Cypress Couple Believed Lost at Sea

Times Staff Writer

Relatives of a Cypress couple who apparently drowned in bad weather halfway between Hawaii and Long Beach were doing their best Sunday to cope with the loss.

"We're doing better," said Anne Moore of Irvine, daughter-in-law of Brian and Helen Moore. "We're kind of adjusting. A good night's sleep and having family around really helps."

A Coast Guard spokesman in Honolulu said the search for the Moores had been called off late Saturday and they were presumed lost at sea. "They were well prepared," Chief Petty Officer Joe Curcio said, "but the weather was just too extreme."

The couple -- he 68 and she 64 -- left California six months ago to tour the South Pacific on a 32-foot single-mast sailboat that Brian Moore had scrimped for 25 years to buy.

Nov. 16, when they called family members on a satellite phone, they were in good spirits but frustrated because they'd hit dead air and had a torn sail. Then about 5:45 a.m. Thursday, just 17 days and 1,300 miles from Long Beach and the end of their journey, the couple sent a distress signal received at Coast Guard headquarters in Honolulu.

Five hours later, the crew of a C-130 Coast Guard Hercules aircraft spotted two people on a raft about 1,000 miles from Hawaii and dropped survival supplies. The closest boat, a small fishing vessel, was about 84 miles away, however, and by the time it arrived the next morning the wind was almost 60 mph and there were 25-foot swells.

"At some point during the night they either fell out or tried to get to [the supplies]," Curcio said.

"They were probably very seasick and very scared. The weather was just terrible. Their boat could very easily have been capsized by a wave and sunk."

When the seas calmed, would-be rescuers found an empty raft and debris from the sailboat. Among the remnants recovered, Curcio said, were water bottles, a milk crate, pieces of a volleyball and a disposable camera. "Brian had dreamed for 40 years of taking this trip," Anne Moore said Sunday.

The windless calm during their last satellite phone call a week ago Sunday, she said, had provided one unexpected blessing.

"It let them have a good connection so we could have a nice long conversation."

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