June 14, 2024

Two people reported overdue after deciding to return to Virginia in their weather-damaged sailboat instead of continuing their trip to Portugal’s Azores are safely headed home, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday.

Virginia Beach natives Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, contacted the Coast Guard on Friday saying they were safe and on course for Hampton, Virginia. They were about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Chincoteague, but weren’t in distress and didn’t request assistance, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

They had left Hampton, Virginia, on June 8 on the 36-foot (11-meter) sailboat Kyklades for the Azores Islands, a mid-Atlantic archipelago about 800 mi (1,290 kilometers) west of Portugal, the Coast Guard said.

But they called Jones daughter last week to say the boat had been struck by lightning, so they rigged a spare sail and were headed back to Virginia. They were about 460 miles (740 kilometers) east of Virginia Beach at that point, and no further communication was received, the Coast Guard said.

Five anxious days passed before the daughter called the Coast Guard, saying she hadn’t heard from them and was concerned for their well-being. The Coast Guard reported them missing on Tuesday.

“We are extremely happy to learn Yanni and Dale are found and are safe,” James Cifers, operations unit watchstander in the Fifth District Command Center, said Friday. “It is truly wonderful the pair will be reunited with their friends and family soon.”

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