Virginia couple sailing to Azores missing after reporting rough weather

MSN

Virginia couple sailing to Azores missing after reporting rough weather

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a couple who went missing after setting sail for the Azores, Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic, officials said.


Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65-year-olds from Virginia Beach, Virginia, reported hitting rough weather about 460 miles east of the Virginia Coast on June 13, said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Connie Terrell.


They set sail from Hampton, Virginia, June 8, with plans to reach the Azores and then sail on to Greece, she said. Jones' daughter reported Friday the pair had been incommunicado for days, the Coast Guard said in a statement Tuesday. The daughter declined to comment.


Terrell said a Coast Guard HC-130J plane conducted search and rescue flights over the area where the couple reported rough weather took place Monday and Tuesday, but no evidence of them or the boat was found.


According to Jones' Facebook page, the couple had been refreshing the wooden monohull sailboat at the Fort Monroe marina in Hampton before setting sail. The name on the boat's stern is Kyklades, the Greek word used to describe circle of islands at the heart of the civilization during the Bronze Age.


On May 16, Jones posted about unsettled weather at the marina, writing, "It came out of nowhere! The wind was so strong it leaned the boat to port side. I guess it's a little taste of what to expect on occasion."


On the same day, in what appeared to be her latest post about the vessel, Jones celebrated completing installation of a safety net intended to protect her dog. "I no longer have to worry about Buddy falling overboard," she said.


Her page first states her status of being in a relationship with Nikopoulos on July 23, 2021.


The couple was married or soon-to-be wed, according to the social media page. A bon voyage party thrown by Jones' daughters was also billed as a celebration of Jones' retirement, 65th birthday, and "wedding," and it included a "MR. & MRS." decoration, according to photos posted May 29.


Terrell of the Coast Guard said Jones' daughter reported the pair was turning back to head home after hitting that weather June 13.


"They were heading toward the Azores and weren't there yet," she said.


During Tuesday morning's flight over the Atlantic, "Unfortunately they were not able to make contact with that vessel," Terrell said.


An urgent marine radio broadcast in that area of the ocean asks boaters to report any evidence of the missing couple or vessel, she said.


The Fifth Coast Guard District Command Center is in charge of the search.


“In situations like this, where there are so many unknowns, our coordination efforts need to cast a wide and intentional net,” Coast Guard Chief Brian Gainey said in a Tuesday statement.


Gainey said the search involves attempts to track the pair's cellphones as well as the boat's radio.


"It’s a lot of detective work," he said, "but it’s all in service to finding these two individuals and bringing them home to their families."


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