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

Breaking: Coast Guard issues safety alerts in wake of Carnival Splendor fire

In a Marine Safety Alert issued yesterday the US Coast Guard urges ship owners to verify and test their Fixed Fire Fighting systems to be sure they work right.

The two Coast Guard alerts “refer to the Carnival Splendor” and the fire that shut down the ship November 8, 2010 verified marine industry journal Professional Mariner.

Noting the ship’s crew responded correctly, the Coast Guard said the disabling fire was “responded to and extinguished by the vessel’s quick response team firefighters using portable extinguishing equipment.”

Where the alert part of this development comes into play refers to Splendor’s fixed firefighting system which had been recently inspected but failed to operate as designed. It seems the directions on how to operate the system and how it actually operates are different, what the Coast Guard called “a recipe for failure”.

The Coast Guard issued a strong recommendation for ship builders and owners to verify and test installations to insure they will “operate correctly during an emergency”.

As Gadling reported previously, propulsion systems, electricity, climate control, water and entertainment were all disabled, and the ship was stuck 200 miles off the coast of San Diego as a result of the fire.

Flickr photo by gnr

Camera travels 1,100 miles by sea… and turtle

I dropped my waterproof camera into twenty feet of ocean water once while snorkeling off the coast of Mexico. As I watched my camera drift slowly to the rocky bottom I knew I couldn’t hold my breath long enough to retrieve it. Luckily for me a free diver was in our party and rescued my electronic treasure. The thought of a losing a camera can be somewhat sickening. Once gone most never expect to see it again. Royal Dutch Navy sergeant Dick De Bruin never thought he’d see his camera after losing it at a dive site off the shores of Aruba. Yet after six months of travel the camera found it’s way back to him.

US Coast Guard officer Paul Schultz discovered the red Nikon camera, still in it’s waterproof case, banging against the rocks of a marina in Key West Florida. The camera wasn’t marked with any identification tying it to the owner so Schultz looked through the photos and video still preserved on the camera. The pictures held few clues. There were photos of two divers standing beside a truck with a blue roofed building in the background, a family on a couch, and a curious video. It appeared to have been taken accidentally by none other than a sea turtle. The footage shows the strap of the camera hooked on the turtles fin. In the five minute clip the camera is violently thrashed by the turtle’s fin then floats to the surface.

Schultz posted the photos to ScubaBoard.com and CruiseCritic.com and the mystery was solved. Members of the sites recognized a plane’s tail number and tracked it to the island of Aruba. Another site visitor recognized some of the children in a photo and pointed Schultz to Dick de Bruin. “I have a smile on my face. I can’t stop laughing about it,” de Bruin commented. “It’s really big news on the island.”
(Photo: Flickr/NOAA’s National Ocean Service)