A 66-year-old man was rescued early Wednesday after his sailboat was hit by a whale and began sinking off the coast of Mexico, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Max Young of Sacramento, Calif., was sailing alone late Tuesday about 40 miles west of La Playa, Mexico when his 50-foot boat was struck by the whale, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela Boehland.

The impact from the collision knocked out the sailboat's steering and started flooding it, Boehland said.

Young, described by the Coast Guard as a "seasoned sailor," activated an emergency beacon that was picked up by the Coast Guard in its Alameda, Calif. command center. Officials there then pinpointed the sailboat's position and directed a merchant ship, which was about 60 miles away, to the sinking craft.

When the ship arrived around 4 a.m. Wednesday, Young was able to scramble off his boat by a rope ladder thrown down by the crew of the merchant ship. He was unharmed.

"This case is one of those success stories," Boehland said. "A man went out prepared, the worst happened to him and he was able to respond," she said.

Young was en route to Panama on the ship and planned to return to Sacramento, officials said.

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