published Thursday, June 27th, 2013

7 aboard U.S. schooner missing in South Pacific

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Searchers said Thursday they have grave concerns for seven people aboard an American schooner that has been missing for three weeks between New Zealand and Australia.

Maritime New Zealand said Thursday that searches by plane this week found no sign of the 70-foot (21-meter) wooden vessel named Nina, which was built in 1928.

Authorities say there are three American women and three American men aged between 17 and 73 on board. Also aboard is a British man, aged 35.

The boat left the Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand on May 29. Authorities say the last communication was on June 4, when the Nina was about 370 nautical miles west of New Zealand.

Steve Rendle, a spokesman for the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, said authorities were first alerted to a potential problem on June 14, when they were contacted by concerned family members of the crew.

A storm that day saw winds gusting up to 110 kilometers (68 miles) per hour and waves of up to 8 meters (26 feet).

“Quite often when yachts are sailing around, they have their own arrangements when it comes to keeping in contact,” he said.

He said the boat had an emergency locator beacon aboard but it had not been activated.

Rendle said authorities began a communications search on June 14, which involved attempting to contact the boat through various radio frequencies as well as contacting other boats in the same area.

He said a New Zealand Air Force plane on Tuesday conducted a search around the area where the boat went missing. A second search by the plane on Wednesday went as far as the Australian coast but again turned up nothing.

He said he didn’t have an exact timetable for the boat’s trip, but that authorities would have expected it to have arrived in Australia by this week.

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