In September 2013, the US Coast Guard released photos and news of the heroic rescue of two Bahamian men stranded at sea for eight days. Comments on the Coast Guard Facebook page express skepticism on several levels. Some thought it impossible to survive that length of time without fresh water, not to mention constant exposure to the elements. Some questioned the origin of the men, thinking it more likely they were Haitian refugees. Others speculated on the contents of the small boat, hinting at drug trafficking.
Sometimes truth is the most unbelievable story of all.
Short Read has published Drifting Hope, Stranded in Open Water, the true story of Mike Russell and Anthony Douglas’ fishing trip gone wrong. Motivated by the simple desire to stock his freezer and the love of fishing, Mike asked Anthony to take him out in Anthony’s brother-in-law’s boat. Calm waters and a bright blue sky escorted them to Great Isaac Cay. They were dropping anchor when the violent storm attacked with no warning. Relentless waves sent the boat end over end, catapulting all of the provisions, life vests, gear and Mike into the raging waters. The squall stopped as quickly as it started and left the two men with only a slippery, fiberglass hull for survival.
Drifting Hope places the reader on the boat with Mike and Anthony as the eight-day journey takes them from confidence in certain rescue to the kind of utter hopelessness that invites the ocean depths to swallow their misery. The harrowing ordeal proved to be the ultimate test of faith, strength and mental fortitude. Every spiritual, mental and emotional capacity was pushed to the breaking point. Both men endured near-death experiences; one to a place filled with light and warmth, the other to a place of darkness and pain.
Days after search parties had been called off, a Texas cargo ship spotted the pair and radioed Coast Guard Sector Miami. It was Helicopter Rescue Swimmer, Kyle Stallings’ first rescue in which the victims were dehydrated to the point of death. Stallings dropped from the MH-65 rescue chopper and swam toward the men for a situation and medical assessment. He pinched their skin as a test for dehydration. Hydrated skin returns to its natural state almost instantly, Mike and Anthony still had lumps where Stallings pinched them after the twenty-minute ride to Delray Medical Center. He believes they had only hours to live without rescue.
Mere acquaintances prior to the fateful trip, now Mike and Anthony talk each day. They relive the time spent adrift in open water in a way only the two of them can understand. They compare the healing progress of deep wounds, lingering feelings of constant motion and the inability to sleep through the night. They talk about second chances, what they will do now with the new life they’ve been given and what they will not do.
For more information call Sarah Horton at 405-513-1267.