NEW YORK -- Two sailors who drifted hundreds of miles in the Atlantic Ocean for 10 days after a storm hit their sailboat off North Carolina thanked the crew of the tanker that rescued them and said they were lucky to have survived.
Kevin Hyde and Joe DiTomasso, freshly ashore in New York City Tuesday night after their ordeal, described rolling in mountainous waves after the wind dismasted their boat, then running out of water as currents pulled them further and further into the frigid North Atlantic.
“Youse don’t know what 40-foot waves look like,” said DiTomasso, who is 76. “How high’s this building? How high’s the roof?”
The desperate sailors cut their broken mast free, allowing the boat with its weighted keel to ride the swells without being dragged over. “That boat rode so good. That boat could take it, but guess what? We couldn’t. We were beat,” said DiTomasso.
The nightmare began for the two sailors midway through a planned journey from New Jersey's Cape May to the warmth of the Florida Keys.
After departing on Nov. 27, with a pet dog, they had made it safely as North Carolina. The storm came up after they sailed from the Oregon Inlet off the Outer Banks on Dec. 3.
Hyde, 65, said the pair were “sailing along, having a good time” and nearing Cape Hatteras when the bad weather came in and began blowing them off course — and then blew the mast off their boat, the Atrevida II.
The boat also lost power and fuel. “So by that time, we were just being pushed out to sea farther and farther,” Hyde said.
The men had little food and ran out of water.
“We didn’t have water for two days,” DiTomasso said. “And I bought these beans. And the best part about the beans, they had water in them. They were soaked in water. And we’re taking sips at a time.”
The U.S. Coast Guard was notified that the sailors were overdue on Sunday and began a search that spanned the waters from northern Florida to New Jersey.
But it was the crew of the Silver Muna, a tanker headed from the Netherlands to New York, that spotted the Atrevida II some 214 miles (344 kilometers) east of Delaware on Tuesday.
Hyde, 65, said he had been running a flashing light as they drifted, hoping they might be seen by other marine traffic. “By some bizarre chance” he said, a member of the tanker’s crew spotted something and sounded the alarm. The tanker's captain launched a search.
“If you look at the size of his ship and the size of the ocean and just compare it to this toothpick that I'm floating around in — just to be able to spot that, because of the diligence of his crew,” the thankful Hyde said. “Their training paid off and they found us.”
The tanker's crew then maneuvered alongside the relatively tiny sailboat, in ocean swells, to pluck the two lost sailors from the deck and get them to safety.
They were exhausted after arriving in New York, but expected to make a full recovery.
Asked by a reporter if they would do it again, DiTomasso smiled and said “No.”
“I’m staying closer to shore because I have a boat too. And I’m staying in sight of land.”