SANTIAGO, Chile – An 84-year-old American sailor found alive in the remote South Pacific told his rescuers his mast was so badly cracked that he couldn't raise his sails without snapping it in two, Chile's navy said Thursday.
But aside from scrapes, bruises and general exhaustion, Thomas Louis Corogin was in good condition, the captain of the Japanese merchant vessel White Kingdom told the navy after pulling the sailor from his boat.
Corogin, a lawyer from Port Clinton, Ohio, was apparently frustrated at having to give up on his seventh attempt to sail alone around the tip of South America, one of sailing's most difficult feats.
"He was physically wiped out," said the merchant ship's captain, R.G. Villamin, according to Capt. Jorge Bastias, a navy spokesman.
The mast was useless, Corogin apparently complained. "You couldn't put up the sail without snapping it. ... there wasn't any way to use it," Bastias explained to The Associated Press.
Chile's navy sent out a search and rescue plane that had to refuel on Easter Island and then go back out again before finally locating Corogin's 32-foot sailboat 520 miles to the south. The navy then summoned the merchant ship to rescue him, and sent out a frigate with a helicopter and medical crew to pick him up. Their rendezvous was expected Saturday morning.
"The Chilean government is paying for the entire rescue, for various reasons, because it is party to international treaties that call for this, because it's our role, our obligation to save lives at sea, and more than that, because this man didn't have any accident due to bad decisions — he complied with all the safety measures," Bastias said.
Injuries have ruined some of Corogin's previous attempts to go around Cape Horn, including a broken leg and busted knee, said Charles Scott, a friend from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who has sailed with him in the past.
Corogin, a lawyer who runs a small marina in Port Clinton, set sail from Easter Island on Dec. 27. He was forced to activate his emergency beacon on Tuesday morning.
"It's a shame to see it end this way," Scott said. "He wanted to be the oldest guy to sail around the Horn."
Another sailing buddy, Ohio state lawmaker Rex Damschroder, said rounding the cape had always been Corogin's dream.
"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."