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December 10, 2014 03:10 PM

With his 25-foot sailboat taking on water and in danger of sinking about 45 miles off the coast of Hawaii Nov. 27, Ron Ingraham placed two mayday calls that launched a four-day air-and-water search.

But with no sign of the 67-year-old or his struggling craft, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended the operation on Dec. 1.

Then, yesterday, a break: A short mayday call about 7:55 a.m. reached the Coast Guard’s Honolulu command center, which dispatched the guided-missle destroyer USS Paul Hamilton from 14 miles away to find Ingraham at sea – weak, hungry and dehydrated, according to the a statement from the agency, but very much alive.

“For him to be found is awesome,” Ingraham’s son Zakary told HawaiiNewsNow. “I can’t believe it.”

“Twelve days, man. He’s a champ! He’s tough!”

Ingraham, an experienced fisherman who lives on Molokai, was on the water on Thanksgiving Day when he radioed that his vessel Malia was his trouble. The Coast Guard and Navy responded with an extensive search, flying 59 missions and covering about 12,000 miles.

“When the commanding officer for the Coast Guard told me he was going to call off the search, I said, ‘Man, I don’t think you should call off the search because I don’t think he’s gone,’ ” said Zakary Ingraham.

In the distress call that reached the Coast Guard early on Tuesday – “We got a mayday here. Mayday. This is the Malia. Anybody picking this up?” – the agency was able to place Ingraham 64 miles south of Oahu, where the rescue vessel searched and picked him up.

“Both his masts were broken,” Ingraham’s friend and Molokai fisherman Dedrick Manabe told HawaiiNewsNow. “He was sailing on a little auxiliary sail, trying to make his way back.”

Said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Scott Carr: “A lot of joy around the command center to know that, okay, he’s alive and he’s going to be okay.”

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