Two stranded boaters in Gulf survive Tropical Storm Debby

5:22 PM, Jun 29, 2012   |    comments
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Coast Guard welcomes the rescued men back on dry land (US Coast Guard)
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Two Florida men say they're lucky to be alive after being stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for a week when their boat sank.

With Tropical Storm Debby moving through the area during that time, their families were even preparing for the worst.

"It was terrifying," said one of the survivors, Vance Bryan.

As Debby caused historic flooding, took out trees, and damaged property, Bryan and Gerald Chessher were out in the Gulf the entire time hanging onto a small raft.

"We had limited supplies.  Small packets of water.  We had maybe three days of drinking water left," Bryan said.

The boaters left Captiva Island on June 18. They were scheduled to arrive in Cancun, Mexico five days later, but they never made it.

good Samaritan spotted them Thursday night about 90 miles northwest of Tarpon Springs.

"The seas overpowered us.  Within a couple of days we were in 20 to 30 foot seas.  It stormed for three or four days and we were zipped up and couldn't look out," Bryan described.

"I was more concerned with my family and loved ones and about their feelings than myself," Chessher said.

The boaters say it was actually after the storm passed and the sun came out that they started to get desperate.

"It got so hot that the reality of our situation had become clear.  We knew we had two or three days left," Bryan said.

The Coast Guard says it searched for the pair for five days, using multiple boats and planes, covering 22,000 square miles.

Officers say the weather made the search extremely difficult.

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