Re: Sailboat missing off CA coast
If my boat were taking on water and I didn't have a life raft I would stay with her until the cabin top was awash especially if the water is 50F. I think most people would - especially if they had their wife and 4yo offspring and another kid along.
Now with that scenario the time would have been long past when there was any possibility of using an installed VHF radio to transmit a mayday. The batteries would be six feet underwater and shorting out through the sea water circuit and the radio would be flooded.
So a handheld VHF would be the transmit device.
A handheld is generally 5W max. In 40 years of using VHF I have never had anywhere NEAR performance that allowed comms using a handheld at 40-65 miles.
Based on this I am inclined to think that there's something "off" in the story somehow. Hoax? Perhaps.