Share This Page

Pacific distress call tragedy or cruel hoax

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The Pacific Ocean either swallowed an adventurous couple and two young children aboard a sailboat off the Monterey coast this week, or someone played a cruel hoax that wasted Coast Guard resources and tugged at the hearts of coastal residents over two days of desperate searching.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday called off the search for a boat that reportedly sank in rough seas far off the Central California coast, saying nothing more could be done and that the family's distress calls might have been a hoax.

“We've exhausted the possibilities,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz said. The Coast Guard is treating the incident as a rescue, with the possibility the calls came from a trickster. Neither the family nor the boat has been reported missing.

Crews started looking for the family by sea and air upon receiving an initial distress call on Sunday afternoon, when the boaters said their 29-foot sailboat was taking on water and their electronics were failing. The 42-hour search involved hundreds of rescuers from the Coast Guard and the California Air National Guard. A Hercules C-130 four-engine turboprop aircraft buzzed above the seas, while helicopters, cutters and lifeboats plied the waters, as costs soared into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The sailboat had no working GPS system, but investigators used its radio signal and radar to determine the call came from an area about 60 miles west of Monterey, where strong winter winds, cold water and big swells made for perilous conditions. Forecasters had issued a weekend advisory warning boaters of rough seas in the area.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.