A missing sailor found at the hull of his capsized boat 48 hours after his disappearance admitted he thought “this is it”.
Stuart Bee was spotted on Sunday by the crew of a large container ship stranded in the Atlantic Ocean 86 miles from its destination Port Canaveral, Florida.
The 62-year-old then dove into the choppy waters before towing himself aboard the 225-foot Angeles ship, without reportedly sustaining injuries.
Stuart’s 32-foot boat, the Sting Ray, had had mechanical problems and was asleep when the water poured in.
“I had been working on the engines, squeaks and various parts on them,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I haven’t seen anyone. I thought ‘this is it’. And then I saw a container ship in the distance and I don’t have my glasses. I couldn’t see whether it was coming to me or not.”
The experienced sailor took off his shirt and waved it to the Angeles as the ship approached.
He had tried to swim down and retrieve equipment to give a distress signal after capsizing, always worried that movement would cause him to lose the air pocket in the cabin that kept the craft afloat.
“Three times I tried to hold my breath and swim down, but couldn’t reach it,” said Stuart.
His family reported him missing on Saturday morning after failing to return from a short trip from Cape Marina.
Stuart had left around 4 p.m. on Friday and doesn’t normally spend the night on his boat, the coastguard.
He was rescued around 11 a.m. on Sunday after a coast guard station ordered ships in the area to keep an eye on the capsized boat.
Told Petty Officer Veronica Dunn-Depretis from Angeles ABC news : “He clung to that when they met him and they pulled him up on their ship.”
Lacruiser P. Relativo, a sailor aboard the container ship, wrote on Facebook that he gave Stuart his lucky shirt – which had helped him get his job – to change into as soon as he got on board.
“I wish him the same comfort that this shirt has given me during those exhausting job interviews,” said Relativo.
“Like him, I was lucky to get the job. He was also lucky to have our course crossed the Atlantic.”
Incredible photos show the bearded sailor first clinging to a few feet of hull sticking out of the water and then swimming to a life-saving buoy and onto the container ship.
Despite the freezing cold, he was wearing only jeans and a short-sleeved shirt.
Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville guards received the first reports of the missing man at 11:40 a.m.
A C-130 Hercules aircrew was then dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, while Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral guards were instructed to conduct preliminary and extensive communications in an attempt to locate the missing man.
The 7th District Coast Guard Command Center guards sent an Enhanced Group Calling to the nearby mariners to keep watch and report any findings to the Coast Guard.
A naval asset from US Customs and Border Patrol also assisted in the search.
“Saving lives at sea is our highest calling. This is a truly incredible outcome that demonstrates the bond between all sailors and our community,” said Captain Mark Vlaun, Commander of Sector Jacksonville.
“Thanks to our mission partners who are taking action and all who have the floor to find and save Mr. Bee.”