Miraculous Sea Rescue: 23 Hours of Survival

A man has been saved after spending 23.5 hours in the water at sea off the coast of Whangamatā, after using the reflection from his wristwatch to catch the attention of three fishermen.

The man set off on a solo fishing trip on 2 January 2024 aboard his 40-foot boat and intended to return the following day. He was near the Alderman Islands, some 30 nautical miles (55km) off the North Island., when he hooked what he suspects was a marlin, before falling overboard.

Unable to catch the idling boat as it meandered further out of reach, the man attempted to swim to one of the Alderman Islands but was dragged away by the currents.

He endured a cold night in the ocean, too exhausted to keep swimming. During his time in the water, he encountered a shark who even came to “have a sniff”, before leaving.

Incredibly, at about 2pm on Wednesday, three fishermen were on a boat near Mayor Island when they noticed an unusual reflection on the water. They decided to investigate and discovered a fellow fisherman, desperately trying to get their attention by using the reflection of the sun on his watch.

The trio plucked him from the water, immediately alerted the Police, and set course for Whangamatā Marina.

“It is an absolute miracle the fisherman is still alive after the ordeal,” the Police said.

“Without the quick actions of the three gentlemen who retrieved him, this situation certainly could have had a tragic outcome.”

The rescued man was hypothermic and exhausted when he was returned to land, where a St John ambulance crew was waiting to treat him.

In a note to the Police, the man said he wanted to go on record to thank Mike, Tyler, and James for rescuing him, along with all the emergency services involved.

It’s not known where the man’s boat has ended up. The Rescue Co-ordination Centre has been advised of the last-known direction, how much fuel was on board, and the speed at which it was going, so navigation warnings can be issued.
Boaties are asked to report any sightings of empty powered vessels.

“Few stories end the way this one did, and Police cannot thank the eagle-eyed trio enough for making the call to investigate something that looked out of the ordinary,” the Police said.

The boat may still be missing, but the fisherman still has his life, and of course, his watch.

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