Fortunately for Thomas Louis Corogin, it took just one day for the Chilean navy to locate the veteran North American sailor, after broken rigging left him afloat but unable to control his boat amid 15 foot (4.6 m) swells far off the Chilean coast, somewhere in the South Pacific.
The rescue ended the 84-year-old North American’s seventh solo attempt at rounding the bottom tip of the South American continent, Cape Horn, which is one of sailing’s most arduous undertakings and one of the world’s most remote areas.
“I did temporary repairs with rope, but they would only last a short time and the mast would come down, so I could not sail and the tiller was locked in with the wreckage,” Corogin told the Associated Press (AP). “I could not steer the boat, and the boat could no longer sail.”
Corogin waved a Chilean flag as the frigate Blanca Escalada brought him safely into the port city of Valparaíso on Monday, expressing his gratitude and repeatedly thanking his rescuers, who he said he did not expect to have found him as quickly as they did.
It was last Tuesday, January 3, that Corogin launched his emergency beacon, prompting the Chilean navy to send out an Orion search and rescue plane to scour the extensive stretch of water in which the sailor was stranded.
The plane made one return trip to Easter Island to refuel but spotted the 32 foot (9.8 m) sailboat on the second attempt, more than 520 miles (837 km) south of remote island, known for its famous moai statues.
The navy then contacted the “White Kingdom,” a Japanese merchant ship – which at 250 nautical miles away was the closest boat to the floundering yacht – to transfer the sailor to a Chilean navy frigate.
Despite the ordeal and his advancing years, Corogin, a lawyer who runs a marina in Ohio, has not given up on his dream of rounding Cape Horn.
“Age means nothing,” Corogin told AP, “What is important is that you are alive, so I don’t worry about numbers. I worry about life. That, I think, is more important.”