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Virginia couple Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones found safe after 11 days missing at sea, Coast Guard says
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Eleven days after a couple from Virginia went missing on a boat trip to the Portuguese Azores islands, they have been found safe and sound, the US Coast Guard has announced.

Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, of Virginia Beach, contacted the Coast Guard on Friday to report that their boat had been struck by lightning while passing through a storm, but they were able to repair a damaged sail and returned to Hampton, Virginia. ., Coast Guard officials said in a statement.

The couple, who were about 80 miles east of Chincoteague, Va., at the time of the call, did not seek Coast Guard assistance, officials said.

“We are extremely pleased to hear that Yanni and Dale have been found and are safe,” James Cifers, unit operations supervisor at the Fifth District Command Center, said in a statement. “It is truly wonderful that the couple will soon be reunited with friends and family.”

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Nikopoulos and Jones departed June 8 from Old Comfort Point Marina in Hampton and set sail for the Azores, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean known for dolphin and whale watching. Five days later, on June 13, the couple communicated that their ship, Kyklades, had suffered damage and were back home, the Coast Guard said.

On June 17, Jones’ daughter, who has not been publicly identified, contacted the Coast Guard, saying she had not heard from her mother since that communication and was concerned. The couple had no set return date, but were due back on Monday and would never have returned home, Jones’ daughter told the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Connie Terrell told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the reported damage to the sailboat involved a sail. She said the couple had a spare sail, but “we don’t know if they were able to carry out repairs at sea and continue to the Azores or if they turned around and went further north”.

Terrell said at the time the Coast Guard had no reason to believe the couple were in distress, but were investigating to determine their whereabouts. She said the Fifth Guard District was working with the First Guard District, which covers New England, as well as authorities in the Azores, Bermuda and Canada to see if the couple showed up. in another jurisdiction.

A formal search was not initiated because the potential search area was so large, but the Coast Guard took steps to help find them. The Fifth District Command Center issued an urgent maritime information broadcast to alert other boaters in the area who may have seen them and deployed two HC-130 Hercules search and rescue crews, one of whom was in routine mission but kept “one on the lookout” for them, Terrell said. The Coast Guard also began tracking pings from its cellphone and radio to narrow down a search area.

To protect the couple’s privacy, the Coast Guard has not released the time or location of their expected arrival in Virginia.

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