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Walkabout rescue at sea during Hurricane Julio

Hurricane Julio.
Hurricane Julio.
Photo by NASA/Getty Images

Three sailors—Ben Nealy (61), Lee Nealy (22) and Mike Vanway (22)— caught in Hurricane Julio were rescued at sea on Monday, August 11, after their 42’ sailboat Walkabout was disabled—a hatch and their life raft were blown away and the bilge pump was unable to keep up with water flooding into their boat. The men were 414 miles northeast of Oahu, enroute from Stockton, Calif., to Honolulu, Hawaii. They had issued a request for assistance on Sunday morning, August 10.

An airplane from the National Hurricane Center, Teal 76, was diverted from inside Hurricane Julio early Sunday morning to locate the boat and establish VHF radio contact. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew that had launched from Air Station Barbers Point arrived at 11:10 a.m., dropped a life raft and bilge pump, but due to rough conditions the sailors were unable to pick up the equipment. The seas at the time were 30 feet and the winds were 92 - 115 mph. The Hercules crew returned to Oahu because of fuel limitations and a second Hercules airplane arrived on scene at 7 p.m. dropped another life raft with the same unsuccessful results.

The men were finally rescued by a 661-foot Matson container ship, the Manukai, that had rerouted 276 miles to meet up with the sinking ship. The Manukai also attempted to send a life raft to the sailboat, but conditions were too rough. The ship’s crew determined it unsafe to proceed and suspended rescue efforts until Monday morning. According to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard, at first light the Manukai shot a line to the disabled sailboat, pulled it alongside and the three men to climb a 30-foot ladder to safety. Winds at the time of the rescue reportedly had dropped to 20 mph and the seas were 13 feet.

Walkabout remains adrift and the Coast Guard has issued a warning notifying mariners of the hazard to navigation. The Manukai is expected to arrive in Hawaii today.

Click here to see video footage shot by the U.S. Coast Guard.