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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Former Baker City woman was on boat missing at sea

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Former Baker City woman was on boat missing at sea

Rhiannon Borisoff ().
Rhiannon Borisoff ().

By CHRIS COLLINS

A former Baker City woman known as an adventurer who loved the ocean is a member of a four-person sailboat crew missing off the coast of North Carolina.

Rhiannon Borisoff, 22, of Newport, R.I., had joined the crew to transport the 54-foot "Flying Colours" sailboat from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to Annapolis, Md. Borisoff moved to Rhode Island from Baker City a year ago.

She is the daughter of Michael and Lynne Borisoff of Baker City and a 2003 Baker High School graduate.

Other members of the crew, all experienced sailors from Newport, R.I., are Patrick Topping, 39, the ship's captain; Jason Franks, 34; and Christine Grinavic, 26, according to a report in the Newport Daily News newspaper.

A distress signal was sent from the boat at 3 a.m. Monday, Lynne Borisoff said in a telephone interview Friday morning from Rhode Island. The last distress signal was sent about 7:30 a.m.

The Borisoffs remain hopeful that their daughter and her crewmates will be found safe. Rhiannon's boyfriend was aboard the same boat with the same captain and was missing for 14 days before they returned home in an earlier incident, Lynne said.

"The boat is well-equipped and can handle rough seas," she said. "We just feel in our hearts they're still on the boat. It's a big sea out there and they need to keep searching."

She said the crew's family members plan to appear on the "Today" show next week if they have not returned home in the hope of keeping the search going. Vice President Dick Cheney and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also have urged the Coast Guard to continue the search, she said.

The Rhode Island newspaper reported Thursday that helicopter and boat crews have searched nearly 50,000 square miles for the boat. The last signal indicated it was about 120 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, N.C., according to Coast Guard officials.

On Monday, the same day the distress signal came in, the Coast Guard rescued nine people from three boats off the North Carolina coast, according to the report. Strong winds produced 40-foot swells in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.

Leslie Mitts, who has known Rhiannon since middle school when the two girls took a sign language class together, said Rhiannon called her last week from the Virgin Islands.

"She called me to say hi and to tell me how pretty it was," Mitts said Friday in a telephone interview from Madras, where she has lived for the past year.

"She was spending two days there and then sailing back," she said.

The two have kept in touch since high school and talk on the phone at least once or twice a week.

"She's a really caring friend and she loves animals a lot," Mitts said.

Rhiannon's father, Michael, had been visiting Rhode Island since May 1, Mitts said. The opportunity for Rhiannon to be a part of the transport crew came up at the last minute and her parents encouraged her to go.

"She was super excited," Mitts said.

Rhiannon is an only child who keeps in close touch with her parents. Lynne Borisoff called Mitts Tuesday from Baker City to tell her Rhiannon had not returned home.

"(Rhiannon's) always been an adventurous type of person," Mitts said. "She loved the ocean and the beach was a big part of her life."

After high school, Rhiannon attended Skagit Valley College at Mount Vernon, Wash., for two years, studying marine biology, her mother said.

Rhiannon returned to Baker City and had lived in La Grande for a short time before moving to Rhode Island.

During the past year she has been studying to be a dog trainer while also learning to sail. This was her first experience transporting a boat from the Caribbean, Lynne Borisoff said.

"She just loves the ocean," her mother said. "She has been going (to Rhode Island to visit my family) since she was a little kid."

Lynne added that the family is especially hopeful that the boat will return to port safe because no wreckage debris has been found during the search.

"I hope everybody keeps her in their thoughts and keeps their hopes up that they're going to find her," she said. "I've heard people have been out for months and they've been found. That's why I'm keeping my hopes up that they're still out there."

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