After spending 12 days surviving off raw fish while lost at sea, Hawaii fisherman Ron Ingraham, 67, had a simple request for the friends who gathered to greet him when the U.S. Coast Guard brought him home: Anybody got a cigarette?
Jerusula Manaba and her husband, Dedric, friends of Ingraham, gave him a pack, a lei and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon — in case Ingraham goes missing again.
"Don't you do this to us again," Manaba told her friend.
The meeting at Kaunakakai Harbor on Wednesday marked the end of a mystery for friends and family who had been planning a funeral for Ingraham this weekend.
The Coast Guard had suspended its search for Ingraham more than a week ago.
"We are happy that he was found. We are very excited that we are able to provide some positive closure," said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Scott Carr. "It was a really tough decision to suspend the search."
Ingraham had been missing at sea since early
A Coast Guard crew arrived in the area within an hour but could not find Ingraham or the Malia, Carr said.
"We didn't know if it had taken on water, and we did ask ourselves, 'Did the boat sink?'" he said.
Coast Guard and Navy crews flew 59 missions covering 12,000 square miles. The Coast Guard deployed MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews and HC-130 Hercules airplane crews before calling off the search Dec. 1.
Then, early Tuesday, the Coast Guard picked up an eight-second mayday call from Ingraham, about 64 miles south of Honolulu.
The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Paul Hamilton was 14 miles away and responded to Ingraham's call.
Crew members got to the Malia within hours and said Ingraham was weak, hungry and dehydrated, Carr said.
The crew provided him with food, water and a shower. They also attempted to fix the outboard engine aboard Malia, which was inoperable, Carr said.
Carr said investigators had not yet determined what went wrong with Ingraham's boat and led to his ordeal.
Ingraham and his boat were towed back to Kaunakakai on the island of Molokai early Wednesday.
"I have been in 21 years and I can only think of maybe a couple of times where we have suspended a search and then find somebody," Carr said. "It is uncommon."
Ingraham had gone fishing alone Thanksgiving morning, headed toward Manele Bay on the island of Lanai when he went missing.
He often went there to fish and sell his catch, said Manaba, 47, whose husband fishes with Ingraham.
Despite his ordeal, Ingraham looked good when he arrived on land Wednesday, she said.
"He is a man of very few words," she said. "He hugged everyone and thanked everyone and just kept on walking."
It had been a tough Thanksgiving for his friends, Manaba said, but his family knew not to count him out, she said.
"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,'" Ingraham's son, Zakary, told the website Hawaii News Now. "Twelve days, man. He's a champ! He's tough!"