Drifting to Survive
A Nine Day Ordeal Ends Safely

September 10th, 2011
by Thomas Tomczyk


The crew of the rescued boat on board CPO Sweden

The crew of the rescued boat on board CPO Sweden

Six men won a battle for their lives, after staying afloat for nine days in two life rafts in open seas. The ordeal begun on July 17, when a 37 feet Honduran registered boat, “Miss Janice” owned by Honduran Travis Welcome, departed Grand Cayman carrying merchandise for Guanaja and La Ceiba.

Five hours after leaving port the boat sank after its bilge pumps stopped working. The water quickly began to fill with water. According to Captain Tedd McClay, 31, within minutes the boat flipped over, it was 11am and the boat was heading towards Swan Islands and Guanaja.

The crew, two Hondurans and four Cayman Islanders, were able to free two life boats, but were unable to send distress signals via radio or cell phones. They were able to light six hand-held flares to signal passing vessels but were not spotted. Three gun flares on board of the life raft had misfired. “A lot of ships passed us, but didn’t see us,” said Capt. McClay.

None of the men had ever been in this type of situation. “We had to trust in the Lord and we did a lot of praying,” said Capt. McClay, who described that staying positive and motivated was the biggest challenge for the crew.
Except for a partial covering on one of the rafts, the men were exposed to the hot sun and had difficulty keeping their body temperature down. “We would swim in the water to cool ourselves,” explained Capt. McClay.

They were not able to catch any fish and finished emergency food supply rations in three days. Water lasted them for a bit longer — for five days. “We had occasionally some rain and got water like that,” said Capt. McClay. Still, according to Capt. McClay, during the last four days of their ordeal, the six crew members didn’t have any water.

On July 26, after nine days at sea, their luck finally changed. A passing by 185 meter long UK tank ship, CPO Sweden, en route to New Orleans was conducting a fire drill. The ships third officer on watch, Daniel Ionescu, saw the two life rafts from about two miles away. “I waved my white towel and they spotted us,” said Capt. McClay.

The crew were picked up and delivered to Houston where British and Honduran consulates assisted the men with receiving passports and making their way back home. On August 4, Capt. Tedd McClay was welcomed to Roatan. [/private]

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