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Three rescued from sailboat caught in Hurricane Julio

Updated: 
August 11, 2014 - 1:45pm

Three men are safely aboard a container ship Monday on their way to Honolulu after spending 24 hours battling the effects of Hurricane Julio aboard a disabled sailboat 414 miles northeast of Oahu.

The 661-foot Matson container ship Manukai at 7:52 a.m. Monday picked up 61-year-old Ben Nealy, 22-year-old Lee Nealy, and 22-year-old Mike Vanway, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The three were aboard the 42-foot “Walkabout” from Stockton, Calif., to Honolulu that became dismasted and began taking on water on Sunday.

Using a line to pull the sailboat and crew alongside the container ship, the passengers disembarked the sailboat and climbed a 30-foot ladder draped over the side of Manukai’s hull. At the time of the rescue, there were 20 mph winds and 13-foot seas in the area, according to the Coast Guard.

The “Walkabout” remains adrift, officials said. The Coast Guard has issued a warning notifying mariners of the hazard to navigation.

Manukai rerouted 276 miles to assist with the rescue. The ship is expected to arrive at 5 a.m. Tuesday in Honolulu.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu received notification from the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Texas that an alert message was received from “Walkabout” requesting Coast Guard assistance.

JRCC diverted an airplane from the National Hurricane Center, Teal 76, from inside Hurricane Julio to locate the vessel and establish VHF radio communications.

At 10:49 a.m. Sunday, Teal 76 reported Mayday calls being broadcast from Walkabout. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew launched from Air Station Barbers Point at 11:10 a.m. to deliver a life raft and relieve Teal 76.

After a two-hour transit, the Hercules crew arrived on scene and dropped dewatering equipment and life rafts to the “Walkabout.” The “Walkabout” was unable to retrieve the equipment due to rough on-scene conditions.

A second Hercules airplane crew arrived on the scene at 7 p.m. Sunday and established communications with the “Walkabout” crew. Severe conditions, again, prevented attempts to retrieve equipment dropped by the Hercules crew.

The air crew remained on scene until the Matson container ship arrived at the sailboat’s location at approximately 10 p.m. Sunday. The Manukai attempted to send a life raft to the sailboat, but conditions were too rough and they were unsuccessful. The ship’s crew determined it unsafe to proceed and suspended rescue efforts until first light Monday morning.