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Coasties Bust False Mayday Caller

A New Zealander who is accused of making false distress calls may have thought he was perpetrating a harmless prank, but we doubt he’ll be laughing if he is convicted. We understand that the maximum penalty for this felony act is six years in prison, a $5,000 civil fine, a $250,000 criminal fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for activating their resources.

According to several Bay Area news sources, Coast Guard personnel were on a routine patrol off Sausalito Sunday afternoon when a distress call led them to the moored 45-ft sailboat Fortune, crewed by John McCormick, which has been moored off the Sausalito YC for several days. CG spokesman Mark Leahey explained that the guardsmen recognized McCormick’s voice, as he had made false maydays previously, including at least one earlier in the day.

When approached by the Guard unit, McCormick refused to be boarded, then reportedly cut his mooring lines and began motor-sailing away. The guardsmen waited until they had backup from additional resources before finally stopping McCormick outside the Golden Gate, roughly 2.5 miles off Ocean Beach. With guns drawn, the guardsmen boarded the sailboat, where one of them was assaulted by the lone sailor — potentially adding another charge. The boat was towed to Station San Francisco, while McCormick was booked on multiple charges. 

False distress calls are always annoying to rescue personnel, but more importantly, they can divert rescue resources from legitimate emergency situations — not to mention the thousands of taxpayer dollars that are squandered every time an unnecessary search is activated. The Coast Guard’s mandate is that they must respond to all distress calls, but hundreds annually turn out to be fakes. We are reminded that in late February a mayday call, supposedly put out by a family with two small children who were offshore near Monterey Bay, triggered a massive, multi-day response from both air and sea resources with no results. It was later believed by many to have been a hoax. 

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The Dorade crew are the big kahunas in this year’s TransPac. © Trans Pacific YC While a new elapsed-time record wasn’t set, the 47th TransPac has proven to be one of the more interesting and exciting races to Hawaii in years.