Boater ‘thankful to be alive’ after 3 days stranded at sea

One of two men whose dinghy washed ashore in Boca Raton after being stranded at sea for several days said he's thankful to be alive.

Michael Ayers told WPBF 25 News he and a 19-year-old man left from Key Largo to Bimini, Bahamas, in a 41-foot boat Saturday. A few hours into their trip, the boat hit some debris and started taking on water, Ayers said.

"You just make do and you keep pushing on," Ayers said. "Because if you don't, you're going to die."

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Ayers said they grabbed some provisions, got into a dinghy and tried to signal for help.

"The most depressing part of it was when I made it to the shipping channel and tried repeatedly to signal ships in the shipping channel with flares," Ayers said.

In one instance, a flare bounced off one of the ships Ayers was trying to signal, he said. Eventually, Ayers and his mate had no choice but to start rowing.

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"The conditions were very windy and very tall seas — in some cases, maybe 15-foot waves," Ayers said.

After spending three days rowing with only the stars to use for navigation, the stranded boaters eventually spotted Miami, but the wind shifted and pushed them farther north, Ayers said.

"We were going so fast by everything we couldn't even row to the coast anymore," Ayers said. "So as quickly as we'd row, we would just find another target and another target, and we went by all these cities to no avail. Boca saved us."

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Exhausted, wind-burned and dehydrated, the boaters finally made it to shore Tuesday morning.

"I'm thanking God, and I'm thanking my lucky stars," Ayers said.

The two men rowed about 70 nautical miles in three days. Ayers and the men were being treated for dehydration at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. They could be released from the hospital as early as Tuesday.

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