SYDNEY - Air Canada is being credited with helping rescue officials pinpoint the location of a yacht in trouble off the coast of Australia.
A solo yachtsman left Pittwater, on Sydney's northern beaches, two weeks ago heading for Eden on the New South Wales south coast.
Capt. Andrew Robertson, of Vancouver, who was piloting an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney, says he was contacted after an emergency beacon was activated early Tuesday with the man reporting that his boat had been drifting away from land.
"There's a ship, a yacht in distress, may have sunk, and you are the closest aircraft. Would you be able to assist," was the message Robertson said he received from Australian air traffic control.
Robertson said he asked for the location of the boat so that he and his crew could determine if they had the fuel to search for the boat in distress.
"Once we'd put that into our computer ... we actually determined that we had the fuel," Robertson said.
He noted that the aircraft's flight management system doesn't take into account dropping in altitude and then climbing back up, but Robertson said the crew believed they had enough fuel.
An Air New Zealand A320 heading to Sydney from New Zealand also went off course to locate the yacht about 435 kilometres east of Sydney.
The Air Canada flight crew was using binoculars provided by passengers to look for the yacht as Robertson took the plane down to about 5,000 feet.
"I made a PA announcement to ask the passengers (to watch for the boat) because it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," he said.
"Almost right away, my first officer spotted something," Robertson said, adding that at 5,000 feet is was hard to make out any details.
"So I went from 5,000 down to 3,700 feet ... and they saw what they thought initially were three people on the deck, but it turns out there was only one," he said.
Robertson said the 777 is a big plane to be down at that level doing search and rescue.
"We couldn't even drop pretzels," he said.
"The passengers were awesome," Robertson said, adding he'd heard of no complaints about the detour on the flight to Sydney.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said everybody on board was "really happy and excited by the outcome," even though it delayed the flight by roughly 90 minutes.
With the boat's location confirmed, a police vessel was dispatched to the demasted yacht, which was running low on fuel and drifting further out to sea.
Robertson said he understood the man was rescued a few hours later.
"It was very exciting."
Also on HuffPost:
Mansion on San Francisco Bay
This 3,000-square-foot houseboat in San Francisco is fully loaded and full of surprises: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a hot tub, a state-of-the-art kitchen, fun travel artifacts and ethnic art all around and a rooftop deck with a barbecue and garden. No wonder Pavoratti stayed here. And it's not just bay views you'll be treated to, either; you can also see Mt. Tamalpais. <a href="http://www.vrbo.com/79742" target="_hplink">$6,000 a month</a>
Get a real feel for coastal Maine (specifically Boothbay Harbor) by surrounding yourself with water in this adorable one-bedroom, one-bathroom house boat. Enjoy privacy while you sun on the deck or cook up your own meals (with the three-burner stove and lobster pot), and when you feel like interacting with people or dining out, take the motorized skiff out for a spin. <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p393639" target="_hplink">$200 a night</a>
Budget Friendly Yacht in San Fran
This 2,000-square-foot, 64-foot, three-level yacht in San Francisco is surprisingly affordable to stay in. And with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, the whole family can fit. A concierge and private chef are also on hand. <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p237121" target="_hplink">$175 a night</a>
Wake Up and Fish in the Keys
Islamorada is one of the best fishing destinations in Florida, let alone the Keys. What better way to experience it than staying in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom yacht? Staff, which includes a private chef, is there to make sure your stay goes smoothly. <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p908234" target="_hplink">$1,250 a night</a>
London Luxury by the Sea
This five-bedroom, five-bathroom yacht in London all about the luxury: from the rooftop terrace to the jetted tub. <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p918295" target="_hplink">From £1,000 a night</a>
Tour Florida's Atlantic Coast
Vacationers who don't like to stay put for too long will love this two-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom yacht in Aventura, Florida. The captain will take you through the intercoastal waterways of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, so you can drop by South Beach or Las Olas Boulevard if you feel like it! Fishing equipment and three TVs with satellite are also on board. <a href="http://www.vrbo.com/271774" target="_hplink">Charters start at $,2056</a>
Sailing in Style in Key West
Want some luxury to go with your adventure? Hop aboard this four-bedroom, four-bathroom catamaran in Key West. The "Dancing Girls" yacht has a primo navigation system and has sailed across the Atlantic. But it's not just exploring you'll do; there's also a full gourmet kitchen, easy access to Duval Street and all the amenities of the Key West Harbour Yacht Club. <a href="http://www.vrbo.com/362848" target="_hplink">$1,500 a day for charter with captain </a>
HGTV-Worthy Houseboat in Portland
This 2,500-square-foot houseboat in Portland, Oregon has been featured on HGTV. It's both plush and cozy and takes full advantage of its serene waterfront (and mountain view) location. Fish right off the deck or hang out with the family at the fire pit when the evening rolls around. Three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms make it spacious enough for your whole crew. <a href="http://www.vrbo.com/29508" target="_hplink">$400 a night</a>
Canal Views in Amsterdam
Located smack dab in the center of Amsterdam, this two-bedroom, one-bathroom houseboat offers up a comfy lifestyle and canal views. <a href="http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/p883859" target="_hplink">€42 a night</a>
Tour Central America and the Caribbean
We've hit the mother load: this two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 55-foot sailboat in Bocas del Toro, Panama will take you through Panama, Central America and the Caribbean. The full-time captain doubles as a marine biologist, and there's also a private chef on board. <a href="http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p991384" target="_hplink">From $900 a night</a>