A Florida angler says he held onto his capsized fishing boat bobbing 16 miles out in the chilly Gulf of Mexico overnight and visualized the face of his young daughter to help give him the will to survive the life-threatening, 14-hour ordeal.
Robert Clark, 43, was aching, bruised, hypothermic and suffering from gasoline burns and jellyfish stings when some passing fishermen heard his calls for help Sunday about noon.
This week, in an interview from his hospital bed, Clark said he was headed out into the Gulf of Mexico to go fishing Saturday night when the wake from a passing vessel swamped and overturned his 16-foot boat.
“It was like the whole ocean came in on me. Within a matter of seconds, my boat went down,” he said.
As he desperately clung to the boat overnight, Clark said he focused on his 6-year-old daughter, Lauryn, giving him incentive to live through the ordeal.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported the water’s temperature was 59 to 63 degrees overnight.
“I was thinking about my daughter the whole way,” he told the Gainesville Sun this week.
After daylight on Sunday, Clark said he unsuccessfully tried to wave down at least a dozen passing boats before four men spotted his craft and responded to his cries.
The rescuers gave Clark dry clothing and water and soda to drink.
“He was pretty much frozen. His body was, like, quaking. It was a little while before he could even say a word,” said James Selsor, one of the rescuers.
A veteran boater and angler, it was the first time Clark, a resident of Homosassa, had experienced trouble while offshore.
“All in all, it was one hell of an experience and I’m glad to be alive,” he said.
His immediate plans?
Repair his boat—and sell it.