Missing Virginia boaters found safe after extensive Atlantic search

The Virginia couple who were the subject of an ocean search in the Atlantic are safe and returning home, authorities say.

The U.S. Coast Guard said boaters Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65 and from Hampton, Va., told the Virginia Coast Guard Sector Command Center they were 80 miles east of Chincoteague and were sailing towards Hampton. The couple was not in distress.

“We are extremely pleased to hear that Yanni and Dale have been found and are safe,” said James Cifers, unit operations supervisor at the Fifth District Command Center. “It is truly wonderful that the couple will soon be reunited with their friends and family.”

Authorities said the couple had to rig a spare sail after being struck by lightning on their trip to the Azores islands.

The couple came to national attention when their alleged disappearance was widely reported last week.

They originally set sail for the Azores on June 9, but when the yachtsmen were about 460 miles into their journey, they told Ms Jones’ daughter on June 13 that they had encountered bad weather and were heading home .

Ms Jones’ daughter expected to hear from her mother and Nikopoulos a few days later, but when she didn’t, she contacted the Coast Guard on June 17.

Authorities have contacted the Coast Guard command in New England, as well as their counterparts in Canada, Bermuda and the Azores – a chain of islands about 800 miles off the coast of Portugal – to be on the lookout. of the couple.

The Coast Guard dispatched two crews of HC-130 Hercules to fly over the area of ​​missing boaters and also issued a bulletin for other boaters to keep an eye out for boaters, but maintained there was no reason to think that the boaters were in trouble.

Brandon D. James