The three boaters who were feared lost off Mount Desert Island last month were pulled from their 40-foot sailboat near Norfolk, Virginia, the week before last, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Charlotte Kirby, Nathaniel Davis and Wilfredo Lombardo were reported missing on Nov. 16, setting off a Coast Guard search that was ended two days later when they radioed off Montauk, New York, at the tip of Long Island, to give their location.

This 40-foot sailboat, named Dove, was reported missing Nov. 16 about 20 miles south of Mount Desert Island. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

A Coast Guard official on Sunday said that a cargo ship, the Jaguar Max, rescued the trio off the coast of Virginia on Nov. 19. The ship’s crew reported that the sailboat had lost its mast and its occupants were donning lifejackets.

At the request of the Coast Guard, the 750-foot ship had diverted course toward the sailboat and subsequently made visual contact with the boaters. But it had to hold off on picking them up until the next day because of high winds and seas.

At sea, “it’s an unspoken honor code – if someone’s in distress, you go out to help them,” said Petty Officer Edward Wargo, a spokesman for the Virginia division of the Coast Guard.

The sailboat, the Dove, was abandoned after the trio was rescued.

Kirby, Davis and Lombardo set out from the town of Mount Desert without telling family members exactly when they were leaving or where they were headed. An island resident recalled seeing them beforehand buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries.

Their disappearance – plus a mysterious 3 a.m. 911 call on Nov. 16 – prompted a Coast Guard search via boat and plane that covered thousands of nautical miles.

Family members feared the worst before learning that the three boaters were safe.

“We’re just a mess,” Anita Lombardo said shortly before her son was located.

Hours later on Nov. 18, the sailboat crew managed to reactivate a communications system and GPS, and contacted their families and the Coast Guard to transmit their location – about 90 nautical miles south of Montauk.

After picking up the three boaters, the cargo ship told the Coast Guard that it would return to port on Nov. 22, according to Wargo. Port records indicate the ship stopped at Newport News, Virginia, that day.

The Jaguar Max is an 81,000-ton ship registered in the Bahamas and operated by Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A., a company based in Athens, Greece.

The boaters’ families and representatives for the shipping company could not be reached for comment Sunday.

In a brief phone interview Sunday afternoon, Davis, who goes by Nat, confirmed that he and his friends are back on shore.

He declined to comment on the incident, other than to say that he made the trip “for the love of sailing.”


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