The story of a boater who had been lost at sea for nearly two weeks has come to a happy end.
Ron Ingraham, 67, and his 25-foot sailing vessel, the “Malia,” are back on their home island of Molokai Wednesday morning.
A U.S. Coast Guard crew from Station Maui escorted Ingraham and towed Malia to Kaunakakai Harbor at 8:50 a.m.
Ingraham told KHON2 he’s grateful to be alive.
“I ate raw fish. That was moisture and food. I had one gallon of water and no food. I’m a fisherman so I caught fish everyday and that kept me hydrated enough to live,” he said.
“Did you ever give up hope?” KHON2 asked.
“The last three or four days were pretty rough,” Ingraham said. “I thought, maybe this one’s going to get me, but I couldn’t give up. I hung in there.”
On Nov. 27, Ingraham placed two Mayday calls saying Malia was taking on water and in danger of sinking 46 miles west of Kailua-Kona.
The Coast Guard believed Ingraham was sailing alone from Kaunakakai Harbor to Manele Bay on Lanai when he made those calls on Thanksgiving.
Search crews responded to where they believed the calls were initiated. The initial search in difficult weather and sea conditions covered about 12,000 square miles, but there was no sign of Ingraham or his vessel.
The search for Ingraham was suspended on Dec. 1.
So what happened? After experiencing problems with his boat, Ingraham said he sent a distress call to the Coast Guard, but there was a problem.
“My GPS was inoperative and giving out false coordinates,” said Ingraham. So the Coast Guard was looking in one area while he was in another.
“I was hundreds of miles from where they were looking for me,” said Ingraham.
Then on Tuesday, Dec. 9, a miracle happened. “I got a blip. I rerouted my radio with a coat hanger and some wire and got off a blip,” said Ingraham.
Sure enough, Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector Honolulu Command Center received a short Mayday call at 7:55 a.m. from Ingraham.
The call lasted for just a few seconds, but it was enough for the Coast Guard and the Navy to scramble to the rescue.
“With our equipment, we were able to basically use direction finding equipment, we were able to d-f the signal, and trace him to where he was,” said Lt. G. Scott Carr, deputy of external affairs with the 14th Coast Guard District.
Crews determined Ingraham was located 64 miles south of Honolulu.
The USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy guided missile destroyer, was nearby and rushed to the scene, while the Coast Guard sent a C-130, a Dolphin helicopter and the USCGS Cutter Kiska to join in the effort.
Officials say Ingraham was weak, hungry and dehydrated when he was brought on board the Navy vessel.
“He got a shower, which, if you know, spending time at sea, it’s really nice to get the salt water off of you,” said Carr. “He got some food and water. He’s okay.”
“I had a lot of people rooting for me and the gods were with me and I mean, I am safe and all good,” said Ingraham.
Ingraham’s fishing buddy, Dedric Manaba, heard the good news from the Coast Guard while he was out fishing off Molokai.
A relieved Manaba offered this advice for his friend: “I’m going to tell him maybe you should go fishing with me more often and stop fishing with that little sailboat, kind of dangerous.”
When Ingraham returned to Molokai Wednesday, Manaba gave more than just advice.
He gave Ingraham a gift, in case Ingraham ever found himself in another predicament at sea: a personal EPIRB, or emergency position indicating radio beacon, which transmits an emergency signal via satellite that can be picked up by search and rescue teams.
“Yes, he gave me an EPIRB so I can make it easier on everybody,” Ingraham said with a laugh.
The Coast Guard says, in addition to a life jacket, all mariners should have an EPIRB onboard their vessel.
The following story aired on Dec. 9, 2014: