On Thanksgiving day, the US Coast Guard received a short distress call from Ron Ingraham roughly 40 miles off the coast of Kailua, Hawaii. According to CNN, it was the last time anyone would communicate with the 67-year-old angler for 12 days, until miraculously, Ingraham was able to make one last transmission.
“This is a mayday, mayday, mayday,” said Ingraham on December 9, eight days after the Coast Guard suspended its search. “…Small boat, in danger of sinking.”
The angler was picked up 64 miles south of Honolulu by the US Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton, from where he was later taken to Molokai. According to the Coast Guard, Ingraham was dehydrated and weak, but uninjured and alive. The news of the rescue came as a tremendous relief to man’s family, especially his son Zakary, who described Ingraham as one of the toughest men he knew. Sure enough, the angler told a harrowing story of survival at sea while he recovered.
The Thanksgiving fishing trip had started off well enough, but conditions soon worsened after Ingraham’s 25-foot sailboat, the Malia, started taking on water from waves as high as 20 feet. Shortly after his first distress call, Ingraham described a massive wave hitting the boat, destroying the radio antenna and two masts, as well as throwing him in the water. Ingraham nearly died in the rough current, but was able to pull himself back to the boat by the rope he had attached to himself.
“I thought I was going to die,” he told Good Morning America. “I hung in there. It took mental discipline.”
More than just damaging the radio, the same wave that knocked Ingraham into the water also robbed him of his supplies. For nearly two weeks, the angler said that he had to rely on the ocean to supplement what food and water was left on the boat.
“I was way out there, and I was out of water, but I hydrated on fish,” he said. “I’m a fisherman, so I caught fish.”
While Ingraham attempted to repair his boat, the Coast Guard conducted an exhaustive search for the lost fisherman, but finding the 25-foot Malia in the 12,000 square-mile search area where Ingraham’s GPS signal proved to be difficult. The search was suspended on December 1, and Zakary Ingraham recalled Coast Guard officials calling him with the possibility that the ship—and his father—may have sunk into the Pacific Ocean.
Then the Coast Guard received a second distress call. Ingraham was reportedly attempting to use his auxiliary sail to get back to dry land when the angler managed to substitute a coat hanger and some wiring for his radio antenna.
“A lot of joy around the command center to know that, okay, he’s alive and he’s going to be okay,” Coast Guard Lt. Scott Carr told Hawaiinewsnow.com.
Zakary Ingraham, who lives in Missouri, said he always knew his father was alive.
“You know who Rambo is?” he joked. “Rambo has a picture of my dad on his wall.”
You can see a raw video of the rescue below:
Image courtesy US Coast Guard