Lost and Alone at Sea

Lost and alone at sea is how Nick Schuyler found himself. I have been keeping an eye on Schuyler’s story where he, another man, and two NFL players (both former Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were listed as missing after not returning from a fishing trip off the coast of Florida. Their overturned boat was located two days later (Monday) and Schuyler was rescued. He was taken to the hospital in serious condition, but with apparently with non-life threatening injuries.

The Coast Guard continued to search for the others, but authorities became less enthusiastic about finding anyone else.

This part of the story got my attention:

...The rescued ex-football player said all his fishing buddies managed to put on life jackets after a wave flipped their boat off Florida's Gulf Coast over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

Nick Schuyler said the four men didn't have life jackets on when the wave sent them into the 62-degree water, but were able to retrieve them from the crippled boat.

"(They) immediately swam under the boat, recovered life jackets and managed to put them on," Coast Guard Capt. Timothy Close said...
Wow. These guys were sitting in a small boat anchored in rough seas, fifty miles from shore, and had not put life vests on? I would have strapped three life jackets on just for me. I can’t imagine just hanging out watching the waves crash against my boat--oblivious to the potential danger of being tossed into the water.

I have had respect and fear of the ocean since childhood. The fear is not crippling. I swim and ride waves in the ocean. I kayak in the salt water, and have taken some short boat rides. I could go on a cruise and be peachy.

I even saw a shark fin while playing on the waves in the Gulf of Mexico near North Padre Island, TX. It was a surreal moment as I was by myself in the water—something like “did I really just see what I thought I saw?” Needless to say I broke a personal record in swimming back to shore.

In contrast, I don’t want to go deep sea fishing or sailing on a small boat in the open ocean. I think my strong feelings about the sea are the result of three factors:

1) When I was young, I read the children’s book Alone (Richard Boning) . This book was part of an inspirational series that was used to motivate kids in that they could do or survive anything. The story is about a Chinese cook aboard a trade ship that was sunk by the Germans off the coast of South America during WWII. The guy was able to swim to a raft and survived the unbelievable ordeal for 133 days afloat.

The story is amazing, but it did little inspiring in me and resulted more in scaring the pee out of muaw.

2) Also as a child, I watched the movie Jaws. I don’t think I need to elaborate much about the Great White chomp fest. Every time I went swimming in an area lake or even the town pool, I waited to become a shark sandwich.

3) Finally, as an adult, I read the book In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors. The text includes many eyewitness accounts and is an excellent read with a train wreck attraction—one that the story is so gruesome (shark attacks, burning to death, murder, suicides, what pulling a human alive from being in the ocean for four days is like, etc.) that curiosity keeps you from turning away from the pages.

The ship’s website includes this summary of events:

At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.
Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has now called off the search for the three missing men and it was allegedly reported by the survivor that the other three fellows began swimming away from the boat and into open seas early on Monday. The report tries to portray this as bizarre behavior, but from what I have read, exhaustion and the other factors involved in floating in the open ocean for long periods of time combined with mental fatigue means people begin doing irrational things.

Schuyler and his companions had most likely been in the cold water for more than 30 hours without any food and drink. I am guessing that they spent every moment trying their best to hold onto a capsized boat while not to falling asleep. They could not tie themselves to the boat in case it completely sunk all of the sudden. In sum, I can see where being separated from the ship certainly could easily happen.

I prayed for the families, and this represents a fourth point to add to my list of why Slamdunk will not be found deep sea fishing…


mrs. fuzz said...

The ocean frightens me. In fact, any large body of water really frightens me. I grew up going to the beach and swimming in the ocean, boogie boarding, etc. My reasons for fear are:

1. I've been pummeled by a wave and held under the water for what I think was way too long when I was a kid and I remember feeling like I was going to die from running out of breath.

2. I also watched Jaws and went to Universal Studios in the 80s when they had the Jaws ride. That was not entertaining in any way.

3. When I was a teenager, I was at a lake for a family reunion and i went running down the peer and cannonballed into the water and I didn't know it until I came up, but I had basically cannonballed into a pile of floating dead fish and that was pretty much the last time I have entered water other than a swimming pool with chlorine. I don't know what that was all about, but it smelled really bad and I don't want to even think about why they were dead. Poison? disease? Who knows! but it made for a good laugh at my expense.

So yeah, basically the same kind of fears except mine is pretty crippling. I especially hate the feeling of seaweed wrapping around your legs when a wave crashes. I always think it's a shark or some other beast. And I think I would've passed out in the water if I saw a shark fin! My brother surfs almost daily and he has had many "encounters" with sharks. The most serious being a shark bumping into him and coming back and bumping him again. I don't know what that's all about, but he never waited to find out. He said that he always paddled back to shore ASAP whenever there were shark sightings or rumors of sharks.

I'm also very saddened by the guys lost at sea. I can't imagine how frightening that must've been and I can't believe they were in such a small boat! Definitely too far away from shore. It's just very sad. I feel for their families and friends.

The books you mentioned sound very interesting. Especially Alone. I think I'll read that. I don't think I could handle In Harm's Way.

All this makes me feel very blessed and fortunate to have the life I have had so far and not to have faced something so traumatic.

I have written a novel so I'll stop now, but thanks also for the book recommendation for the cop.

Slamdunk said...

Wow, Mrs. Fuzz: cannonballing on dead fish? I would have not been able to walk by the fish counter at the grocery store if that happened to me.

The seaweed thing is uncomfortable (Gulf of Mexico), but has not been a problem when we go to Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina. The only time that I got to take the older boy to my dad's house in TX, he and my brother got stung by jellyfish--the little kid was sour on ocean water for awhile after.

If I got bumped by a shark liek your brother, I would probably only enjoy ocean water via computer games or something.

Thanks for the post and your welcome with the book rec.