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Cruising sailors caught in Ernesto

SEPT. 1 — Coast Guard officials in Clearwater, Fla., were busy Wednesday rescuing the crews of two disabled sailboats headed to the Bahamas during Tropical Depression Ernesto.

About 50 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., the crew of the 38-foot Akasha placed a mayday call saying their mainsail was torn and their engine was not working, the Coast Guard says in a news release. Akasha was traveling with two other sailboats — the Crystal Glenn Shawnie and the Seagar — from Port Canaveral to the Abacos in the Bahamas.

Coast Guard officials launched a helicopter and a Hercules HC-130 aircraft, the release says. The skipper of Akasha and his mate were hoisted from the ailing vessel and were eventually taken to the Coast Guard Station in Port Canaveral, the release says. The Coast Guard reported seas were between 4 and 6 feet, and winds were at about 23 knots.

A short time later, the crew of the 46-foot Crystal Glenn Shawnie also needed rescuing, the Coast Guard says in a second news release. The Crystal Glenn Shawnie and Seagar crews had decided to head back to Port Canaveral when the Crystal Glenn Shawnie lost power and steering.

For days before the arrival of Tropical Depression Ernesto Coast Guard officials had warned boaters to stay off the water, the agency says. Officials say the crews of the three sailboats ignored a suggestion made by Coast Guard rescue coordinators in Miami to not travel during the storm.

— Jason Fell