Coast Guard Search Possibly Based on Bogus Distress Calls

There is now suspicion that the family lost at sea was all a hoax.

Distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday afternoon that were allegedly from a family with young children aboard a sinking boat off the coast of Monterey Bay may have been a hoax, Coast Guard officials said late this morning.

The search for the boaters was called off around 9:30 a.m. today.

Coast Guard boats and aircraft had been scouring the waters about 65 miles off the coast since about 4:20 p.m. Sunday, when someone made a distress call to Coast Guard Sector San Francisco.

The caller said he was on a boat, possibly named "Charmblow," with his wife, their 4-year-old son and the boy's young cousin.

The man told the Coast Guard that the vessel's electronics system was failing, and then said over a choppy radio connection that the family had decided to abandon ship, according to the Coast Guard.

In the last dispatch from the boat at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the man said the family was trying to string together a cooler and a life ring to cling to. He said the vessel had no life raft.

After searching more than 22,000 square miles, nothing has turned up and there have been no missing-persons reports that would help identify the family, Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.

"We want to think every case is legitimate," Bena said. "There is the possibility this is a hoax."

Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz said the Coast Guard checked local marinas for information about a boat named "Charmblow" or something similar, to no avail.

The active search has been called off, however search and rescue experts are continuing to look into the mysterious distress calls and information about the boat and supposed passengers.

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