An Australian sailor who was stranded for months off the coast of Mexico with his dog Bella is finally back on dry land after being rescued by fishers.
Tim Shaddock, 51, of Sydney was attempting to sail from the Mexican city of La Paz to French Polynesia, about 6,000 kilometres away, when his boat was damaged.
A few weeks after he set sail with his dog, Shaddock encountered a storm that damaged his catamaran’s electronics and communication systems, leaving him stranded in the Pacific Ocean. The sailor initially began his voyage in April and he wasn’t found until July 12.
Shaddock and Bella were eventually rescued when a helicopter doing surveillance for a tuna trawler caught sight of the wayward vessel.
A doctor who helped treat Shaddock told Australia’s 9News the 51-year-old is “stable and very well” and has “normal vital signs.” Bella is also looking safe and well following the ordeal, the outlet notes.
Shaddock was able to survive in part because he had fishing gear with him on the boat. He caught fish, which he then had to eat raw, and collected rainwater during storms to keep himself hydrated. He also fended off sun exposure and heat stroke by sheltering under the boat’s canopy.
“I have been through a very difficult ordeal at sea,” Shaddock said in a video obtained by 9News. “I’m just needing rest and good food because I have been alone at sea a long time. Otherwise I’m in very good health.”
In the video, the sailor sports a long beard and bushy eyebrows and appears quite lean.
Ocean survival expert and University of Portsmouth professor Mike Tipton told 9News it takes a “combination of luck and skill,” to survive that long at sea. And he believes that Bella the dog may have played a large role in helping the pair survive.
“I think that may have well made the difference,” Tipton said. “You’re living very much from day to day and you have to have a very positive mental attitude in order to get through this kind of ordeal and not give up.”
Tipton described Shaddock’s rescue as akin to finding a “needle in a haystack.”
“People need to appreciate how small the boat is and how vast the Pacific is. The chances of someone being found are pretty slim,” he said.