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Cargo ship rescues three on sailboat stranded off Hawaii


(Reuters) - A container ship's crew rescued three people on Monday from their disabled sailboat that took on water when it got caught in Hurricane Julio and encountered 30-foot waves hundreds of miles from Hawaii, a U.S. Coast Guard official said.

The crew of the cargo vessel Manukai brought the three people from the 42-foot sailboat on board their ship shortly before 8 a.m. local time after previous attempts to rescue them failed because of rough weather, said a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman, Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie.

The crew of the sailboat, which is named the Walkabout, got into trouble about 400 miles northeast of the island of Oahu and they sent out a distress signal on Sunday morning as Hurricane Julio moved across the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian archipelago, according to the Coast Guard.

The vessel was caught in winds of 92 to 115 miles per hour and 30-foot waves, and as it took on water, one of its hatches was blown away along with its life raft, the Coast Guard said.

Later on Sunday, an HC-130 military Hercules airplane approached the boat and dropped a life raft into the water, but the three people on board the Walkabout were unable to get to it because of the tumultuous seas, McKenzie said.

That airplane had to leave the area to refuel, and it was replaced by another HC-130 which kept a watch over the sailboat as the Manukai traveled to the area, McKenzie said.

When the crew of the 661-foot cargo ship arrived on Sunday night, they also deployed a life raft for the Walkabout's crew, but conditions were still too rough for them to get into it, McKenzie said. The effort was abandoned because it was too dangerous to continue in the dark, she said.

The rescue attempt resumed after daybreak on Monday and was successful, with the three crew members of the sailboat emerging unharmed from their ordeal, she said.

It was not immediately clear to which sea port the three people will be taken, McKenzie said. Their sailboat lost its mast in the storm and will probably be left where it is to sink in the ocean, she said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)