SOUTH PORTLAND — The report of a sailboat in distress off Pemaquid Point on Friday morning is being investigated by the Maine Marine Patrol as a possible hoax. The resulting search cost more than $100,000, the Coast Guard said, and the person who told authorities about the boat could face charges.
The search for the vessel, described as a 23-foot sailboat, was suspended at 3:20 p.m. Friday, Capt. Brian S. Gilda, a Coast Guard sector commander, said during a news conference at the Coast Guard station in South Portland.
“We found no debris, we found no boat in distress, we found no people in the water,” Gilda said.
Gilda said the search involved a Coast Guard helicopter diverted from Cape Cod, a fixed-wing aircraft, and units from the local fire and police departments in Bristol, the Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol and seven civilian fishing boats.
Gilda said the caller could be held responsible for the cost of the search if authorities can prove the call was intended to be fraudulent.
“I don’t think there’s a boat there,” said Marine Patrol Sgt. Dan White. “Do I think someone intentionally called this in to get everyone going? That’s all under investigation.”
The Coast Guard dispatched an H-60 helicopter and two boats to the area early Friday, assisted by the Maine Marine Patrol, Bristol Fire and Rescue, and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The search units covered about 680 square nautical miles in the area between Cape Small and Muscongus Bay, with the search pattern extending as far east as Monhegan Island, Gilda said.
Gilda on Friday was hesitant to call the report a hoax, and said that perceived distress calls sometimes result in no actual emergency and no intent to deceive authorities.
The 911 caller reported early Friday that the sailboat was taking on water near Pemaquid Point and that a person had jumped into the water to swim to shore, the Coast Guard said. The caller suggested that the boat then sank with one or two people on board. Gilda said the caller told an emergency dispatcher that he was contacted by someone on the boat.
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