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Coastguard helicopter scrambled after mobile SOS

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A quick text message to his dad has saved one man and his two sailing companions from a watery grave, The Maritime and Coastguard Agency reports.

Solent Coastguard co-ordinated the rescue of the three men from the upturned hull of their tri-maran after being alerted to the emergency by their counterparts in Falmouth. Apparently, someone near Southampton rang to say his son had sent him a text from the beleaguered vessel asking for assistance.

The coastguard helicopter was quickly in the air and the men winched to safety ten miles south west of the Nab Tower in the Solent.

It seems that the tri-maran crew had already attempted to ring the coastguard direct but couldn't get a proper signal. This will come as no surprise to UK mobile users. The Falmouth Coastguard then reported "a satellite 'hit' from a 406 mHz Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) from a position south west of St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight".

While they were plotting the likely source of this "hit", they got notification of the text appeal which gave a corresponding position, thereby expediting the rescue.

Colin Griffiths, Watch manager at Solent Coastguard noted: "We understand that had full life saving equipment on board the vessel, which was being taken out for the first time. This incident adds to the number of times the Coastguard has been alerted to a marine incident via text message. We understand that texting can be sent to much longer distances than a voice call, however our recommendation is always to try and communicate to the rescue authorities via a handheld VHF radio if at all possible." ®

Bootnote

As a member of the Rockall Ho! charity assault team which will shortly be travelling the 230 miles from Scotland's Western Isles to Rockall on a 40-ft yacht, I heartily endorse this advice. For the record, we will be equipped with VHF radio, satellite phone plus more mobiles than you can shake a wooden leg at. With every major network represented among the crew members' personal phones, we'll surely be able to get a signal on one of them. After all, stranger things happen at sea...

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