Coast Guard rescues mariners from overdue sailing vessel off Hawaii

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard successfully rescued four mariners aboard the overdue sailing vessel SS Chuckahui Kai, approximately 74-miles south of Oahu, Tuesday.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) evacuated the four mariners and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer from the SS Chuckahui Kai and brought them back to Honolulu Harbor. There were no injuries reported during the rescue, though emergency services met them at the pier to give medical aid to one mariner for a pre-existing health condition.

Due to deteriorating weather, responders abandoned the vessel rather than towing it to Honolulu. The SS Chuckahui Kai is currently marked for visibility and remains adrift. Sector Honolulu watchstanders issued a Hazard to Navigation notice to mariners to alert mariners in the area to the vessel.

“This case highlights the importance of filing a float plan,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Ashley Gray, a Sector Honolulu watchstander. “Because the SS Chuckahui Kai's crew notified a friend of their intentions, we were notified promptly when the vessel crew was late and in possible distress. Had the friend not called us, it may have been days before anyone knew something was wrong.”

The voyage began Saturday morning when the four mariners set off from Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu, en route to Lahaina, Maui, to sell the sailboat. The vessel was operated under sail power only and did not have a working engine.

Their GPS malfunctioned while transiting to Maui, and the vessel was blown off course overnight. The next morning the crew could not see land. Though they had a working compass and a northern heading, the conditions continued to push them south.

Monday evening, a friend of the vessel's owner notified Sector Honolulu watchstanders they were overdue to Maui.

Sector Honolulu watchstanders deployed crews from Air Station Barbers Point aboard an HC-130 Hercules plane and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. The cutters Oliver Berry, Kittiwake (WPB 87316), and a Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium also searched the area. An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast notice to mariners was also issued. Watchstanders also contacted partners with the local emergency services to advise them of the situation.

The search conditions were ideal, and the crew of the Hercules requested to expand their search area. Sector Honolulu watchstanders agreed and provided an updated search action plan to the aircrew.

At 2:07 a.m., Tuesday, the Hercules aircrew located a vessel 74 miles (65 nautical miles) south of Barbers Point, matching the description of the SS Chuckahui Kai. There were mariners on deck waving flashlights at the passing plane. The aircrew attempted to hail the vessel over the radio with no success.

The Dolphin helicopter crew diverted to the scene. They deployed a rescue swimmer with a radio who confirmed the vessel was the SS Chuckahui Kai, and the four mariners were aboard.

Later that morning, Oliver Berry arrived on the scene and evacuated the mariners and rescue swimmer.

The owner is working on a plan with private salvors to determine the next step for the vessel. There is no reported fuel or oils aboard, and the maximum pollution potential consists of three car batteries.


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