State News

Coast Guard: Sailboats in Trouble Off N.C. Coast

Posted May 7, 2007 10:15 a.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2007 1:31 p.m. EDT

— A helicopter hoisted three people from a storm-tossed sailboat early Monday and a rescue chopper was dispatched to pluck three more people off a life raft after they abandoned another sailing vessel, Coast Guard officials said.

A C-130 was sent to check out two more vessels that sent distress signals as a low-pressure system whipped the ocean with howling winds that stirred waves as high as 34 feet.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation suspended most ferry service to the Outer Banks on Monday because of the choppy waters.

Three people from the sailboat "Seaker" were rescued around 7:30 a.m. after the boat was located within 50 miles of the coast in the Diamond Shoals area in 16-foot seas, said Petty Officer Christopher Evanson, a Coast Guard spokesman. Its sailors were receiving a medical evaluation at the Coast Guard air base at Elizabeth City.

Three more people from the sailboat "Lou Pantini" were in 34-foot seas on a makeshift life raft about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, Evanson said. Winds were estimated at 40 knots.

"They are all alive," Evanson said, adding that he didn't know what type of raft they were on but that it "wasn't your traditional life raft."

A C-130 from the air station was flying overhead while a rescue chopper flew to the scene, he said.

Two more sailing vessels reported trouble about 120 miles off Cape Hatteras and a C-130 aircraft was dispatched to see if a helicopter was needed, Evanson said.

The National Weather Service issued a wind warning for the coast, saying rough seas and high winds were expected through Wednesday.

The Currituck-Knotts Island route was suspended Sunday and could remain suspended through Tuesday because of low water, officials said. Northeast winds have pushed water out of the Currituck Sound into the Albemarle Sound.

The Ocracoke-Swan Quarter, Cedar Island-Ocracoke and Hatteras-Ocracoke routes have been suspended until the adverse weather subsides. The Bayview-Aurora, Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach and Southport-Fort Fisher routes are running on schedule.