May 21, 2018
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Distress call under investigation

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The U.S. Marine Corps might be looking for a few good men, but the U.S. Coast Guard would like to find just one man in particular — the one who placed a short mayday radio distress call Monday afternoon.

Despite a fairly extensive search, Coast Guard crews found no sign of any vessel that had run out of fuel between Camden and Lincolnville.

“Mayday, mayday, my boat quit, and I’m going to Lincolnville shore,” a male voice said from about one mile offshore in the distress call, which has been made public on a Coast Guard Web site.

The mystery mariner has a fairly strong Maine accent and is either having difficulties with his vessel somewhere off Lincolnville or possesses a peculiar sense of humor.

“We are concerned with his safety. That’s the most important thing,” said Curtis Barthel, commander of Coast Guard Station Rockland. “We cannot guarantee that this person has safely made it back to shore.”

As of now, the call is considered a “false distress,” Barthel said. It would not be considered a hoax without clear evidence that was the case. But the costs of chasing after false distress and hoax calls add up, he said.


to hear the mayday call.

The Monday afternoon search probably cost around $2,000, give or take — “pretty cheap,” Barthel said, compared with what it costs to bring aircraft all the way from Cape Cod to the coast of Maine.

Yet the nonmonetary cost of a false hoax call can be more significant. If search and rescue personnel are scouring the ocean for a vessel that’s not there, it means that if a real emergency were to happen, the crews might not make it in time.

“I don’t think they really understand what they’re doing,” Barthel said of those who make false calls.

“The one time it’s real, and somebody loses their life or their boat … that’s the real cost. More than money.”

After the distress call came in about 4:15 p.m.

Monday, the Coast Guard launched a 25-foot response vessel to search for the boater but found no signs of distress. It was assisted by the Maine Marine Patrol, Penobscot Island Ferries and some area good Samaritans, who also found nothing.

Making the distress call public is unusual, Barthel said, but it has been done before.

“Our goal is to locate the person making the calls in order to verify if someone is truly in need of assistance from the Coast Guard,” Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wheeler said in a news release.

Anyone with information that can help authorities identify the caller is encouraged to call Sector Northern New England’s command center at 767-0303.

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