The adventure of a lifetime for four friends sailing to Polynesia became even more unbelievable when a whale struck their boat —turning their trip into a rescue mission.
“My initial thought was what the f--- was that?” Rick Rodriguez, owner of the ship, said on TODAY.
Rodriguez and three of his friends were enjoying pizza just over a week ago on his sailboat, Raindancer, when something hit the vessel so hard it ruptured the propeller. It shattered the fiberglass around the boat and sent it sinking into the ocean within minutes.
"The whole boat shook," Rodriguez said. "It sounded like something broke and we immediately looked to the side and we saw a really big whale bleeding."
The jolt sent the four friends into survival mode, leading Rodriguez to quickly fire off mayday calls to authorities before they all hopped into an inflatable life raft.
"It was just like, such a surreal moment," said Alana Litz, one of Rodriguez's friends aboard the Raindancer. "And even when the boat was going down, I felt like it was just a scene out of a movie."
Once aboard the life raft, Rodriguez sent text messages to his brother in Miami and a friend who was sailing in the area, Tommy Joyce.
"Tommy this is no joke, we hit a whale and the ship went down," Rodriguez texted his friend. "We are in the life raft. We need help ASAP."
Joyce said he began posting in boat watch Facebook groups, and that someone in the group knew of a vessel sailing in the area.
"I think (we were) about 60 miles, 65 miles away when we realized that we were the closest boat," Geoff Stone, captain of the ship Rolling Stones, said on TODAY.
Stone was able to pinpoint the stranded sailors' location, and started heading in their direction.
"We saw them so far out and then we realized we were still like an hour-and-a-half away from them," Alex Stone, a sailor on the Rolling Stones, said. "But for that hour-and-a-half we were really, really excited."
About nine hours after the Raindancer sank, the four sailors were scooped up into the Rolling Stones. But for Bianca Brateanu, one of the friends aboard the Raindancer, there was never any doubt they wouldn't survive.
"This experience made me realize how capable we are, and how skilled we are to manage and cope with situations like this," Brateanu said.
While the friends are without their passports and all of their clothes, they said they feel lucky to be alive and to have been rescued.
Still, Rodriguez mourned the loss of his ship in an Instagram post.
"I’ll remember that boat for the rest of my life," he said. "What’s left of my home, the pictures on the wall, belongings, pizza in the oven, cameras, journals, all of it, will forever be preserved by the sea."
Rodriguez added he had a "temporary mistrust in the ocean," but that he was thankful the Raindancer left him and his crew "with one last incredible story."
"I'm not sure what my next move will be. But my attraction to the sea hasn’t been shaken," he said.