HONOLULU — A Hawaii fisherman who rode out massive waves and ate raw fish to survive 12 days lost at sea said the ordeal was worthwhile because it led to him reconnecting with the son he'd lost touch with for years.
Ron Ingraham was rescued this week after putting out a mayday on Thanksgiving saying he was in danger of sinking. He had been trying to sail from Molokai, where he lives, to Lanai, where he often goes fishing.
But he got caught in a storm, which knocked out his engine and pummeled his boat with 20-foot waves. Ingraham recalled the details Thursday, a day after returning to Molokai and spending the night in the docked vessel he survived in that he calls home.
The Coast Guard launched an extensive search after getting his mayday. But officials decided to call off the search Dec. 1 and contacted his next of kin, 43-year-old son Zakary Ingraham in Missouri.
Regretting their 15 years or more of lost contact, Zakary Ingraham didn't want to believe his father was gone.
Meanwhile, the fisherman was fighting to stay alive, eating mahi-mahi and tuna from the ocean.
"I lived off the moisture off the fish I caught," Ron Ingraham said. "Mentally, physically and spiritually, I got my butt kicked."
Then on Tuesday morning, he tried a last-ditch effort. He stuck a wire hanger in his radio — which had lost its antenna to the storm — and managed to get off a garbled transmission that led to a Navy ship finding him.
"I look out the door, and there's a battleship doing 38 knots coming right at me," he said.
Crew members from the guided-missile destroyer gave him water and food. He credited them with saving him.
The normally gruff fisherman got emotional when he talked about speaking to his son Wednesday night — their first conversation since the 1990s.
"I got a hold of my son, so that's really huge," Ron Ingraham said. "That's a beautiful, beautiful part to this whole thing. It's all I can do to stop from crying, thinking about the whole thing."
The two are making plans for a reunion.
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa.