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SV Tao

Vessel Runs Aground - Mar 26, 2002

The following is from the ARRL Letter on March 29, 2002

Vigilant members of the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 20 meters relayed
calls for help from a sailing vessel that ran aground March 26 off the
northern coast of Cuba. Aboard the sailing vessel Tao were Dave Beane,
G0TAG, and his wife, Sara, whose frantic calls on the Net frequency got a
quick response. The couple subsequently was rescued by Cuban authorities
and their sailboat refloated.

"She was in a big panic, and then they just stopped transmitting,"
reported Ed Petzolt, K1LNC, in South Florida, who said he happened onto
the situation when he turned on his transceiver.

US Virgin Islands ARRL Section Manager John Ellis, NP2B, said that less
than an hour earlier, Beane had checked into the MMSN to say the couple
had enjoyed a visit to Cuba and was planning to sail around to the south
side. "There was no indication of any problem," he added. Since Ellis had
the best copy, he managed the incident.

"It turned out that Dave and Sara had run upon a reef, had called for help
from the Cuban authorities, but had received no response," he said. "Sara
was rather frantic when she came on 14.300. We immediately gave her a
clear frequency." Ellis said a net slightly higher in frequency yielded to
give the Net a wide berth.

Mike Pilgrim, K5MP, in Texas notified the US Coast Guard. At about the
same time, Petzolt contacted the Swiss Embassy--the US has no diplomatic
relations with Cuba, and Switzerland often serves as an intermediary. The
Swiss Embassy put him in touch with the Cuban mission in Washington,
which, in turn, contacted authorities in Havana by radio. The US Coast
Guard was only able to contact the Cuban authorities via telex.

"We tried to determine if they were in danger of sinking, but that is when
we lost communication," Ellis said. "We never heard from them for the
remainder of the evening."

Ellis said G0TAG checked into the Net later in the week to say that Cuban
authorities were able to float the vessel off the reef and get the couple
under way again. "Dave, G0TAG, had nothing but good words to say about the
Cubans," Ellis said. "The authorities were very nice and helpful, they
even sent two divers down to inspect the bottom of the boat--all at no
charge!"

The MMSN had "excellent cooperation and assistance" during the incident
from net control Frank Kelly, N3FK, Petzolt, Pilgrim and Dave Dalziel,
N4ICE, Ellis said. "There were a number of others on frequency available
to help, but all maintained top-notch order and control," Ellis
added.--thanks to Brandon Horn, KC2HFG, for alerting ARRL to this incident.