The stranded sailors, which included two men and two women, sent a distress call from their Sun Chaser sail boat which was picked up by a nearby ship, according to a statement by the US Coast Guard.
The signal was carried over the US Coast Guard-sponsored Amver-system which helps determine which nearby ships can best respond to maritime emergencies.
The rescuing ship, an 800-foot Greek tanker named Parthenon, was able to maneuver through rough weather to the troubled sailboat, about 84 miles off of Portuguese coast, while at the same time alerting rescue officials on the mainland.
“The [Swedish] sailors radioed the rescue helicopter and said they could not abandon ship in the rough weather because their lifeboat had been ripped from the sailboat and drifted away,” said the ship’s captain, Vasileiadis Lazaros, according to the US Coast Guard.
But bad weather prevented the helicopter from safely taking up the sailors, leaving the rescue operation up to the captain of the massive Greek tanker.
“I ordered the Sun Chaser to make fast to our port side amidships and had the crew lay down the pilot ladder,” said Captain Lazaros.
Shortly after lowering the ladder, the first survivor was safely on board the Parthenon, and within three hours all four had been rescued.
The four stranded Swedes were later taken ashore in Portugal where they were met by Portuguese officials.