A great story sent by David Richer, WB6VGO about how amateurs helped rescue a sinking vessel in the Pacific.
On September 28, 2016 at approximately 0300 UTC, Charles Houlihan, KD6SPJ, a net relay relay station for the Pacific Seafarer’s net while monitoring 14.300 received a call for assistance from the captain of the Sailing Vessel (SV) Rafiki. The captain reported that the SV Rafiki, a 35 foot sailing vessel, was taking on water. Charles who was the captain of the SV Jacaranda and located at sea, contacted Randy VanLeeuwen, KH6RC also a net relay and located in Hawaii. Randy contacted the US Coast Guard Station to report the incident and provide Rafiki’s location, 230 miles south of Cold Bay, Alaska.
Randy remained in constant radio contact with the Rafiki until contact with lost. Fred Moore W3ZU (Florida) and Peter Mott, ZL1PWM (New Zealand) additional net relays maintained contact with the captain of the Rafiki until the arrival of the Coast Guard the subsequent rescue.
According to a press release issued by the United States Coast Guard Station–17th District, a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules were dispatched to the Rafiki’s last reported position. Upon arrival the crew of the Jayhawk helicopter were successfully able to hoist the captain and one additional crew member to safety aboard the helicopter.around 1000 hours UTC. Both men were reported to be uninjured. The vessel was abandoned.
This real-life incident happened during the daily “roll-call” conducted by the amatuer radio operators (or “hams”) and members of the Pacific Seafarers Net. Everyday at 0300 UTC amateur radio operators from North America, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia monitor the progress of maritime amateur radio operators who are sailing on the Pacific.
Prior to the start of the roll call for “maritime mobile” vessels, a call for medical, emergency or priority traffic is broadcasted. It was after such a call for any emergency traffic that the call for assistance from the Rafiki was received.
According the the net’s website (www.pacseanet.com): “The Pacific Seafarer’s Net is a network of volunteer Amateur Radio Operators that handles radio and internet email communication traffic between sailing and motoring vessels operating on all oceans and land-based parties. The land station Net Control Amateur Stations are located in various locations throughout the Continental United States, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. Communications traffic consists of daily position reporting and automatic posting of positions on several websites, message handling via email relays, Health and Welfare traffic, phone patch services, search and rescue coordination, and vessel equipment inventories for search and rescue operations. Life threatening emergencies are taken from any vessel whether or not they have ham radio licenses. Net control stations keep computer databases on participating vessels and their movements throughout the oceans.”