Missing sailor is late, not lost

The Coast Guard launched a full-fledged search, with assistance from other agencies, to find a very late sailor.

Noel Rubio, 60, left Long Beach, California for Maui, Hawaii, late last December. His last communication was by cellphone as he passed Catalina Island, not very far off the coast of California. It is unknown what went wrong with Mr. Rubio's radio, but he was several weeks overdue when the Coast Guard launched a multi-agency search to find the lost seaman. Apparently, the gentleman passed within the cell range of a tower and called his wife to say he was OK and near Hawaii. The report seems unclear if the Coast Guard played any role in bringing him to this cell tower.

Sixty-year-old Noel Rubio set sail from Long Beach, Calif., for Oahu on Dec. 28. His voyage on a 32-foot Westsail sailboat named "Malulani" was due to end at Kaneohe on Jan. 18 — but as of Feb. 2, Rubio was nowhere to be found.

Rubio was last heard from on his day of departure when he reportedly called a friend from the water, just south of Catalina Island, informing them he was en route. His failure to arrive in Hawaii launched a U.S. Coast Guard search, aided by experienced trans-Pacific sailors, who consulted with the agency on weather patterns and possible routes Rubio may have taken.

Those efforts resulted in good news Sunday.

"We're pleased to report the wife of the missing mariner informed the Coast Guard that she made contact with her husband Saturday and that he was safe and within close proximity to Hawaii," Coast Guard spokesperson Matt Masaschi wrote over email. "His estimated arrival time to reach his destination was delayed due to a slower transit time than anticipated."

It's as yet unclear what slowed Rubio's journey, and why he lost communication at sea.

SF Gate