Coast Guard helicopter plucks two sailors off sailboat in blizzard

Jason McGlashan and his father, Reg, stand aboard the Sedona in Jamestown last weekend. The two were rescued by the Coast Guard early Sunday morning off the coast of Nantucket. — Dave Hansen

A U.S. Coast Guard crew from Air Station Cape Cod rescued a father and son from a 43-foot sailing vessel about 150 miles south of Nantucket Sunday morning, just as the weekend storm started to intensify. The men left Jamestown, R.I., on Friday, bound for Australia, according to published reports.

Watchstanders received a distress signal from a beacon aboard Sedona, and contacted the crew by satellite phone. The crew said their vessel was disabled and adrift, with sails torn, and they were unable to start their engine.

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, but conditions were deteriorating so quickly, the Coast Guard could not launch an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to support the rescue mission.

At the time of the distress call, seas were running about 9 feet and winds blowing 40 mph at the sailboat’s location, according to the Coast Guard. By the time they arrived on the scene at 8:48 am, conditions had deteriorated to 25-foot seas and 60 mph winds.

The rescue crew lowered a swimmer equipped with marine survival gear into the water. The two distressed sailors, also equipped with survival suits, jumped into the water one at a time, where the Coast Guard swimmer got them into a rescue basket, so they could be hoisted to the helicopter hovering above. The rescue operation took about 40 minutes.

“Given the severity of this storm, this rescue was a major effort, and we are all relieved it ended as it did,” Lieut. j.g. Tyler Dewechter, MH-60 pilot and public affairs officer at Air Station Cape Cod, said in a press release. “We are glad we were prepared for this storm and could render aid, and also continue to urge mariners to stay safe and heed the cautions and advisories of winter storm warnings.”

According to a feature report published in the Newport News, the rescued men are Jason McGlashan and his father Reg McGlashan, of Australia. According to the newspaper report, Jason McGlashan purchased the 43-foot boat on eBay for $10,000, and flew to Rhode Island in January to prepare the vessel for the voyage to Australia.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” Jason McGlashan told the Newport News before the ill-fated voyage. “Dad’s not even a sailor, but he’s a quick study. We’ve got plenty of food, plenty of booze, good sails, and all the safety gear you could ever need.”

According to the Coast Guard rescue crew, the two men were in good condition once they got aboard the rescue helicopter, but were evaluated for hypothermia, once they returned to the Coast Guard base.

The Coast Guard mounted an extensive effort to warn mariners of the danger well before the storm.

“This is a storm to take seriously,” said Lieut. John Mansolillo at the Coast Guard command center in Boston on Friday.

Before the storm hit, the Coast Guard flew more than 700 miles in the storm impact area, making sure mariners were aware of the storm warning. The Coast Guard pre-staged a 210-foot cutter and a 175-foot buoy tender off the New England coast to respond to any emergencies.