Six Days Lost at Sea
05/16/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
On Sunday morning, April 24, Troy Driscoll, 15, and his best friend, Josh Long, 17, both high school students from North Charleston, S.C., paddled out from Sullivans Island near their home for a day of fishing in a 15-ft. boat. Had they listened to the radio, they would have heard that bad weather was approaching.
We wanted to put the boat between the beach and a sand bar, but we weren't out 20 minutes when the riptide pulled us out. We tried to put the anchor down, but it wouldn't catch. We just drifted farther and farther away. Hours went by. We tried to wave people down, but nobody saw us. The last thing I saw was the towers on shore that lead cargo ships in. By dark we couldn't see a thing. The next morning there was no land in sight. All we could do was pray.
By 10 p.m., when the boys—who left Josh's cell phone in his truck at a dock and had no radio or emergency equipment—hadn't returned, their frantic parents called the Coast Guard.
Eddie Long, Josh's father.
It was the hardest night of my life, walking that beach, knowing that my son and Troy were out there somewhere. It was cold, and the waves picked up.
We were soaking wet, clinging to each other, trying to keep warm. We'd doze off, but the waves kept crashing into the boat, washing over us, so we couldn't ever get to sleep.
During the day it got so hot, we took a couple of dips to cool off. But then the sharks came around, and we didn't go in the water anymore.
Far from shore, the water turns clear, like blue Gatorade. Troy begged me, "Please, let me drink just a little." I said, "If you drink it, you'll die." Then one day it began to drizzle. I had my mouth wide open to catch drops, but it didn't rain hard enough. I started licking the water from the deck.
Josh woke up screaming that we were at the store and had to buy some Mountain Dew. I was like, "Bro, we're out in the middle of the water, and there's no Mountain Dew." I was so hungry I ate a jellyfish and waited overnight to see if it would kill me. It didn't. They're slimy, gushy things, but I ate about 100 of them.
Troy was so hungry he wanted to cut off a finger and eat it. At one point, he said, "Please, help me get out of here or kill me." I said, "I can't do that."
The Coast Guard searched the ocean using boats, helicopters, airplanes and the help of recreational boaters. But at sunset on Tuesday, April 26, after 2½ days had passed with no sign of the boys, the rescue mission became a recovery operation.
They told us that in a week to 10 days, the bodies would become gaseous and rise to the surface. I went out on the bridge with binoculars, but I didn't go out on a boat. If there was a body, I didn't want to remember my son that way.
By Saturday, April 30, seven days after they set out, the boys were drifting seven miles off Cape Fear and 111 miles from where they had launched.
Something about Saturday morning was different. When the sun came up, it was a beautiful color. I saw a rainbow off to the left, and there were dolphins playing all around the boat.
Later that day two fishermen spotted something distant in the water.
Ben Degutis, 70
At first, I didn't know what it was. As we got closer, I could see people waving, and holy mackerel, it was two young guys in this tiny boat. One was yelling, "Thank God!"
I was outside and heard a commotion. They gave me the phone, and Josh said, "I miss you, Daddy."
Tony Driscoll, Troy's dad.
When I finally saw Troy, it was like him being born all over again. The joy in my heart was that huge.
During their ordeal Long lost 30 lbs. and Driscoll was hospitalized for three days for second-degree burns on his face and feet.
I'll go out again fishing, for sure—in a boat with two motors.
While we were out there we dreamed about the biggest sundae you could imagine—the ultimate sundae. Troy and I are going to meet at an ice cream place and have that sundae.
Lori Rozsa in Miami