Tanker rescues rower in distress in South Pacific

(HONOLULU) — Personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, Rescue Coordination Center Tahiti and the oil tanker Baker Spirit teamed up to rescue an ocean rower in distress 1,210 nautical miles north of Tahiti on Friday.

An Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules air crew located the rower after being given his last known location by RCC Tahiti and conducted three drops of life-saving equipment including food rations and communication equipment.

Photo courtesy of the Baker Spirit crew

“This recent search and rescue operation stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment and remarkable capabilities of our international partners,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Birkner, a search and rescue duty officer at Coast Guard District 14. “The outcome of this search and rescue case highlights the significance of effective communication between our partners in the Pacific, the diligence of our air crews, and willingness to assist from high-seas mariners.”

At 6:30 a.m. on May 28, Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand received notification that the ocean rowboat Smiles, with one person aboard, was in need of assistance after losing battery, navigation and communication systems due to waves while crossing the South Pacific.

The mariner in distress had been posting about his trip on social media, which led to his fans notifying RCC New Zealand about their concerns.

Upon notification, RCC New Zealand contacted RCC Alameda requesting assistance. Two merchant vessels, Voyager and Mandalay, diverted to assist in the search.

On May 31, RCC Tahiti assumed primary search and rescue responsibility after receiving alerts for the vessel in distress approximately 1,240 nautical miles northeast of Tahiti. RCC Tahiti requested three nearby merchant vessels to join in the search while a safety net broadcast continued.

Upon notification, the Air Station Barbers Point air crew, in Tahiti assisting with a separate search and rescue mission, flew four hours before arriving on scene, located the master of Smiles in a life raft and conducted equipment dropoffs.

At 1:08 p.m. Friday, Baker Spirit recovered the mariner, who was taken to Oahu. He was reported to be in stable condition.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller