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smiles rower rescued

The solo rower pictured aboard his liferaft from the tanker Baker Spirit. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Solo Rower Rescued by Tanker in the South Pacific

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 6560
June 22, 2023

The solo rower spent weeks aboard a life raft before his rescue.

An ocean rower on an around-the-world voyage was rescued by the crew of crude oil tanker last Friday, weeks after losing battery power in the South Pacific, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) New Zealand was first notified of the mariner distress at 6:30 a.m. on May 28. The report indicated that the ocean rower, Smiles, was in need of assistance with one person on board after losing battery, navigation, and communication systems due to waves during a crossing of the South Pacific.

It seems the mariner had been posting about his trip on social media, leading to his fans notifying RCC New Zealand about their concerns.

Upon notification, RCC New Zealand contacted RCC Alameda requesting assistance who then diverted two merchant vessels, the Voyager and the Mandalay, to assist in the search.

On May 31, JRCC Tahiti assumed primary search and rescue responsibility after receiving more alerts for the vessel in distress approximately 1,240 nautical miles northeast of Tahiti. JRCC Tahiti requested three nearby merchant vessels to join in the search while a safety net broadcast continued.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrew, in Tahiti assisting with a separate search and rescue mission, flew four hours before arriving on scene, locating the master of the Smiles within a life raft, and conducting equipment drop-offs.

In total, the Coast Guard aircrew made three drops of life saving equipment to include food rations, life rafts, and communication equipment.

At approximately 1:08 p.m., last Friday, the merchant vessel Baker Spirit recovered the mariner

more than two weeks after he entered his life raft. The mariner is now en-route to Oahu in stable condition.

The rower is Aaron ‘Adventure Aaron’ Carotta, who began the voyage in October 2021.

“This recent search and rescue operation stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment and remarkable capabilities of our international partners,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Birkner, a search and rescue duty officer at Coast Guard District 14. “The outcome of this search and rescue case highlights the significance of effective communication between our partners in the Pacific, the diligence of our aircrews, and willingness to assist from high seas mariners.”

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