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Coast Guard rescues 73-year-old sailor adrift for two days

By MIchael Martinez, CNN
  • NEW: Rescued sailor was returning to shore Wednesday night
  • He sustained a broken mast during heavy weather Monday
  • The 35-foot sailboat also lost engine power off coast of Jacksonville Beach, Florida
  • Richard Steg's mayday call was picked up Tuesday evening but he was adrift for another day
  • Sailing
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Florida

(CNN) -- A 73-year-old man from Storrs, Connecticut, who was adrift in his battered sailboat for two days in the Atlantic was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday morning.

Richard Steg was found 47 miles east of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, in the 35-foot sailboat "Bonvivant" after the craft sustained a broken mast from heavy weather and its engine lost power Monday, the Coast Guard said.

Steg was being transported to land by the Coast Guard Cutter Shrike on Wednesday, and as of 8 p.m. ET, he and rescue vessel were about to make landfall, arriving inside the jetty where the St. John River meets the Atlantic, said Coast Guard spokesman Christopher Evanson.

The Coast Guard cutter was also towing the damaged sailboat, Evanson said.

"He's in fair condition. He's a pretty spirited fellow," Evanson said of Steg.

Steg was unable to control the drifting vessel after the mast broke, and he was adrift for two days.

His mayday distress call was eventually picked up by the tug boat "Calusa Coast" Tuesday evening, but then Steg lost all battery power and couldn't communicate further. The tug boat captain relayed the mayday call to the Coast Guard Watchstanders in the Jacksonville sector, which launched an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Savannah, Georgia.

The Tuesday search lasted two hours and covered 273 square miles without success. At first light Wednesday, the Coast Guard then deployed a C-130 air crew and the Cutter Shrike, which successfully located Steg hours later.

Steg had been sailing from Ponce de Leon Inlet, Florida, to Groton, Connecticut.

The Coast Guard urged all mariners to maintain a registered emergency position-indicating radio beacon -- commonly called an EPIRB, or "e-pirb," by boaters -- aboard their vessels so that rescue crews can pinpoint distress calls in an emergency. Steg had such a device on his boat but he didn't know how to use it, Evanson said.