A liveaboard who was lost at sea on his 25-foot sailboat for 12 days was happy to see a Navy ship arrive to help, but he still refused to leave his boat behind.
The Coast Guard towed Ron Ingraham and his sailboat, Malia, from where it had drifted 200 miles away from the Oahu coast, surviving waves of 15 to 20 feet. The Coast Guard had called off the search for him Dec. 1 after it was unable to find his boat.
Ingraham was picked up Tuesday morning about 64 miles south of Honolulu, "weak, hungry and dehydrated.” He had survived by catching and eating fish.
“It wasn’t as good as a sushi bar, but that’s how I hydrated,” he told CNN.
But he wasn't beaten up enough to lose his priorities. According to his son, Zakary, the 67-year-old Ingraham told his rescuers, "We ain't leaving without my boat."
He set off solo around Thanksgiving from Molokai on what should have been a normal trip, like many others he'd made over the years. But bad weather prevented him from reaching the shore. He made distress calls on the holiday, indicating that his boat was taking on water.
Those calls spurred a search that would cover 12,000 square miles. It included an MH-65 helicopter, an HC-130 airplane and the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kiska. None of them could find Ingraham or his boat.
On Tuesday, he decided to give the distress call one more try. "This is a mayday, mayday, mayday," Ingraham said. "Small boat, in danger of sinking."
The Coast Guard heard the call and immediately dispatched the closest available boat — the USS Paul Hamilton, a Navy destroyer, then about 14 miles away.
When the ship found Ingraham, his boat's masts were broken and he was using an auxiliary sail to try to get closer to land, friend and fellow fisherman Dedrick Manaba told CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now.
"Both his masts was broken. He was sailing on a little auxiliary sail, trying to make his way back," Manaba said.
What will Ingraham do now that he's back on land? "I'm sure he's going to go fishing as soon as he's able," Zakary Ingraham told CNN via Skype from Missouri. "Like tomorrow."