After 17 hours spent clinging to the hull of their capsized boat, Cory Bowman and Justyn Bradley knew their ordeal was finally nearing its end.
A U.S. Coast Guard C-130 had just flown overhead and was making another pass. They had wisely avoided the beer in their cooler all night, to stay alert and hydrated, but the presence of the Coast Guard aircraft in the morning sky was cause for celebration.Here's their story
. . . the pair had set out from the Jupiter Inlet area on Bradley's 21-foot Parker to fish for some mahi-mahi. The was cut short around 4 p.m. when a 12-foot rogue wave came at them, capsizing the boat and tossing Bowman, 38, of Tequesta, and Bradley, 37, of Jupiter, into the ocean.
"It pitched my buddy Justyn 30 feet out of the boat, it literally just catapulted him," said Bowman, adding that he grew up in Florida and has spent a lot of time on the water. "This thing was just, I've never seen one that sharp, that tall. It was ridiculous."
After Bowman swam under the boat to retrieve two life jackets and their cooler, which they tied up and held on to, their long night began.
When night began to fall, Bowman said, gaffer dolphins started swimming around them, about 15 to 20 of them over several hours. The stars and moon shone light down on the water, and the phytoplankton glowed like lightning bugs. To Bowman, it sounded like his noise machine at home — just constant waves. There was conversation, but also bouts of silence.At one point, Bowman noted their predicament.
"I told Justyn, I said, 'we're in trouble, dude, we're in serious trouble, dude,' " he said.
Bowman said waves washed him off the boat at least a half dozen times. The entire night, he lay on his stomach on the hull. He didn't sleep at all, and the night went by surprisingly fast, he said.
"Honestly, neither one of us ever panicked at all," Bowman said. "I really, truly believed I was going to get found. I didn't break down really until I got on land, saw my family, my wife."
Bradley's wife, Beth, on Monday described both men as seaworthy and said she alternated between calm and panic.
"I knew that if anybody was going to survive [out there], it was going to be those two," she said. "But the thought crosses your mind, what if they don't come home?"
ItAs for her husband, Beth Bradley said he was too tired and too shaken up to discuss the incident on Monday.
“I told Justyn, ‘This is the biggest one of the day, hang on.’”
The wave came crashing down on top of, and to side of the boat, and flipped it within seconds, Bowman said. He said Bradley, who was standing in the back on the port side was catapulted from the boat about 30 feet. Bowman, who was standing on the starboard side, recalled hitting the water and going straight down
“I went down and I popped up and the boat is capsized,” he said. “It’s about 4 o’clock (in the afternoon) and not one boat around and I knew we were in trouble.”
Bowman clamored to get on top of the overturned boat, while Bradley clung to a large fishing lure box. Bradley made his way to a cooler that was filled with bottles of water and then made his way to the top of the boat, Bowman said.
“I didn’t know if the boat was going to stay afloat,” Bowman said. “I was assuming the worst. You have to. We got all situated on there and (there were) no boats, no nothing, no anybody. “
Bowman swam underneath the boat to retrieve two life vests and rain jacket. He grabbed a tool box and searched for flares, but had to settle for a whistle, some drawstrings and zip ties instead.
Their cell phones were lost and radio communications disabled.
Bowman said he knew that his wife, Laurie, would contact the Coast Guard when she realized the men had not checked in and were out of contact.