US man rescued after 66 days missing at sea: coast guard

MIAMI (AFP) - A US man missing at sea for more than two months was celebrating a miraculous rescue on Thursday after being picked up by a passing ship and airlifted to dry land, the US Coast Guard said.

Louis Jordan, 37, who was reported missing on January 29, told family members he had survived by catching fish with his hands and drinking rain water, according to the Coast Guard.

He was spotted drifting on his stricken sailboat approximately 322 kilometres off the coast of North Carolina by the German-registered Houston Express tanker and taken aboard.

A US Coast Guard helicopter then hoisted him to safety back to a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, a statement said.

Frank Jordan, the sailor's father, told CNN he did not know what had caused his son's boat to break down.

US media reports said the boat had capsized and Louis Jordan was found sitting on the upturned hull when he was plucked to safety.

Frank Jordan said his son was in good spirits during a brief conversation with him following his rescue. He told CNN he had not given up hope Louis would be found alive despite his inexperience as a sailor.

"I knew he had a good seaworthy boat," Frank Jordan said. "I felt the boat was going to keep him alive, so I had all sorts of worries because he's not an experienced sailor."

Louis had left the relative safety of the marina where the boat was moored to "go out and catch some fish". How his son ended up so far off course was unknown, Jordan said.

"I called him at one point a few days after he left land... and he was a few miles offshore. As far as how he got off track, I don't know," he said.

He said his son's "strong constitution" and religious belief had kept him alive.

"He told me on the phone that he was praying the whole time, so I believe that sustained him a great deal," he said.