Stranded U.S. sailor is rescued off Chile

  • Wed Jan 4th, 2012 9:23pm
  • News

Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — An 84-year-old American making his seventh attempt to sail alone around the tip of South America was found tired but alive by the Chilean navy on Wednesday after his mast broke far from land in the South Pacific.

The navy located Thomas Corogin on his 32-foot sailboat more than 520 miles south of Easter Island, stranded but in relatively stable weather, with ocean swells of about 15 feet.

Corogin activated his emergency beacon on Tuesday, prompting the navy to send out a search and rescue plane, which searched a vast expanse of ocean. The plane had to return to Easter Island and refuel before going out again and spotting the tiny boat, said Captain Jorge Bastias, a spokesman.

The navy then arranged for a Japanese merchant ship, the “White Kingdom,” to rescue the sailor. The ship was about 250 nautical miles away when it joined the search and was expected to reach late Wednesday, Bastias said. A frigate with a helicopter and medical team will then pick him up and take him to Valparaiso, probably on Saturday, the navy said.

Corogin, a lawyer who runs a small marina in Port Clinton, Ohio, set sail from Easter Island on Dec. 27.

“Tom is the most unique person I’ve ever met,” said friend and fellow sailor, Jack Majszak, who invited Corogin to lecture to his Modern Sailing School and Club in Sausalito, Calif., last year after meeting with him in the Panama Canal.

Majszak described Corogin as an experienced sailor and storyteller — he even wrote a spy novel — who felt comfortable on his Westsail32, a boat known for its stability more than its speed.

“He should be fine, it’s a very stable boat,” Majszak said. “The 15-foot swells shouldn’t be too bad as long as they don’t come too quickly. If he battens up the hatches and goes down below the boat will bob like a cork and he should be fine. As long as he’s not seriously hurt, that’s the key.”

Rex Damschroder, a sailor and state lawmaker from Ohio considers Corogin a sailing mentor as well as a friend, said it had always been Corogin’s dream to sail around Cape Horn.

He never gave up on the idea despite past failed attempts, Damschroder said. “Each time he’s had different issues, whether mechanical or physical,” Damschroder said. “He might be 84, but he’s got the body and stamina of someone much younger.”

Damschroder, from Fremont, Ohio, said he and his friend sailed across the Atlantic Ocean together in 2005, making their way to Ireland.

“I’ve sailed and spent a lot of time with Tom, he knows what he’s doing,” said Damschroder, who added that some of his equipment is on Corogin’s boat, including an anchor and life raft. “It’s risky for anyone of any age. I’d take him over any 20-year-old sailing.”