A sailor missing at sea for 66 days was rescued from his disabled boat about 200 miles off the North Carolina coast, officials said Thursday.
Louis Jordan, 36, was reported missing by his father on Jan. 29. He had set sail about a week earlier on the 1950s-era, single-masted sailboat Angel from Bucksport Plantation Marina in Conway, South Carolina.
He was found floating on the overturned hull of his vessel by a German cargo ship, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
A Jayhawk helicopter later transported Jordan to Sentara Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. He was able to stand up and walk without assistance and was later released.
Jordan told Coast Guard officials he survived through a combination of rationing the food he had already packed for the journey, drinking rain water and catching fish with a net. He added that his mast broke and his communication gear was damaged in a rough storm.
In an emotional telephone call Thursday, Louis Jordan spoke to his father, Frank Jordan, for the first time in more than two months.
"I haven’t heard you in so long," Louis Jordan told his father in an audio recording of the conversation released by the Coast Guard.
"Oh man, it’s nice to hear your voice," Frank Jordan replied. "People have been praying for you."
Louis Jordan seemed to lament the loss of his 35-foot-vessel, saying to his father: "I couldn't fix it, I couldn't sail back with my boat — I’m so sorry, it’s such a huge loss."
Frank Jordan replied: "Hey Louis, you’re fine, son, I’m so glad that you’re alive. We prayed and prayed and we hoped that you were still alive. So, that’s all that matters."
Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss told The Associated Press that "Angel" had lost its mast and capsized. The German container ship's crew said it found Jordan sitting on the hull. Doss added it was not known where or how long the boat had capsized. However, Jordan was located some 200 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Jordan had been living on his docked sailboat at the Bucksport Plantation Marina in Conway, South Carolina, until January, when he told his family he was "going into the open water to sail and do some fishing," according to his mother, Norma Davis, of Jacksonville, North Carolina.
He set sail on Jan. 23, heading north.
The family had not heard from him since, Davis said. "We expected him to come back and he did not return," his mother said in a telephone interview with the AP. "We knew something happened. To us it's just a miracle. We're just so thrilled that he was found alive."
Coast Guard Lt. Krysten Pecora said at a news conference outside Sentara Norfolk General Hospital that Jordan’s family was elated and visiting him in the hospital.
"Obviously his family is overjoyed to see him after such a long time out there. I just attribute that to his strength and willingness to live and keep on going," Pecora added. "It’s pretty remarkable."
Marilyn Fajardo, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard's 7th District, said officials in Miami were notified by Frank Jordan on Jan. 29 that he hadn't seen or heard from his son in a week. One week later, Davis confirmed their son was still missing.
Fajardo said alerts were issued from New Jersey to Miami to be on the lookout for Jordan and his sailboat.
A search was launched on Feb. 8, but Fajardo said the Coast Guard abandoned its efforts after 10 days.
The Coast Guard said Jordan didn't file a "float plan," the nautical equivalent of a flight plan, to determine his route or destination, and Fajardo said there wasn't enough information to narrow down his whereabouts.
Officials also searched financial data to determine whether Jordan actually had come ashore without being noticed, but found no indication that he had, Fajardo added.
Donna Paine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.