A rented emergency rescue beacon from the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and good Samaritans aboard a local dive boat helped prevent the loss of five lives aboard a weather beaten "pirate" ship that took on water and sank Wednesday, February 27 near the Bahamas.
The Treasure Seeker, a 65-foot, diesel-powered pirate ship replica was being relocated from St. Petersburg, FL to a new business location in St. Thomas, USVI when it experienced stormy sea conditions on the evening of February 26. A routine crew check early Wednesday morning found water rising in the bilge and after it was determined it could not be fixed, the Treasure Seeker's captain activated their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) which had been acquired through the BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Program.
Unbeknownst to Treasure Seeker's crew, the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami, FL received the EPIRB's distress signal - which includes GPS location information - and immediately relayed the emergency call to local mariners in the Bahamas. The 104-foot dive boat
SV Juliet, which was departing Turks and Caicos at the time, heard the USCG call and diverted 45 miles to the sinking boat's location and safely removed all five persons from Treasure Seeker.
Soon afterward, with a USCG helicopter hovering on scene, the twin-masted excursion vessel disappeared below the waves. There was no time to salvage any of the crew's personal possessions. The SV Juliet then safely returned Treasure Seeker's crew to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos.
The captain of the "pirate" ship later commented that without the EPIRB from BoatU.S., the rescue most likely would not have been successful because the only other calls for help - May Days sent over the vessel's VHF radio - never received a response.