Missing couple explain what happened
Published on June 28th, 2022
The USA couple at the center of a Coast Guard search in the Atlantic Ocean are safely back at home – and they made it all on their own to Virginia Beach, VA.
Sixty-eight-year-old Yanni Nikopoulos and 65-year-old Dale Evelyn Jones tied the knot just a few months ago, and their mutual love of the sea had them set sail across the Atlantic on a trip to Europe.
On June 8, the couple left Hampton, VA for Portugal, having packed six months’ worth of food and with their 15-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Buddy, along for the ride. But things didn’t go as planned.
“The first storm started. Then, the second storm started. Then, a little bit of quiet,” Nikopoulos said. “You know, we went through six storms, two of them were lightning storms.”
On June 13, five days after they left, the couple ran into trouble. Lightning struck their boat.
“All of a sudden it was like, Bam! It threw my hands off the wheel and all the lights went out and I said, ‘Yanni, I think I need you!’” Jones said.
Their boat’s electrical system went out, their navigation and communication systems crashed, the food in the boat’s freezer was at imminent risk of going bad, and the strong winds shredded their headsail. “Eventually, it was claimed by the ocean,” Nikopoulos said. “The sail was gone.”
With no sail and no electricity, the couple only had one option: they turned back around.
“We have no communication, so there’s no point of another five weeks of going to Europe without any communication or knowing what to expect,” Nikopoulos said. “Everything was destroyed.”
Meanwhile back on shore, after not hearing from them for a few days, their family contacted the Coast Guard on June 17, reporting them missing at sea. The couple’s plight grabbed headlines.
“It’s not only a national story,” Nikopoulos said. “My son in Greece phoned us, he saw it on the news in Greece. He said, ‘What’s going on? I’m so worried’.”
The couple said at the time, they had no idea the Coast Guard might have been looking for them. After a week-long search, the Coast Guard confirmed they found the couple safe on June 24, roughly 80 miles east of Chincoteague, an island along Virginia’s Eastern Shore region.
Nikopoulos said he rigged a VHF radio to make contact, and throughout the ordeal, the couple never panicked and didn’t need rescue. They had rigged a sail that worked well enough to carry them all the way home.
“Not much scares me. I’m willing to try anything. I’ve always been a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, anyway,” Jones joked, who said they’re already planning to try the trip again next year.