Sailor rescued after activating PLB

Atlantic emergency with a happy ending

McMurdo are highlighting a rescue last week in which a sailor was rescued in heavy storms after activating his PLB (personal location beacon).

The firm, who manufacture the devices, are pressing on boaters the importance of carrying personal locator beacons or EPIRBs.

The yachtsman was rescued on 4 January after activating his McMurdo FastFind Plus GPS Personal Location Beacon off the coast of Africa, when his yacht got into difficulties in severe storms.

The 1929 gaff rig cutter Mina was extensively damaged by waves leaving the yacht stranded.

Boat-builder James Baker, 22, was sailing from Portimao in Portugal to the Caribbean.

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He activated his PLB at 0053 hours, which alerted the MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) and Falmouth Coastguard in Cornwall.

The latter then coordinated the rescue operation and contacted the authorities in Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

Following alerts to a number of vessels in the vicinity, an Orion aircraft from the Portuguese Navy found the yacht 74 miles west-north-west of Casablanca.

Naval staff then directed the German commercial vessel, the MV Wappen Von Bayern, which recovered James around midday.

The information that the EPIRB (emergency positioning indicating radio beacon) registry had on file (all PLBs and EPIRBs must be registered at the time of purchase) enabled the MCA to contact James’s parents immediately and establish vital information about his passage plan.

Mark Thomas, Falmouth Coastguard watch manager, said: “This is another incident where the use of an EPIRB to call for help proves to be immensely valuable. We would advise all sailors to have one.”

James’ father told the South Devon Herald: “The Coastguard was fantastic. You read about rescues in the news but you do not realise how far away they can coordinate a rescue and how efficient they can be.”


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