U.S.

Coast Guard searches for 3 American sailors not seen since April 4

Three experienced American sailors were supposed to stop in Cabo San Lucas on April 6, but they never checked in.

Coast Guard searches for 3 American sailors not seen since April 4
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The U.S. Coast Guard is searching with Mexican authorities for three missing American sailors not seen since April 4.

Family members say husband and wife Frank and Kerry O'Brien and their friend William Gross are all experienced sailors. Gross, they say, has more than 50 years of experience on the water, and the O'Briens together have 20 years of experience. Each one also has a captain's license from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The trio set off from Mazatlán, Mexico with plans to stop in Cabo San Lucas for supplies April 6. When they didn't check in from Cabo, authorities contacted marinas along their route. None reported seeing the boat, according to the Coast Guard.

"When they began their voyage, we know that the conditions were not optimal for that type of trip," said Commander Greg Higgins, search mission coordinator with the U.S. Coast Guard. "Winds potentially over 30 knots and seas 15 to 20, maybe more, feet at the time of their voyage."

Sailing expert Harry Munns told Scripps News those conditions aren't unfamiliar for experienced sailors. 

"It is a rough ride: 20-foot seas and 30 knots," he said. "But ... sailors do it all the time."

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The group was on a 44-foot La Fitte, a sailboat owned by the O'Briens, according to the family.

Munns said experienced sailors would likely equip themselves with a so-called "ditch bag," holding critical gear in the event of a catastrophic event and/or sinking.

"Boats sink when they collide with whales ... [or] if they hit rocks," he said. "There are any number of reasons why a boat would sink, and from all accounts, they often sink very quickly. So the ditch bag is there so that if all of a sudden, in the middle of the night, you wake up and you're going down, you grab it and you have some items in it that would help you to survive." 

He said it's possible the group took a wrong turn or passed Cabo and continued to San Diego without being able to contact anyone.

The Coast Guard says authorities broadcast urgent signals to boats in the area to keep an eye out for the vessel and the three onboard. They asked anyone with information about the boat's whereabouts to contact the Coast Guard search and rescue coordination center at 510-437-3701.