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Three Sailors Rescued After Being Stranded in Disabled Sailboat Off Hawaii During Hurricane Julio

August 11, 2014

Three people who were stranded on a disabled sailboat off Hawaii in the wake of Hurricane Julio have been rescued. The sailors were adrift for 24 hours in 30-foot waves as high winds battered their vessel before being picked up by a nearby container ship Monday morning. 

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Gene Maestas says the sailors were pulled onto the container ship via life raft at about 8 a.m. and that all were in good condition, the Associated Press reports. 

The three were sailing a 42-foot Walkabout from California to Hawaii when they ran into trouble, Maestas said. The Coast Guard said it received a distress call Sunday morning after the boat became disabled and started to take on water over 400 miles northeast of Oahu, according to KHON 2. Strong gusts blew one of the boat's hatches away and the life raft overboard and the onboard pumps couldn't keep up with the flooding. 

(MORE: Hurricanes in Hawaii ... How Unusual Is It?)

The Coast Guard coordinated the rescue with the Matson Inc. container ship, which was on its way to deliver goods to Honolulu and was the closest vessel that could help. It reached the Walkabout around 10 p.m. Sunday.

"It was so far away we could not send a helicopter that could make the journey," Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said.

But rough seas kept the giant vessel from being able to save the stranded sailors until Monday. 

Operations Specialist Andrew Lincoln said crews had to wait until dawn to start the evacuation because attempting the rescue earlier would have been too dangerous. 

"The seas were really bad, and it's kind of windy so they didn't want to do it in the dark," he said.

Conditions eventually calmed, and crew members positioned the container ship so it wouldn't knock over the sailboat. They sent a life raft to the sailboat and the container ship "reeled them in, essentially," McKenzie said. No other information was immediately available about the sailors, their voyage or caused their vessel to take on water.

Julio had passed through the area but left behind gusting winds and sea swells.

The Manukai embarked on its journey to Honolulu before Tropical Storm Iselle and Hurricane Julio became threats, Matson spokesman Jeff Hull said. It was diverted a bit because of Julio.

The ship and the sailors will continue on to Honolulu, Hull said. They are expected to arrive early Tuesday. The ship is equipped with medical equipment if the sailors need it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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