Man Trying to Row Across Atlantic Ocean Rescued; Coast Guard Located Man by Radio Beacon Device
Man Trying to Row Across Atlantic Rescued Off New England Coast
A man trying to row across the Atlantic Ocean in a specialized rowboat had to be rescued hundreds of miles off the New England coast, prompting the Coast Guard to credit an international rescue effort -- as well as his emergency radio beacon -- with saving his life.
U.S. Coast Guard officials say Niall Macdonald was about 530 miles off the coast of Massachusetts when he triggered his Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon around 12:30 a.m. Friday. Upon receiving a signal from the beacon, called an EPIRB for short, watchstanders at a Coast Guard facility in Boston sent out a bulletin to ships in the area asking for their help.
Macdonald, a resident of Scotland who was attempting to row to his hometown in Scotland, said by satellite phone that he had been forced to abandon his ocean rowboat after battling rough seas for 36 hours.
With McDonald tossing around the high seas and strong winds in a liferaft, Coast Guard watchstanders coordinated with Canadian officials to send a C-130 aircraft to help in the rescue effort. The Coast Guard was also in contact with Italian officials, asking then to divert a warship operating in the area. But that ship was 80 miles away.
Rescued Rower Taken Aboard Dutch Cargo Ship
In the end, a Dutch cargo ship, the Dolfijngracht, responding to the call was able to get to Macdonald around 5 a.m. Friday. The Coast Guard says the 44-year-old Macdonald will be traveling with the ship to Canada.
"The search and rescue cooperation between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands resulted in saving this mariner's life," Timothy Carton, a search and rescue mission controller for the U.S. Coast Guard, said in a statement.
The Coast Guard says besides the EPIRB and satellite phone, MacDonald also had a VHF radio, navigation lights, flares, immersion suit, life jacket, and a transportable kit with other items to help him survive until he could be rescued.
Coast Guard Urges Boaters to Equip Their Vessels With EPIRBs
Coast Guard officials have consistently urged mariners and boaters -- even those not attempting a journey across open oceans -- to make sure they’re equipped with EPIRBs.
In 2017, more than 275 people in U.S. waters owed their rescue to EPIRBs and NOAA satellites, according to numbers provided by the Coast Guard. The EPIRBs are part of the international search and rescue satellite-aided tracking system that uses a network of spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons aboard boats, aircraft and handheld personal locator beacons.
No matter where in the world the distress signal comes from, an EPIRB sends a signal to emergency responders through a satellite system called COPAS-SARSAT, according to the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Credits Use of EPIRBs With Other Recent Rescues
In a rescue that was less complicated than the saving of Macdonald hundreds of miles out to sea, Coast Guard officials also credit an EPIRB with saving the lives of two fishermen when their 18-foot boat capsized off the Hawaiian island of Molokai in early May. After Coast Guard watchstanders in Honolulu received their distress signal, a Coast Guard helicopter sent to the scene spotted the overturned boat and hoisted the two men out of the water.
“If these men did not have an EPIRB, they might not be coming home tonight,” Petty Officer 1st Class Shamica Titus, a search and rescue planner Honolulu, said in a statement after the rescue.
“Having the beacon registered and our prompt notification by it gave us information to work from sooner than an overdue report and a place to start searching. This action can save hours, maybe days, in a search and make the difference between life and death at sea.”
The men told the Coast Guard after a wave hit and overturned their vessel, one of them was able to swim back back under to boat, retrieve the emergency device and activate its beacon.
Also in May, the Coast Guard rescued a 65-year-old man who had activated his EPIRB when his 38-foot sailboat began taking on water several miles off Florida’s southeast coast. When crews arrived at the scene the man had abandoned his sinking boat and was in a dinghy.