Two C-130 Hercules aircraft searched the Philippine Sea on Saturday for five missing Americans who left Guam more than two weeks earlier to deliver a catamaran to the Philippines, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The crew of the Pineapple is experienced and well-provisioned, but the craft has no long-range emergency communications equipment and faced challenging winds during part of the journey, officials said.
The four unidentified men and one woman are friends and have taken sailing classes, said Coast Guard Lt. Gregg Maye, command center supervisor in Guam for search and rescue. They apparently were delivering the sailboat to a new owner.
"The experience level gave us confidence," Maye said of the crew. "The master has made voyages like this before," he said of the captain of the vessel.
The U.S. Navy has offered the use of a P-3 Orion aircraft to cover the 60,000 square miles of ocean, and the Philippine coast guard is searching its islands, including Cebu, the missing crew's destination, Maye told CNN.
The five crew members began the 1,400-mile (2,250-km) journey on January 6 and were expected to arrive at the central island of Cebu around January 16.
"They were well-stocked," Maye said. "They took plenty of water and provisions." And people who have been on the Pineapple said it was in good condition and seaworthy.
Winds and currents were mostly favorable, but the 30-knot winds on part of the journey are troubling.
"Rigging and sails can get fouled. That's why we are concerned," the lieutenant said.
Officials don't believe the 38-foot, double-hulled white catamaran carried a satellite phone or distress radio beacon, Maye said. The crew has a hand-held radio with a range of a few miles.
The captain apparently told someone the trip would take seven to 10 days, but it can take longer, Maye said.
"We would have expected for them to make the journey in two weeks."
On Tuesday, a relative contacted authorities, who began an investigation. And on Wednesday, the Coast Guard requested the use of the C-130s, which had to be flown from Hawaii, refueled and prepared for the aerial search, which began Saturday morning. One is being flown from Guam, the other from the island of Yap.
The Coast Guard is using current and vessel drift models to determine the "optimal search area," Maye said.