Coast Guard searching from NC to FL for missing boater
MELBOURNE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Hugh Blankenship had been looking online for a used sailboat for months. Recently, he came across one in Maryland and decided to buy it.
The 82-year-old man told his family it would take him about two weeks to sail home. That would have put him home on Oct. 30, yet no one has seen him or talked to him since Oct. 23, and the U.S. Coast Guard has not seen any signs of Blankenship or his vessel.
Iolani Blankenship, Hugh’s youngest daughter, said her father was excited about getting the 29-foot Catalina "MARTA" back home to Melbourne.
“We kind of tried to talk him out of it. We were trying to get someone to go with him and a couple of thing didn't work out and he was pretty determined to go,” said Iolani. “He's an adventurer. He's a Christian. He's got a lot of faith in God so we're all praying he comes home safe.”
Hugh Blankenship had been checking in with his wife every day on his southbound sailing adventure.
“Virginia Beach was the last place that my mom talked to him.” Iolani said.
That was over a week ago.
“My mom called the Coast Guard after he hadn't checked in for one day.”
That was on Oct. 24. Blankenship’s plan was to sail the majority of the trip down intercostal waterways, only going into the ocean when he had to. Iolani sasaid the Coast Guard determined that her father’s cellphone last pinged on a tower early on the 24th off the northern coast of North Carolina.
“He's been a fisherman and a captain and even a diver his whole life, so we were just kind of hoping for the best,” Iolani said.
As the days pass, her family is doing their best not to lose hope.
“Heaven forbid, if his ship went down for any reason, his vessel was seaworthy. The Coast Guard talked to guy who had it before him, but anything can happen. The ocean is a dangerous place. If that is what happened, that's probably the way he wanted to go. He's always been a lover of the ocean,” said Iolani.
If you see the Catalina 29’ MARTA, call the US Coast Guard. Blankenship’s family asks that you help by sharing this story with family and friends along the eastern seaboard.