Maritime Mobile Service Net Relays Distress; Crew, Passengers, Vessel Safe:
The ARRL Letter
May 18, 2017
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Maritime Mobile Service Net Relays Distress Call; Crew, Passengers, and Vessel Safe:
The Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN
served as a critical communication link after the sport fishing vessel
Free Spirit put out a "mayday" distress call on VHF marine channel 16
after running into trouble in Mexican waters. Brian Stipak, KF7QCX --
skipper of the sailing vessel Ubiquity -- heard the May 13 mayday,
which advised that the Free Spirit was sinking quickly with four people
on board and that all were abandoning ship. Unable to raise coastal
stations on his vessel's VHF radio, Stipak went to the MMSN's 14.300
MHz frequency. Despite marginal band conditions, he was able to relay a
position report to net control station Ken Porter, AC0ML, who had
assistance from fellow NCS Scott Roberts, KK4ECR.
"They were taking on water and could not find the source, and were
deploying their life raft," Stipak recounted
http://www.sailblogs.com/member/ubiquity/422548 on his website. "He
clearly gave the coordinates for his position, which I plotted and saw
[he] was about in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, about 46 nautical
miles from me. My VHF communication with him was marginal." Stipak said
that while he could barely hear the MMSN net control, the operator was
able to copy the information. The S/V Fathom also heard the mayday and
set a course for the distressed boat.
Porter notified the US Coast Guard in San Diego to relay the
information to the Mexican Navy, which dispatched a vessel to the Free
Spirit's last-known position. The Coast Guard also tried to raise
Ubiquity on 14.300 MHz, but band conditions were changing rapidly, and
there was no further contact.
Stipak was also able to get through on his cell phone to the port
captain at Puerto Escondido and leave information on the distress call.
"We did not hear from the boat in distress for an hour, the last
communication saying they were deploying the life raft. I thought the
boat had likely sunk," Stipak said in his website narrative. "Then, the
captain of Free Spirit came on the VHF again saying they had found and
stopped the leak, were trying to pump out the boat, could not start the
engine, had deployed the life raft, but not abandoned the boat and did
not yet want to cancel the mayday.
Roberts later learned via the Coast Guard that the Free Spirit had been
towed to the port of San Carlos and that all on board were safe.
"It looks like a great resolution to a very intense situation," Stipak
The MMSN is in its 50th year of operation. -- Thanks to Jeff Savasta,
KB4JKL, MMSN assistant net manager
The ARRL Letter
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