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Airliner spots offshore sailor in distress

Oct 18, 2012
An Air Canada Boeing 777

An Air Canada Boeing 777


What value are commercial airliners to offshore sailors? There is the old story of laid back Californian voyagers whose only method of navigation to Hawaii was to follow airliner contrails. But other than that tall tale, airliners don't usually have much bearing on offshore sailors. Except for a recent incident off Australia when an airliner flight crew acted as a search and rescue asset and helped save a voyager who had been dismasted and was adrift with dwindling supplies.

An Air Canada Boeing 777 flying from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia, on Monday, Oct. 15, was alerted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that it had recieved an EPIRB distress signal from a vessel 310 miles off Sydney that was sinking. Since Air Canada flight AC033 was the only aircraft in the immediate vicinity, the  flight crew was asked to descend in altitude and look for the vessel in distress. Aided by a pair of binoculars borrowed from one of the passengers, the pilot of the Boeing was able to spot the solo sailor. The sailor was later picked up by a New South Wales patrol boat with the container ship ANL Benalla standing by to lend assistance.  

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Oct 25, 2012 08:34 pm
 Posted by  brrabbit

The contrails to Hawaii story is not a myth. I was living in Ali Wai harbor in Honolulu in 1971 when a beat up boatload of Sausalito harbor waifs arrived in a wooden boat they had raised off the bottom and outfitting through creative "borrowing" of every piece of dross that wasn't nailed down. The gaff rigged mast was a phone pole and the forestay was the galvanized cable that had supported it along the road before it was liberated for new duty. Water tanks were aluminum beer kegs from behind local bars. Their jib was someone's mainsail from a Cal 22, or something like that. They bragged about having followed the contrails of commercial jets to Hawaii from the Golden Gate. Planes in those days left longer lasting jet trails and I think there is no reason why it wouldn't have worked just fine, albeit marginally insane. I'll spare the vessel's name as no doubt many of that bunch are still ticking somewhere. But, hey, ignorance is bliss and it was very creative.

Oct 26, 2012 11:28 am
 Posted by  TsailorX

It was reported that "Streaker" had been drifting for "more than a week" and spotted "A Half Hour" after activating of his EPIRB! The news report also stated that he was "picked up last night" and that got me wondering:

What is the average world wide rescue time once an EPIRB is activated?

Oct 26, 2012 04:06 pm
 Posted by  Ocean Navigator

Thanks for the anecdote about contrail navigation BrRabbit! Ignorance can be bliss -- when you're lucky!

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