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Pacific mariner rescued via PLB

Mar 1, 2013

Solo sailor James Blackford was rescued after his 60-foot sailboat, Makalii, was dismasted in severe weather 85 miles north of Palmyra Atoll, a U.S. territory roughly halfway between Hawaii and American Samoa.

Following the dismasting, Makalii began taking on water. U.S. Coast Guard watchstanders in Hawaii were notified of the emergency when they received a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) alert from Makalii at 2000 on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point was launched at 2200 Sunday to locate the vessel after attempts to contact it by radio were unsuccessful. The aircrew located the dismasted sailboat at 0230 Monday. The Coast Guard aircrew dropped a radio and a self-locating datum marker buoy (SLDMB) to the vessel. A SLDMB is a drifting surface buoy designed to measure surface ocean currents. The unit is based on oceanographic surface drifters used in the Coastal Ocean Dynamics Experiment — a National Science Foundation-funded experiment for exploring ocean surface currents. The SLDMB was also designed for deployment by Coast Guard vessels in search and rescue (SAR) missions, and is equipped with a GPS sensor that, upon deployment in fresh or saltwater, transmits its location periodically to the USCG to aid in SAR missions.

Global Explorer, a commercial ship registered with the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System arrived on the scene approximately 0000 Tuesday, but could not conduct the rescue due to severe weather. At approximately 0900 the crew was able to bring Blackford aboard Global Explorer.

Blackford was in good condition, but abandoned Makalii. Global Explorer took Blackford to their next port of call in Japan.

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