Dania Beach, Fla. – They sat in the shade around midday Tuesday, exhausted, thirsty and relieved to be on dry land.
Three Bahamian fishermen – Simeon Thomas, 42, Orlando Strachan, 26, and Dwayne Archer, 26 – had been adrift at sea for three days until a good Samaritan spotted their dinghy more than 2 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
The men, all from Nassau, had set off on a three-week expedition aboard the 43-foot vessel, the Don Celeste, to fish for lobster and conch. They own a fishing company and regularly take extended fishing trips, Thomas said.
But this time, as the trio headed to Cat Cay from Ocean Key, they encountered trouble. The boat’s engine cut off, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Johnson, and the men decided to board the 17-foot dinghy to get repair parts. The smaller vessel started drifting.
“I was praying to reach the land,” Thomas said. “Day and night we had water coming into the boat.”
After receiving the emergency call, the Coast Guard immediately launched an air and sea search for the three fishermen Tuesday, according to Johnson.
The men were taken to the Coast Guard Station at John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach, where they were examined by medical units from Hollywood and Dania Beach. They suffered minor injuries, officials said. The men, wearing only the frayed T-shirts, shorts and sandals they had on when they embarked on the expedition, described the nights at sea as rough. Choppy seas pummeled the small vessel with water throughout the night, Archer said.
They had no food or water aboard the dinghy, Thomas said. They tried veering the boat with a sail they made from a black rubber mat and tried making a flare with WD-40 and a piece of wood, but neither worked. So they paddled using diving fins.
“We just didn’t want to drift to Cuba,” Archer said. “I’ve heard stories of what happens there.”
Thomas said they also tried flagging down about five freighters that passed their small vessel, but were not able to get anyone’s attention.