LOUIS JORDAN IN THE GULF STREAM: Rescued After 66 Days Adrift on an Alberg 35

Jordan and boat

Lots of buzz right now on the InterWeb about this story: Louis Jordan, age 36 (or 7?), who was airlifted to shore by the Coast Guard yesterday off a German-flagged container ship, M/V Houston Express, that found him adrift some 200 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Many of the stories you find online state he was found atop his boat’s overturned hull, but this seems highly unlikely. No way could you cling to an upside-down full-keeled Pearson Alberg 35 for two months. No way could such a heavily ballasted boat with so little beam and so much deadrise in its hull stay inverted for very long. And no way could the boat stay inverted for much time without sinking.

The story that seems to make the most sense right now is that Jordan, a relatively inexperienced sailor who had been living aboard his boat Angel at the Bucksport Plantation Marina in Conway, South Carolina, and had routinely taken the boat out fishing in coastal waters, decided on January 23 to try his luck fishing offshore for a change. About two days later Angel was capsized while Jordan was asleep below and lost her rig and suffered some sort of damage to her rudder. Jordan suffered a broken collar bone. Apparently he did at one point succeed in getting some sort of jury rig up, but was unable to make progress toward shore. Also, he was capsized two more times. We must assume the boat righted itself after each capsize.

Jordan has stated he lost his radio and electronics in the first capsize. Evidently he had no EPIRB. He survived while adrift first by closely rationing the food and water he already had aboard and then by catching rainwater and fish. He attracted fish by trailing his laundry off the boat and then scooped them up with a net.

Louis Jordan

Louis aboard Angel in happier times


The geography of his drift

Meanwhile, of course, folks on shore were getting worried. Louis’s dad, Frank Jordan, himself an experienced sailor, reported him missing on January 29. The Coast Guard initiated a search on February 8, but were hampered by a lack of information as to Angel‘s destination and had no properly defined area in which to search for her. They abandoned the effort after 10 days.

Jordan on shore

Jordan on his return to shore yesterday

Alberg 35 drawing

The venerable Alberg 35, not a boat that will float for long upside down. I assume the confusion comes from the container ship’s crew having reportedly reported that they found Jordan “on the boat’s hull”

I’ve had one WaveTrain rider asking me what I think about the fact that Jordan is so healthy-looking, implying there might be something suspicious about this story. And yes, he does seem pretty healthy, but reportedly he is very strong man, and an Alberg 35 (upright) is a fairly comfortable vehicle in which to endure a survival drift.

Granted, Steve Callahan, for example, looked much skinnier after his 76-day survival drift, but he was in a rubber liferaft and also is a much skinnier guy in the first place.

Steve Callahan

Steve Callahan after his rescue in 1982

I seriously doubt Louis Jordan has somehow faked all this. Alternatively, my correspondent may have been wondering how Jordan could look so good after spending two months on an overturned hull, and the answer to that, simply enough, is: he didn’t.

And I almost forgot. Here’s the obligatory USCG airlift video:

These are the sources I found that seemed to have the best information: WRAL.com; NBC News; CNN; Washington Post; ABC 13 News Now

The 13 News Now post includes a fairly long (8 minute) “raw” video interview clip that is particularly interesting.

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12 Responses
  1. Steve

    Thank you for your post.
    My immediate thought was there was no way that a Pearson 35 remained capsized that long without sinking. The media must have this info wrong.
    I can believe this guy survived 66 days on a disabled, upright Pearson, but no way would have have survived looking like that on a “overturned” boat. No Way!

  2. Don

    Even if he only spent HALF (33 days) of that time in the stream (33 x 24hrs = 792hrs @ est 2.5knts = 1,980nm). not the only 200 he claims. Should be farther North. Something does not feel right.

  3. David Pyle

    Agreed, something’s fishy. He says he was sleeping in conditions rough enough to capsize a narrow beam, full keel boat! Unless a giant wave came out of nowhere he would have been on beam ends long before he capsized. Maybe lying in a berth praying but doubt he was sleeping.

  4. D Washington

    Check “Cruisers Forum” online. Jordan apparently posted there as “liveaboardL” seeking advice on ” how do you arrange the sails for the different wind directions?” Also had a problem with the boat changing direction when he let go of the tiller. One chainplate sawn away to make room for a household 110 outlet, a shroud fell off the spreader where it was taped on, fumes from the motor, “how do I tell when it’s going to jybe ?”, how to tell which way the waves are going after it gets dark (he decides a flashlight will help). Previous owner (” Kevin84″)
    says he told “Louie” to rebuild the boat completely if he wanted to go past the breakwater. Couldn’t tighten shrouds on one side, deck was soft. Some forum members thought he was joking or trolling because he asked such bizarrely naive things. Many advised sailing lessons. One told him there are some things you can’t learn on the Internet. Sound advice.

  5. Anonymous

    With a broken right collarbone, you do not carry your bag in your right hand. We listened to his interview. He was not at sea for 66 days. He is mentally challenged. He is 36 years old and his mother still controls his life? This story does not add up.

  6. John O

    The in the “raw” video from 13 News he says he capsized three times, implying he righted three times too. My guess is that he did not capsize at all but took very heavy, violent rolls/pitches in darkness that led him to believe he capsized. Also sounds like he had a listing problem that flooded the cockpit. However he was able to alleviate that (to an unknown degree) by cutting the boom and casting it off. I’m betting that the media reports that he was found “on the hull” are either bad reporting or miscommunication from the Houston Express. I’m betting he was sitting on the “edge of the hull”‘; which would be a likely place to be sitting if you were listing and your cockpit partially flooded. Agree no way on earth you could survive 66 days on the hull of a capsized anything. Exposure would have killed him.

  7. Charlie

    @D Washington: I found that forum thread after I wrote the post and regretted writing that he was “relatively inexperienced.” He was clearly grossly inexperienced, and I am sure this contributed to his adventure.

    @Don: It is interesting that he didn’t drift further, but not impossible. Wind is an important factor, too, and is not always blowing from the west. Also, the Stream itself has eddies and such.

    As for the collarbone injury. He evidently believed he broke his collarbone, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. My sense is he suffered some sort of shoulder injury that healed itself considerably during his drift.

    I find it curious that people want to believe his story is not true.

  8. Tom Young

    I have a hunch why many doubt this story.

    The regular forumites that usually lead the charge to investigate CG rescu-ees, have uncovered on sailing forums that Louis is living the edge of – if not society in general – certainly the fringe of the sailing world.

    We use the broad term, “homeless”, to describe people living on the fringes. This includes the young guys I see just off the exit ramps in Portland Maine that don’t look homeless. They appear healthy, clothed, and some choose the life. But for many, addiction, mental illness or disabilities are primary reasons they live on the fringes.

    And some people on the fringes aren’t homeless, they have a boat, at least as shelter. But they don’t have the means or desire to be in the sailing world(or to maintain the boat for recreational sailing).

    This may be why many sailors have reacted with anger toward Louis’s claim, just as there are mixed reactions to the placard carrying homeless on the off ramps in Portland Maine.

    I think he’s just a guy who got pushed off shore. His survival wasn’t as radical, to him, as it may have been for most of us.

    None the less, that survival(which I see no reason to doubt), shows he’s has some unique skills and kept his cool where others would have totally, freaked out.

  9. David Lyman

    Is this guy as nuts as Donald Crowherst?
    His interview on #13 is not believable. Sounds like he’s reading a script. There’s no emotion and a deep lack of detail. What was the weather and sea condition like over the period he was reportedly list at sea.
    And, he looks way too we’ll fed for his adventure.

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