Cargo ship rescues three on sailboat stranded off Hawaii

By Malia Mattoch McManus
This Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the 42-foot sailboat Walkabout caught in Hurricane Julio, about 400 miles northeast of Oahu, Hawaii. Walkabout is disabled and taking on water with three people aboard. The Coast Guard is coordinating the rescue of the boat. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

By Malia Mattoch McManus

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A container ship's crew rescued three people on Monday from their disabled sailboat after it took on water when it got caught in Hurricane Julio and encountered 30-foot waves hundreds of miles from Hawaii, a U.S. Coast Guard official said.

The crew of the cargo vessel Manukai brought the three people from the 42-foot sailboat on board shortly before 8 a.m. local time after previous attempts to rescue them failed because of rough weather, U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said.

The crew of the sailboat, named the Walkabout and originally launched from Stockton, California, got into trouble about 400 miles northeast of the island of Oahu. They sent out a distress signal on Sunday morning as Hurricane Julio moved across the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian archipelago, according to the Coast Guard.

The vessel was caught in winds of 92 to 115 miles per hour and 30-foot waves, and as it took on water, one of its hatches was blown away along with its life raft, the Coast Guard said.

When the crew of the 661-foot cargo ship arrived on Sunday night, they also deployed a life raft for the Walkabout's crew, but conditions were still too rough for them to get into it, McKenzie said. The effort was abandoned because it was too dangerous to continue in the dark, she said.

The rescue attempt resumed after daybreak on Monday with the crew of the cargo vessel pulling the sailboat to their ship with a line, which allowed the three people to climb up a ladder, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Tara Molle.

The three people, who were unharmed, will be taken to Honolulu, Molle said.

Their sailboat lost its mast in the storm and will probably be left where it is to sink in the ocean, McKenzie said.

Hurricane Julio, which caused the rough seas that imperiled the sailors, passed hundreds of miles north of Hawaii, despite earlier fears it might hit the archipelago.

There were no reports of damage from Hurricane Julio in Hawaii, a spokesman for the governor's office said.

Tropical Storm Iselle, which made landfall in Hawaii on Thursday, damaged crops on the state's Big Island, causing heavy losses to papaya fields in particular in the Puna District, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)