‘Truly incredible’: Missing boater rescued after clinging to capsized vessel for two days
A US mariner was found clinging to his capsized boat after being missing for two days off Florida in what Coast Guard officials called an “incredible” rescue.
Stuart Bee, 62, disappeared off the state’s Atlantic coast on his 32 foot (9.7 metre) motorboat Stingray after setting out on Friday (Saturday NZT).
Following a search he was eventually spotted, on Sunday, 138 kilometres off shore, by the crew of a 225ft container ship called Angeles.
Photographs taken by an Angeles crew member showed Bee holding on for dear life to the last remaining part of his vessel’s hull that had not been submerged.
He was desperately trying to remain still as it teetered and looked set to sink completely.
After a flotation aid was thrown out he swam for it, and then scrambled on board the Angeles.
The first thing he did was make the sign of the cross, and ask his rescuers the date.
Lacruiser P. Relativo, one of the Angeles crew, wrote on Facebook: “Before I could start questioning, he first asked me ‘What day it is today?’, ‘November 29!’, I responded.
“By the look on his face, I saw his teary eyes as he made sign of the cross. He was drifting in the open sea for days, maintaining his stance at the top of his capsized boat, to not make any single move as it may trigger his boat to sink fully.
“As Mr. Stuart made sign of the cross, I knew that faith can move mountains. It made me whisper: God, I praise you in the storm.”
Relativo added: “We offered him dry clothes and hot meals. I choose to give him my ‘lucky shirt’. I could give him a new one but this one is my favourite.”
A Coast Guard crew brought Bee from the Angeles back to shore.
Bee told the Coast Guard his boat had been disabled on Saturday after being beset by mechanical problems.
He went to sleep as he waited to be spotted but, some time after midnight, water poured into the cabin and forced him to climb out of the hatch into the ocean.
He then managed to cling on to the hull of his upturned boat. As the sun rose on Sunday, he saw the Angeles in the distance and began desperately waving his shirt.
Captain Mark Vlaun, commanding officer of the US Coast Guard’s Jacksonville sector, said: “Saving lives at sea is our highest calling.
“This is a truly incredible outcome that demonstrates the bond among all mariners and our community.”
Bee, dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, had left Cape Marina in Port Canaveral at 4pm local time on Friday, November 27.
Fellow sailors knew he did not stay out on his boat overnight and raised the alarm when he failed to return that evening. Bee’s brother called the Coast Guard.
A C-130 Hercules aircraft was sent out, along with a US Customs and Border Patrol aircraft, and vessels in the area were asked to look for Bee.
David Micallef, a US Coast Guard spokesman, said: “It’s an amazing story. We’re just very thankful for the Angeles and their entire crew, for keeping a sharp lookout.
“And we’re just very thankful, especially during this holiday season, that we can bring this man home to his family.”
The Angeles, a Liberian-registered vessel, was heading from Puerto Barrios in Guatemala to Wilmington, Delaware in the United States when its crew spotted Bee waving.
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