When the going gets tough and your life is on the line, you never know what small item may provide you with the hope that you need to survive.
One man from Winthrop, Massachusetts took to Imgur to share his harrowing tale of getting caught in a freak storm while kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean on a cold day in October, 2017. When Imgurian justsomeinspiration found himself struggling to paddle against the tide in the cold, dark night, he pulled out his iPhone, which had a photo of his young son as the lock screen.
In spite of his intense fear, seeing his son’s face encouraged him to hold on with everything he had until help arrived.
The man is an avid kayaker who spends a lot of time exploring the islands off the mainland where he lives. Before heading out to check out an uninhabited island he’d never visited before, he had the foresight to text his friend a map of the route he’d be taking.
The weather was beautiful when he set out in his large Intex inflatable kayak. The water was calm and there were no storms predicted on his weather app. He packed a bag with some emergency supplies and his cell phone and started paddling. Two and a half hours later, he found himself on Great Brewster Island.
After poking around inside an abandoned bunker he’d found on the island, he stepped out onto the beach to find that the weather had changed dramatically in just a few moments.
“Everything happened so fast,” he wrote on Imgur. “I went back to the kayak only to find that in a period of less than 3 minutes the wind had picked up enough to blow two of my bags into the water. They must have been short bursts because it still looked relatively fine, but I knew I wanted to get back on the water immediately… This is where it went bad.”
He started to paddle off the island, but the water was choppy and he found himself paddling as hard as he could into the wind, but couldn’t make much progress. He spent almost three hours fighting the tides; soon it was dark, he’d already capsized twice, he was soaking wet, and he was terrified. He pulled out his phone and tried to call for help.
“Calling 911 on an iPhone was next to impossible because I was drenched and the screen wouldn’t respond to anything,” he said. “I’m not one to ever panic but I realized it was bad. The waves were now at about 5 feet and undulating like crazy…I used the inside of my hat to try to dry my finger and the screen and was able to make an emergency phone call.”
The 911 operator connected him with the coast guard, who sent a boat out to find him in the dark, rough sea. He feared he would only survive another twenty minutes or so — he was facing hypothermia, exhaustion, and shock. The rescue boat was having a hard time locating the man in the water.
It was then that he focused on the photo of his son and held on to it with all his might. He had to live for his son.
“My little one’s face was the only light that saved me,” he explained. “I couldn’t even activate the light on my phone and they were about to go behind the island and all I could do was press the side of my phone for my wallpaper screen of my one year-old. While trying to even get the camera to work to try to use the flash all of the buttons were misfiring and I didn’t realize until later that I had inadvertently taken a four second clip of me frantically trying to get any light from my phone. Hearing my own terrified breathing actually brought tears to my eyes.”
“I held up the picture and right as I was bracing to be thrown over I heard their voices. It was so windy that they were keeping the light on the water but their eyes on me and next thing I knew I was inside the coast guard ship.”
Thankfully, the coast guard was able to rescue him and he emerged from the ordeal unscathed!
Share this incredible story of survival to remind everyone to hang on to what (and who) really matters when times get tough.