Richard Bee just had a U.S. Thanksgiving weekend that he’ll never forget, after spending two nights with his arms wrapped around the bow of his capsized boat on the Atlantic Ocean.
Soaking wet, tired and hungry, the 62-year-old clambered up onto the deck of the cargo ship Angeles on Sunday morning, in a happy ending to a harrowing experience at sea.
Bee and his 9.7-metre (32-foot) Sea Ray boat, called the Stingray, had set out from Port Canaveral in Florida on Friday. He never came home and was reported missing on Saturday, touching off a major search and rescue operation by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
A mechanical issue left Bee stranded on the boat at sea late Friday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class David Micaleff told USA Today.
Micaleff says Bee went to sleep on the boat that night, but he woke up just after midnight when he noticed the ship was taking on water.
Bee managed to avoid being sucked under as the boat sank beneath the waves. Instead, he scrambled to the tip of the ship where he held on for dear life.
The Coast Guard used boats and a C-130 Hercules aircraft to search for Bee, then put out a wide-ranging call to ocean traffic in the area where he was lost.
That wide-ranging call proved to be a life-saver, as the cargo ship Angeles spotted Bee around 11 a.m. on Sunday, about 138 kilometres from shore.
Bee used his shirt to flag the ship down.
Photos captured by the Angeles crew show Bee hanging onto the very tip of his boat, which had sunk almost entirely beneath the waves. No more than a metre of the ship remained above the water, but Bee managed to hang onto it anyway.
The Angeles crew brought Bee onboard, fed him and gave him a new set of clothes. Then they helped him settle in for a few days, as he will remain on-board until the ship docks in Florida on Tuesday.
“It’s an amazing story. We’re just very thankful for the motor vessel Angeles and their entire crew for keeping a sharp lookout,” Micallef said.
“And we’re just very thankful, especially during this holiday season, that we can bring this man home to his family.”
The U.S. Coast Guard celebrated the rescue in a statement on Sunday.
“This is a truly incredible outcome that demonstrates the bond among all mariners and our community,” said Capt. Mark Vlaun, commanding officer for the Jacksonville sector in Florida.
“Thank you to our mission partners that launch into action and to all who got the word out to find and rescue Mr. Bee.”