CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man whose family reported him missing at sea more than two months ago was found sitting on the overturned hull of his 35-foot sailboat far off the North Carolina coast, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday.
Coast Guard officials in Portsmouth, Virginia, said they received word from a German tanker about 1:30 p.m. indicating they spotted a man and his sailboat approximately 200 miles east of Cape Hatteras.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew from North Carolina flew to the ship and were airlifting Louis Jordan to a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, said Lt. Krystyn Pecora, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard's 5th District office. She said Jordan, 37, had a shoulder injury, but she did not have any additional information about his condition.
Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said Jordan's 35-foot sailboat had lost its mast and capsized. The tanker crew said it found Jordan sitting on the hull.
Doss said it was not known where or how long the boat had been capsized, but said Jordan told them he ate fish he caught to survive.
"We won't really know what happened to him out there until we talk to him," he said.
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," said his mother, Norma Davis, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. The family had not heard from him since, she said.
"We expected him to come back and he did not return," Davis said in a telephone interview. "We knew something happened. To us it's just a miracle. We're just so thrilled that he was found alive."
Davis said Jordan's father, her ex-husband Frank Jordan, spoke to their son after he was recovered by the Coast Guard and that in addition to injuring his shoulder, he was dehydrated.
"It's amazing," she said. "It's been very difficult not knowing anything and I just feel like all of our prayers have come true. They've been answered."
Jordan had spent months sanding and painting his docked 1950s-era, single-masted sailboat in Conway, where marina manager Jeff Weeks said he saw him nearly every day. Jordan was the only resident in a section of about 20 boats docked behind a coded security gate, Weeks said.
"You'll probably never meet a nicer guy," Weeks said. "He is a quiet gentleman that most of the time keeps to himself. He's polite. I would describe him as a gentle giant:" measuring 6-foot-2 and weighing 230 pounds.
Jordan appeared to be knowledgeable about wild fruits and mushrooms and fished for his meal in inland waterways, Weeks said. But his January trip may have been his first time sailing in the open ocean.
"He might sail up and down the Intercoastal Waterway, but he didn't have the experience he needed to go out into the ocean," Weeks said.
Records show that Louis Jordan sailed out of the marina in Conway, on Jan. 23, aboard the sailboat Angel, said Marilyn Fajardo, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard's 7th District. Fajardo said the Coast Guard in Miami was 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. Officials also searched financial data to determine whether Jordan actually had come ashore without being noticed, but found no indication that he had, she said.
A search was begun on Feb. 8, but Fajardo said the Coast Guard abandoned its efforts after 10 days. Despite reports from other sailors claiming to have seen Jordan's sailboat, none of the sightings were confirmed and the case was suspended. 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.
Davis said she is looking forward to celebrating her son's return.
"We do plan on having a wonderful Easter celebration with family and I can't wait to get him back," she said.