Lost at Sea
A family relies on faith and prayer to bring loved ones home in this heroic tale of survival.
KEISA: I was looking at dresses when my cell went off. “God Bless the Broken Road,” Rex’s ringtone. I pulled it out of my purse, but there was no message. “That’s odd,” I said. “Rex just tried to call me.” I checked the time. 11 a.m.
“Don’t worry about it,” Paula said. “I’m sure they’re having a ball out there.”
REX: The waves pushed us farther out to sea. We strained to keep them from flipping the cooler. I looked back. I could barely see the boat. “We’re going to end up in the middle of the ocean with this current,” I said to Rodney. I tied a length of rope around my waist and then to the cooler. “Everyone kick,” I said. “I’m going to tow us back to the boat.”
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I turned and reached my arm into the water, pulling with all my strength. A wave swept over me, pushing me backward. I can’t give up, I thought. The guys are depending on me. I paddled harder, stretching as far as I could with each stroke. But it was like I was swimming in place. My chest and leg muscles ached, my heart pounded. Ever so slowly the boat drew closer. I pulled up about 50 feet away. In the distance I saw a tanker. This could be it!
“Look over there,” I said, pointing to the ship. “Rodney, swim with me to our boat. If we can get up high enough maybe they’ll see us.”
We untied ourselves from the cooler, swam to the bow and climbed to the top. Hanging on with my right arm, I waved my left arm frantically. But it was no use. No one saw us. We lowered ourselves back into the water. I cut the anchor loose so I could tie the rope to the cooler to keep us from drifting away. Something hit my leg…hard. “Sharks!” Rodney said. “They smell the bait.”
KEISA: The dishes had long been cleared away. Spaghetti—not the nice dinner Rex had promised me. It wasn’t like him to blow off a date. They should have been back by now. It was 10 p.m., more than two hours after dark. My mind kept going back to that call. What if there’d been a problem?
Mom, Paula and I lingered at the table. I had my cell phone open, pretending to play a game while I looked up the number for the Coast Guard.
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I went to a bedroom to make the call. “Coast Guard,” a voice on the other end answered. “Lt. Rhodes speaking.”
“My husband was out deep-sea fishing with my brothers and dad. They’re overdue,” I said. “I’m worried they might have engine trouble or something.”
“Let me check the log,” he said calmly. “Let’s see…Mayday call about ten this morning. Says there was interference. We didn’t get any details. We sent out a chopper and didn’t see anything. We’ll get back out there and I’ll stay in touch.”
I tried to tell myself that they’d be all right, stranded somewhere on the boat. At least they had enough food in that cooler to feed an army. I didn’t say anything to the others yet.
REX: The sharks were out there somewhere, waiting. But I had a more pressing concern. I couldn’t stop shivering. I could feel Tyler next to me shaking as well. Hypothermia coming on. It was all I could do to hold on to the cooler, my body exhausted. I opened the cooler lid and pulled out a Dr Pepper, took a sip and handed the bottle to Tyler. “We’ve got to stay hydrated,” I said.
We’d been out here for 12 hours. “The Coast Guard’s looking for us by now,” I said to reassure the guys. “The girls would have called when we didn’t come in.” But would there be enough time? Would I ever hold Keisa again? God, tell me this isn’t how it’s going to end, I prayed.