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Family on sinking boat: Coast Guard increases overnight search

A family who radioed for help from their sinking boat have abandoned ship. As night falls, the Coast Guard has announced plans to expand their search.

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A Coast Guard rescue helicopter prepares to rescue a fisherman in the Gulf of Alaska in 2010. The Coast Guard and California Air National Guard are using helicopters, boats, and other technologies to search for a family who abandoned their sinking boat yesterday.

Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis / US Coast Guard / AP / File

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Crews planned to search by sea and air through the night Monday as they ramped up efforts to find a husband, wife and two young children who sent a series of distress calls saying their sailboat was sinking far off the Central California coast and they were fashioning a raft from a cooler and a life ring.

The unidentified family had been sailing a small vessel Sunday west of Monterey Bay, where strong winds, cold water and big swells made for perilous conditions. Forecasters had issued a weekend advisory warning boaters of rough seas in the area.

The group — which included two children under 8 — made its first distress call late Sunday afternoon, Coast Guard Lt. Heather Lampert said. Investigators used the boat's radio signal and radar to determine the call came from an area about 60 miles west of Monterey.

The boaters reported that their 29-foot sailboat was taking on water and the electronics were failing.

An hour later, the family members reported they had to abandon the boat and were trying to make a life raft out of a cooler and life-preserver ring, Lampert said. The Coast Guard then lost radio contact.

The agency looked for the family through the night and on Monday, with help from the California Air National Guard.

They planned to continue into Monday night, using lights from aircraft and boats, and other technologies to search the area.

"We will just saturate the search area with as many assets as we can, so we can hopefully rescue them," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz.

The Coast Guard on Monday also released one of the family's recorded distress calls (http://bit.ly/W90cyv ), in hopes that it will lead to new information from the public that could help in the search. So far the agency has received no reports of missing persons in the case.

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