To make a very long story as succinct as possible on Sunday September 8, 2002 four of us were fishing in the Gulf of Mexico a little more than 30 miles offshore. At 4PM, I noticed we had taken on water, and that the automatic bilge had failed, I switched on the auxiliary bilge, it too had failed, we had tested both prior to departure. We began wiring a third bilge we had in the boat and lifted anchor, the motor was running but water was coming in over the stern at an increasingly alarming rate. With the anchor up I began trying to plane the boat, but the back had become too heavy and the motor took in water and died.

I got on the VHF radio punched the channel 16 button and keyed the mic, “Mayday, Mayday we are taking on water , our position is 29 degrees, 40 point 373 minutes North Latitude, 35 degrees 15.272 Minutes West Longitude We are going DOWN!” Before I could get the word down out of my mouth I was in the water, the boat had capsized to the starboard. Of course that was not our real position but it illustrates how much time it took me to say it.

Within seconds I had everyone accounted for and three of the four of us in life jackets, I had determined nobody was hurt. The boat was floating, bottom up, we climbed up on it.

I can’t tell you what a helpless feeling it is to be 30 miles out in the ocean with no idea whether anyone heard our distress call. The flares were trapped under the boat and it was nearing dark.

I can’t tell you how many times it went through my head, and how many times I was asked, “Do you think they heard us” all I could say was I don’t know, but we all knew that had this been any number of local or state agencies, we would likely not even have awakened the dispatcher.

After more than 45 minutes on top of the boat we began to lose hope that the call had been received. We began to contemplate our options, which included someone diving underneath the boat to try and find the flares and again to unhitch the anchor rope in hope that the anchor would catch and hold the boat in position instead of drifting further. We decided to wait 30 more minutes.

At the 1 hour mark we saw a fishing vessel near the horizon, way too far away to see us, minutes later we saw a jet fly directly over head, it was the United States Coast Guard. He did another flyby and hailed the fishing vessel ordering him to render assistance. the vessel did and we relayed the message that all were accounted for and unhurt.

30 minutes later a Coast Guard ship brought us on board and took us to the Panama City Station. Where it was explained that the most junior man there had taken our distress call, an 18 year old man. 2 minutes later they had our position plotted and 2 minutes after that they were underway to our position. It took them 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach us., the jet had been sent from Mobile, Alabama and had us spotted 15 minutes after take off, evidently it takes a little while to get it off the ground, which is understandable.

The Coast Guard Crew were courteous and helpful, they went out of their way to insure our comfort, even cooking meals for all of us, while we waited on our ride to arrive from Mexico Beach.

I can’t express enough gratitude to the ladies and gentlemen of the United States Coast Guard in Panama City, Florida. They saved our asses because they were on the job and doing it with pride.

The four of us: Mike South, Steve W., Chris H. and Danny W. would all like to sincerely thank these heroes for a job well done.

These guys and girls did an outstanding job and deserve some recognition.

Additionally I learned that it is fairly common for people to get on VHF Channel 16 and yell “Mayday, Mayday” as a hoax. please, NEVER do this, It is completely stupid, and could cost someone in real need their life. Not to mention a 100,000 dollar fine if you are caught.

ThankYou Again! United States Coast Guard, Panama City, Florida.

4860cookie-checkA HUGE THANK YOU!


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