An experienced boater who lost his footing and fell overboard, leaving him to tread water without a life jacket for 11 hours as his 23-foot boat motored away, has told his story.
Joseph Gross, 51, of Westerly, R.I., had been fishing July 17 and was heading from the north rip of Block Island, R.I., to Watch Hill, R.I., when he went over the side.
"I leaned off the side to catch a breeze a little bit, and when I did I caught a queer wave," Gross told the media during an interview at the hospital where he was being treated for hypothermia. "I just lost my center of gravity over the rail, and I went in just like that — no life jacket. Happened in about a half-second."
Asked by a reporter what his thoughts were at that point, Gross was blunt.
“Death,” he said, “death — what more can I tell you?”
Click play for Gross' firsthand account of the ordeal.
Gross thought he had about a 10 percent chance of survival, but figured, “I’ll give it a shot,” and formed a plan to use the tides to his advantage.
"I just treaded water with the tide and let the tide take me most of the way there. And then the tide switched, and I had to get up against the tide, and that's when things started to get real ugly," Gross told The Providence Journal.
He had one thing working in his favor: His boat was headed toward shore. When it was discovered aground on Green Hill Beach in South Kingstown, R.I., authorities began searching.
Gross was pulled from the water by Coast Guard rescuers just after 3:30 a.m. July 18 about 3 miles south of Point Judith, R.I.
“I’d have been a dead man if that boat had missed me,” Gross told CBS/Boston. “Psychologically I was crushed, physically I was already crushed,” Gross said.