SANTA CRUZ — The Pacific Ocean either swallowed an adventurous couple and two young children aboard a sailboat off the Monterey coast this week, or someone played a cruel hoax that wasted Coast Guard resources and tugged at the hearts of coastal residents over two days of desperate searching.
The Coast Guard on Tuesday called off the search for a boat that reportedly sank in rough seas far off the Central California coast, saying nothing more could be done and that the family's distress calls might have been a hoax.
"We've exhausted the possibilities," Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz said. The Coast Guard is treating the incident as a rescue, with the possibility the calls came from a trickster. Neither the family nor the boat has been reported missing.
Crews have been looking for the family by sea and air since receiving their first distress call Sunday afternoon when the boaters said their 29-foot sailboat was taking on water and their electronics were failing.
The boat had no working GPS system, but investigators used its radio signal and radar to determine the call came from an area about 60 miles west of Monterey, where strong winter winds, cold water and big swells made for perilous conditions. Forecasters had issued a weekend advisory warning boaters of rough seas in the area.