On Saturday morning, the 39′ sailboat, Sanctuary, in heavy weather 256 miles northeast of Bermuda, was hit by several breaking waves, lost power and began slowly taking on water. The crew of five, four men and one woman, called for help. The US Coast Guard launched a C130 Hercules plane from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City to help locate the sailboat. They also vectored the cruise ship, Norwegian Gem, part of the AMVER network, to the distressed sailboat. In 40 knot winds and large swells, the five crew sailors were rescued and taken aboard the cruise ship. The Norwegian Gem, which was on its way back from Bermuda when they rescued the sailors, arrived back in New York, this morning. The Norwegian Gem is one of roughly 20,000 ships enrolled in the AMVER program. The rescue of the five sailors from the Sanctuary is just another example of how AMVER saves lives. But what is AMVER?
AMVER is the most amazing world-wide maritime search and rescue network that most people have probably never heard of. AMVER stands for the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System. It is a voluntary program in which merchant ships enroll and provide the AMVER system with their voyage plans and positions. When a distress call comes in, AMVER determines which is the closest ship capable of providing assistance. In the case of the Norwegian Gem, the cruise ship was only a few hours away from the sailboat in distress. With roughly 20,000 ships enrolled in the AMVER network, there is a good chance that help for sailors in distress, on merchant ships or private vessels, is not far away.