The crew of a sailing vessel that foundered on a reef in the South Pacific in early May was safely rescued, thanks in part to the alert ear of Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN) member Russell Taylor, AI6GV, of San Marcos, California. On May 3, Taylor monitored a “Mayday” call on 14.300 MHz from the Alaska-based Morning Dove, at the time some 200 miles northeast of French Polynesia. The vessel’s captain, Bruce Moroney, KL3RK, reported that the 46-foot ketch, which had been en route from Apataki Atoll to Rangiroa — a passage of about 80 miles, had become stuck on a reef and was unable to move. The crew transmitted the Mayday distress call after the vessel began taking on water.
“We could see reef from the cockpit, we were lodged on a reef,” Moroney explained afterward to Latitude 38. “I tried to reverse with no effect. Within 10 minutes conditions became extreme.” Moroney said the ketch’s hull and diesel fuel tank breached. An emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) was activated, and a Mayday put out. “Within 15 minutes the radios were underwater,” Moroney said.
Taylor apprised the US Coast Guard of the situation and of the vessel’s position. The French Navy subsequently dispatched a helicopter to the area within about 6 hours of the incident, airlifting the four unharmed crew members to safety. Efforts were reported under way to retrieve the grounded vessel. The Coast Guard later called Taylor, telling him that if he had not monitored the Mayday, the consequences could have been devastating for the crew.
Assisting in the event were long-time net member William Sturridge, KI4MMZ, in Florida and his friend Peter Mott, ZL1PWM, in New Zealand who relayed information.
The Maritime Mobile Service Network monitors 14.300 MHz with operators on scheduled shifts from 1700 to 0300 UTC.
“This incident occurred well after scheduled net operations, when propagation on 20 meters usually is minimal at best,” Assistant Net Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL, said. He pointed out that MMSN members often continue to monitor the frequency outside of the net’s regular schedule, keeping an ear open for just such events. “For the people on this vessel, it was a lucky day for them to have such a capable operator as Russ, AI6GV,” he added.
Taylor said it was fortunate that he caught the call and that he was pleased to participate in the international rescue effort. “This is how this network is meant to work,” he said.
“Needless to say, this was an experience none of us will soon forget,” said Moroney, a pilot and a past participant in the Iditarod Sled Race. — Thanks to Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL, and MMSN Manager Rene Stiegler, K4EDX, and to Latitude 38