Man found alive after 66 days at sea had already been mourned by friends
Louis Jordan had already been mourned by some.
Two months after he disappeared on a fishing trip off the coast of South Carolina, several memorials had been held in his name.
His family had resolved not to think the unthinkable until he had been gone for at least four months, but even they had begun to frame photos of Louis and his boat, hanging them on a wall in his mother’s North Carolina home.
Maybe he would turn up, they thought as the weeks wore on, maybe they should wait at least until Easter. His sister was heading to North Carolina from Texas to spend what they expected would be a somber holiday with the family.
In the early morning hours of Good Friday, though, their prayers were answered: Their son, weather-worn and 50 pounds thinner, walked out of a hospital and into his parents’ arms after surviving multiple capsizes and months adrift.
“A lot of us didn’t believe we’d see this day,” said Glen Davis, Jordan’s stepfather.
Jordan, 37, was spotted and rescued Thursday afternoon from his crippled boat, a 35-foot fishing vessel named Angel, about 200 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the Coast Guard said. He was airlifted to a hospital in Norfalk, Va., Thursday evening with a shoulder injury and dehydration, but refused treatment and left with his parents around 2 a.m. Friday, the Coast Guard and a hospital spokesman said.
Jordan left on a fishing trip from South Carolina in January, according to his family, but a couple days in his boat capsized, leaving him with a broken shoulder.
“I was flying through the air, somersaulting and everything was upside down and backwards,” he told NBC News on Friday.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Krystyn Pecora said Jordan got caught in some rough weather, and his boat’s mast was broken and its electronics damaged. According to Jordan’s family, he capsized at least twice more.
“He was doing a lot of bailing in order to keep the boat up,” Davis told The Times.
He survived on some limited food on board: flour pancakes fried on a propane stove and raw fish he caught with a hand net, Davis said. He rationed his food and water, drinking just a pint a day for long stretches, the Associated Press reported, and collected rainwater.
“For such a long time I was so thirsty,” he told WAVY.com early Friday. “And I was almost out of water, and every day I was like, ‘Please God, send me some rain, send me some water. ... And finally, right before I ran out of water, finally the conditions were perfect.’”
He read the Bible repeatedly, cover to cover, he told rescuers, and a blanket from his vessel protected him from the elements.
Meanwhile, at home, his parents worried.
It wasn’t uncommon for Jordan to embark on grand adventures and not call his family for days or even weeks. But a few cold winter weeks passed, as did his mother’s birthday, without a word from their son. His family looked at Jordan’s bank statements to see if he’d landed somewhere unnoticed – still, nothing.
They headed up and down the coast, passing out fliers with Jordan’s photo.
“As time went on, it got more and more hard to think he was out there and he’d survived, especially some of those cold nights,” said Davis.
They began to monitor a list of bodies that washed ashore in North Carolina.
“His mother just said, ‘I just need a sign, I need something physical,’” Davis said.
On Thursday, as they sat doing their taxes, they received a text from Louis’ father: Louis had been found alive.
The Coast Guard got word about 1:30 p.m. Thursday that he’d been picked up by a cargo ship, the Houston Express. “They saw me on the front of my boat, standing up there waving my arms, and they turned that huge skyscraper around,” Jordan told NBC News Friday.
“I got down onto the deck, and he walked right up to me,” said Kyle McCollum, rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard, who hoisted Jordan off the ship. “He had this nice smile on his face and I could tell he was in good spirits.”
In the helicopter, Jordan pulled out two of the things that he said had kept him going: the Bible, battered and jacket-less, and a blanket that had shielded him from the sun.
“As soon as we crossed over land, you could see a large smirk on his face. He was definitely eager to get out of the aircraft,” McCollum said.
The Coast Guard released the recording of the first phone call between Jordan and his father.
“I haven’t heard you in so long,” Louis told his father. “I was afraid that you guys were crying and sad that, you know, I was dead, and I wasn’t dead,” he told his father.
“We were,” the elder Jordan replied. “I thought I lost you.”
Back at home in North Carolina on Friday, his stepfather said Jordan was looking forward to seeing family and eating barbecue and organic strawberry ice cream again.
Jordan’s family said he’s not sure what he will do next. He had been living on his boat, which was docked at the Conway, S.C., marina where he also worked.
Now, he may live with one of his parents while he recovers from his ordeal.
“The last couple weeks really weighed heavy on us,” Davis said. “Now we’re going to have a great Easter.”
Times staff writer Ryan Parker contributed to this report.
For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc
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