a0474; PHOTO:; AUDIO:
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — An 84-year-old American who put out an emergency distress signal while making his seventh attempt to sail alone around the tip of South America was picked up by a Japanese merchant ship and awaiting evacuation by the Chilean navy on Thursday.
Thomas Louis Corogin was in good health after being plucked from his 32-foot sailboat on Wednesday more than 520 miles south of Easter Island, the navy said.
A lawyer who runs a small marina in Port Clinton, Ohio, Corogin set sail from Easter Island on Dec. 27. He activated his emergency beacon on Tuesday morning, prompting the navy to send out an Orion 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, Captain Jorge Bastias, the navy's top spokesman, told The Associated Press.
It was stranded in relatively stable weather, but with ocean swells of about 15 feet.
The Navy then arranged for a Japanese merchant ship, the White Kingdom, to rescue the sailor Wednesday night. A Navy helicopter with a medical team is expected to land on the ship and pick him up Saturday morning, the navy said.
Corogin had multiple mishaps during this adventure. He had also sent an email saying he was briefly hospitalized in Ecuador with a cut to his leg, said a friend and fellow sailor, Jack Majszak.
"Tom is the most unique person I've ever met," said 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 who felt comfortable on his Westsail32, a boat known for its stability more than its speed. Corogin had written a spy novel, "Agape."
Rex Damschroder, a sailor and state lawmaker from Ohio who 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, who's 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."
Associated Press writers Michael Warren contributed to this story from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and John Seewer from Toledo, Ohio. Warren can be reached at www.twitter.com/mwarrenap