Sinking boat's distress signal prompts Coast Guard search; no one aboard

It was a busy night for rescue crews in Bodega Bay.

Around 3 a.m., a distress signal rang out in to the Coast Guard station, an automatic alarm that sounds when a boat is sinking.

"We got word that that was going on, and then we we launched one of our 47-foot motor lifeboat crews and a helicopter," said Ross Ellis, botswain's mate second-class with the U.S. Coast Guard. "They did their search patterns, but we were not able to locate anything."

Crews searched through the dark, early morning hours, looking for any signs of a struggling swimmer or disappearing boat in the water, but didn't find anyone in distress.

Eventually, just before 9 a.m., the Coast Guard got a call reporting that a commercial fishing boat had sunk at Porto Bodega, Ellis said. But then they had to ensure that there wasn't another sinking boat out there, and confirm that the signal came from commercial fishing boat.

That proved tricky because the 25-foot salmon trawler had been recently sold, but the rescue signal equipment wasn't re-registered in the new owner's name.

"Nobody was on board the boat," Ellis said. "There was no distressed person involved in it, we've been able to confirm that, which is good.

"Once we're able to do that, everyone rests a little easier ... there's no lives in danger," Ellis said.

Now they're trying to reach the owner of the boat, which is three-quarters submerged in Bodega Bay.

The incident served as a reminder that safety signals and equipment should be kept up to date, Ellis said.

"Without accurate information, it makes it pretty difficult to do what we're here to do," Ellis said. "There's a lot of boating traffic out this weekend. With the holiday, and being early on in the recreational crab fishing season, I think everyone's out enjoying the weather."

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