Three vessels that had departed Guam last Saturday for Rota were forced to return to Guam on Monday.
The vessels—two traditional sailing canoes called the Fanahigiyan and the Quest and a motorized sailboat that acted as an escort/chase boat—were forced to turn back one by one to Guam after encountering trouble at sea.
On Sunday, June 2, at approximately 2pm, the CNMI Department of Public Safety Boating Safety Unit on Rota responded to an emergency beacon that was activated about 15 miles southwest of Rota.
The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam informed DPS that the emergency was unknown at the time, only confirming that the distress signal was coming from a sailing canoe.
DPS launched a rescue boat at the West Marina of Rota and departed to meet with the Coast Guard at the GPS location of the distressed vessel.
Due to rough seas, the U.S. Navy launched their rescue helicopter to airlift the passengers on board the vessel back to Guam.
It was later learned that on Saturday, June 1, at about 5am, the three sailing vessels departed for Rota from the Guam Agana Boat Marina. The three vessels with about 13 passengers were scheduled to arrive on Rota the following day at about 8am.
At 8am, Sunday, June 2, USCG Sector Guam notified DPS that the escort vessel was being towed back to Guam due to a mechanical failure, while the two traditional sailing canoes continued to sail toward Rota. At this time DPS personnel were on standby at the Rota West Marina awaiting their arrival.
At about 2pm, USCG issued an urgent marine information broadcast on Channel 16 on VHF radio. DPS then launched the rescue boat to the location of the Quest sailboat before DPS was informed that the crew on the Quest had been air-lifted back to Guam due to a broken mast and moderate damage to the hull, which could not be repaired at sea.
DPS was notified that the Fanahigiyan was about 30 miles north of Guam and was still bound for Rota. Both DPS and USCG continued to monitor the progress of the vessel.
On Monday, June 3, 2019 at about 6am, the USCG informed DPS that the Fanahigiyan made contact via satellite phone that it has discontinued their course to Rota and is returning to Guam due to rough seas. Fanahigiyan arrived back safely at the Agana Boat Marina at 7pm the same day, with all its crew members accounted for.
DPS reminds all boaters to check all safety gear and equipment before going into the water, to have proper supplies, and to share your plans with friends and family. If you are not sure of how to check your vessel’s safety equipment, stop by your local Boating Safety Unit and ask for assistance from the officers. (PR)