April 11, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 15

Coast Guard lifts man from Alaska sailboat

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A Coast Guard helicopter Tuesday plucked a man from a 31-foot sailboat floating without power in the treacherous Gulf of Alaska.

Spokeswoman Sara Francis said Rory Williams used his Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon to signal he needed assistance. A helicopter launched from Sitka and hoisted him from the stricken vessel at about 2:20 p.m.

“It's fortunate that he had an EPIRB with him,” Francis said.

The Coast Guard listed the vessel's home port as Sitka, an island city of 9,000 about 95 miles southwest of Juneau. The vessel left April 1 from Valdez for Sitka on what's considered a hazardous trip for small boats.

Francis said weather in the gulf can change quickly.

EPIRBs are required on commercial vessels and can be purchased for other vessels. Some models are activated automatically if submerged, but Williams' likely was activated manually.

“Our understanding is that he activated it seeking assistance,” Francis said.

The devices sent a signal to a satellite that relays it to the Coast Guard. The agency command center in Juneau received the signal at 11 a.m.

The signal came from 200 miles northwest of Sitka. Winds were reported at 30 mph with 8- to 10-foot waves.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane from Kodiak reached the vessel at 12:34 p.m. and contacted Williams by VHF radio. The airplane carries survival gear that can be dropped to mariners in distress.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka reached the sailboat at 1:09 p.m., and Williams was lifted off about 90 minutes later.

One aircraft also dropped a data marker buoy that will monitor the drift of the vessel and track its location.

The Coast Guard said it would be warning other mariners of the drifting boat.

“There's a 31-foot obstruction drifting around in the Gulf of Alaska and it will not move for you,” Francis said.

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