January 24, 2011 in Nation/World

Americans, sailboat rescued

Four men, woman missing for days
Jim Gomez Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this image made from video, American occupants on board the catamaran Pineapple wait to be rescued Sunday off the island of Dinagat, Philippines.
(Full-size photo)

MANILA, Philippines – Five Americans stepped ashore in good health today in the central Philippines following an international search for their sailboat when it failed to arrive on time in its voyage from the Pacific island of Guam, officials said.

The vessel, called the Pineapple, ran into bad weather after departing from Guam on Jan. 6, and relatives of the crew – four men and a woman – reported them missing Jan. 18.

A Philippine coast guard ship reached the 38-foot catamaran on Sunday after it was spotted by plane the previous day. Rescuers escorted the vessel to the port of Maasin on Leyte Island, where the crew refueled, got their passports stamped and treated themselves to a meal, the coast guard said.

With one of its two rudders damaged, the Pineapple will later be escorted to its original destination on Cebu Island.

“They’re all in fine health,” coast guard chief Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said of the crew, including a Filipino-American in the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Embassy in Manila has declined to release their identities and hometowns.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which said it had spent 63 hours searching for the sailboat, expressed relief that the boat was found but faulted the crew for failing to take proper precautions. The vessel did not carry long-distance communication or emergency distress equipment and did not file a comprehensive float plan, the agency said.

“I’m elated for the family and friends of the Pineapple, but compelled to point out that this voyage was made without taking basic, common-sense precautions,” said Capt. Thomas Sparks, U.S. Coast Guard Guam commander.

A woman aboard the boat was able to contact her husband by cell phone at 1:30 p.m. Sunday – apparently once she came within range of cell phone service – and he called rescuers in Guam to give them the boat’s coordinates, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

“The husband confirmed the vessel ran into bad weather and suffered a rudder and radio casualty. This delayed the Pineapple’s voyage but it was never in danger of sinking,” the statement said.

Guam, a U.S. territory, is about 1,400 miles east of Cebu.

The U.S. Coast Guard had deployed several aircraft and a patrol ship to search an area of 122,600 square nautical miles for more than 63 hours.

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