were sitting inside.”

Langford offered his thanks to all the Amateur Radio operators “who assisted with relays and patiently provided a clear frequency. Without them, this rescue would not have been possible.”

“It’s truly is a wonderful thing to be able to help anyone in need. Amateur Radio is based on service,” Weinheimer said.

The Maritime Mobile Service Net mission is handling traffic from maritime mobiles and deployed service personnel overseas. MMSN operates on 14.300 MHz USB -- a recognized Center of Activity frequency -- with its sister nets Intercontinental Traffic Net and Pacific Seafarer’s Net.  -- Thanks to KGTV San Diego for additional information



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