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Coast Guard urges boaters to file plan, stow emergency gear

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 25, 2011 – Fifteen people were found safe after a boat that has been missing since Monday night was discovered on the beach of an uninhabited island in the Federated States of Micronesia on Friday, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

A vessel leaving Ruo Island, the intended destination of the missing boat, reported sighting the 28-foot skiff marooned and overturned, as well as several people on shore, according to the press release.

A Coast Guard patrol boat traveled 550 miles from Guam to reach the stranded survivors, and is scheduled to assist them back to Ruo or Weno in the Federated States of Micronesia, according to the release. Six children and nine adults, ages 4 to 59, were reportedly found in good condition and with food.

The Coast Guard and Navy began searching for the missing skiff Wednesday after transportation officials in the Micronesian state of Chuuk reported the boat overdue, according to The Associated Press. The search spanned more than 18,000 square miles.

The Coast Guard press release said the Coast Guard enlisted the help of commercial vessels to assist in the search through the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue system. A Norwegian cargo ship, a Panamanian ship, a motor vessel on its way to Guam, and local fishermen across the region all participated.

Capt. Thomas Sparks, commander of Coast Guard Sector Guam, also expressed gratitude to Bruce Best of the University of Guam. Best used the Pan-Pacific Education and Communication by Satellite system, a long-range communications network based on Guam that provides emergency information to islands without telephones or other means of communication, to inform the outlying region of the missing boat.

"Without Bruce Best and his proficient use of the PEACESAT program, ... the boat that spotted the skiff would probably not have known to be on the lookout for it," Sparks said in the release.

The Coast Guard warned that boaters should file a float plan, have basic lifesaving gear on board, and have means of communication sufficient for the voyage.

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