CHARLOTTE AMALIE, Saint Thomas — U.S. Coast Guard crews and British Virgin Islands authorities rescued four men from a disabled vessel that was adrift for three days near the British Virgin Islands.
Rescued are a French and three Dutch nationals, who were traveling aboard the 30-foot recreational vessel Water Baby Sunday morning from Anguilla, British Virgin Islands to the Caribbean Leeward Island of Sint Maarten, when their vessel reportedly ran out of gas.
“The execution of this search and rescue case was superb and ended up saving four souls that were lost at sea,” Chief Petty Officer Luis Cabrera, Coast Guard Boat Forces St. Thomas chief supervisor. “Despite the darkness of the night, our Boat Forces crew was able to execute various search patterns and locate the vessel in distress. We appreciate and thank British Virgin Islands authorities for their collaboration taking over the tow of the vessel and bringing the boaters to safety in Tortola.”
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a call at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday from a Virgin Islands Search and Rescue operator, who relayed a report received from a Good Samaritan reporting the distress. The Good Samaritan further informed of a WhatsApp communication notifying a general location of the distress, approximately 15 nautical miles south of the British Virgin Islands.
Watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and directed the launch of a 33-Special Purpose Craft from Boat Forces St. Thomas to search. They also transmitted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast advising maritime traffic in the area to be on the lookout. At approximately 7:06 pm Tuesday, watchstanders received a VHF Channel-16 communication from the sailing vessel Pilar reporting the coordinates of a flare sighting observed within the search area.
The Coast Guard boat crew diverted to investigate and shortly thereafter came upon the Water Baby with its four passengers safely aboard. The rescued boaters were exhausted, hungry and thirsty, but otherwise appeared to be in good health. While communicating with the Coast Guard crew, the rescued boaters confirmed being adrift for three days, sending the WhatsAPP communication and firing a flare.
The Coast Guard boat crew took the Water Baby in tow and rendezvoused with the crew of a British Virgin Islands Customs vessel, who continued the tow of the Water Baby and the transport of the boaters to safe haven in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Channel 16 is the international distress frequency and is received worldwide by any VHF radio. It is used for distress and emergency calls as well as for informational broadcasts from the Coast Guard.