Virginia boaters targeting mid-Atlantic islands go missing after damage from heavy weather

Daughter said Virginia couple were returning to Hampton after their boat was damaged

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The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for two people reported overdue after they decided to return to Virginia in their weather-damaged boat instead of continuing their sailing trip to Portugal’s Azores.

Coast Guard officials announced Tuesday that Virginia Beach natives Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones, both 65, were missing.

Nikopoulos and Jones left Hampton, Virginia, on June 8 for the Azores Islands, a mid-Atlantic archipelago about 800 mi (1,287 kilometers) west of Portugal, the Coast Guard said. But five days later, the pair told Jones’ daughter that heavy weather damaged their vessel and they were returning to Hampton, the Coast Guard said.

In this photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, Yanni Nikopoulos, left, is pictured with Dale Jones. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the pair reported overdue after they failed to return when expected from a sailing trip to Portugal’s Azores.

In this photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, Yanni Nikopoulos, left, is pictured with Dale Jones. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the pair reported overdue after they failed to return when expected from a sailing trip to Portugal’s Azores. (Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)

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The pair were about 460 miles (740 kilometers) east of Virginia Beach at the time of the call, but no further communications were received, officials said.

On Friday, Jones’ daughter reported to the Coast Guard that she hadn’t heard from them and was concerned for their well-being. No date was set for their return, but Jones’ daughter expected them to be back by Monday, the Coast Guard said.

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This photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, shows the sailboat Kyklades. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for Virginia Beach natives Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones who were aboard the boat and reported overdue after they failed to return when expected from a sailing trip to Portugal’s Azores. 

This photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, shows the sailboat Kyklades. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for Virginia Beach natives Yanni Nikopoulos and Dale Jones who were aboard the boat and reported overdue after they failed to return when expected from a sailing trip to Portugal’s Azores.  (Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)

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HC-130 Hercules crews have conducted two overflights of the approximate area of the missing boaters and the Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast to alert boaters in the area. The Coast Guard is tracking cell phone and radio pings and working with counterparts in Bermuda to find the best search area for air crews, Chief Brian Gainey, command duty officer, said in a statement.

"In situations like this, where there are so many unknowns, our coordination efforts need to cast a wide and intentional net," Gainey said. "It’s a lot of detective work, but it’s all in service to finding these two individuals and bringing them home to their families."