Virginia couple missing at sea for 11 days is safe and needed no help getting home

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A Virginia couple was located unscathed Friday, 11 days after their sailboat hit rough weather in the Atlantic Ocean and they could not be reached, officials said.

Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65 and from Virginia Beach, Virginia, said the vessel they planned to sail to the Azores and on to Greece was struck by lightning, thwarting the journey but leaving them unharmed, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The pair radioed Coast Guard watchstanders in Virginia to say they are alive and well and en route to the boat's home port in Hampton, Virginia, the Coast Guard said in a statement Friday.

The couple said they rigged a spare sail after the lightning strike, the military branch said. The boat was not in distress, it said.

The couple's boat, Kyklades. (U.S. Coast Guard)
The couple's boat, Kyklades. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard said Friday the vessel was located 80 miles east of the barrier island town of Chincoteague, Virginia.

One of Jones' daughters reported the couple's situation to the Coast Guard after, she said, they reported sailing in rough weather about 460 miles east of the Virginia Coast on June 13, Terrell said Tuesday.

The daughter, who was not named, told rescuers the couple decided to head home after they faced stormy seas. They were not close to the Azores of Portugal when they sailed into inclement weather.

The pair had been incommunicado for days, even as the Coast Guard said it would try to reach them by maritime radio. Earlier in the week, the military branch flew an HC-130J aircraft over the area where the couple reported rough weather, but no evidence of their voyage was found, officials said.

They set sail June 8 from the Fort Monroe marina in Hampton on their boat the Kyklades, the Greek word used to describe circle of islands at the heart of the civilization during the Bronze Age.

The couple was married or soon-to-be wed, according to a post on Jones' Facebook page about a combination bon voyage party, 65th birthday, and "wedding," at the end of May.

"It is truly wonderful the pair will be reunited with their friends and family soon," James Cifers, operations unit watchstander in the Coast Guard’s Fifth District Command Center, which covers the Mid-Atlantic states, said in Friday’s statement.