Cell phone signal helps rescue five American sailors

After missing for more than a week, five American sailors are safe today. Their sailboat, the Pineapple, developed engine and communication problems after running into bad weather off the coast of Guam. They were lost at sea. A massive search produced no results. Finally one of those on board was able to grab a cell phone signal long enough to call for help.

Relatives and friends of the crew, four male and one female, had reported them missing when the 38-foot catamaran failed to arrive in the Philippines by January 18. Coast guards and rescue authorities from the Philippines, United States, Palau, and the Northern Marianas all searched for the missing sailboat with no results. Yesterday the one female on board managed to contact her husband using her cell phone when the vessel drifted within signal range. The husband called rescuers in Guam to give the boat’s coordinate and the US Coast Guard took it from there.

“The husband confirmed the vessel ran into bad weather and suffered a rudder and radio casualty.” said a statement from the US Coast Guard, adding “This delayed the Pineapple’s voyage but it was never in danger of sinking.”

It sounds like they were pretty lucky though. After searching for 63 hours, the US Coast Guard had found nothing on it’s own. It turns out that the rescue attempt could have been made much easier with some advance planning on the part of the Pineapple’s crew.

“I’m elated for the family and friends of the Pineapple, but compelled to point out that this voyage was made without taking basic, common-sense precautions.” warned Captain Thomas Sparks, U.S. Coast Guard Guam commander.

Apparently no one bothered to file a comprehensive sailing plan which is not required but customary on long sea voyages. Also, the ship had no long-distance communication or emergency distress equipment, also standard on world-class voyages.

They did have a good cell phone signal though.

It is hard not to ask “So, who was service provider?” and/or “What brand was that phone?” Neither have been identified. You can bet we’ll see that one on a future Gadling Gear review though.

Flickr photo by smith