Andrew Wilson is one very lucky - and one very determined - boater. The recreational angler from Tweed Heads, Australia, recently survived a 5-mile, six-hour-plus swim to shore after a wave knocked him out of his boat, according to press reports.
When he finally dragged himself ashore, Wilson was tired, thirsty and suffering from assorted cuts and jellyfish stings, but otherwise OK. He was fishing alone and had the misfortune of falling out of his boat with the engine running and in gear. He watched it slowly motor away, according to reports. Significantly, Wilson was not wearing a life jacket.
Click play to watch a TV interview with Wilson after his ordeal. Mobile users can click here.
Young and fit, the 25-year-old was determined to make it to shore, despite having to swim against a current. "I wasn't going to stop," he told an interviewer. "Adrenaline and just sheer determination."
Though unusual, Wilson's story is not unique. During the last several years, I have interviewed two men who fell out of moving boats without life jackets and lived to tell their stories. Both men underwent grueling ordeals and, at various times, had resigned themselves to the idea that they weren't going to make it.
And after being rescued both vowed that they would wear a PFD at all times.
Don't think you need a life jacket? Ask yourself how long you think you can tread water.
The longest I can recall anyone staying afloat without a PFD was a Polish mariner who fell off a container ship in 2004 and treaded water for nearly 24 hours. The incident took place in the Bahamas, where the water temperature was about 74 degrees.
The waterlogged seaman was eventually spotted by a group of novice high school sailors aboard a 69-foot sloop that was part of a school's educational program. Talk about a needle in a haystack.
The skipper of the sailboat said the survivor, who did not speak English, was wearing just a wedding band, having shed his clothes to make it easier to stay afloat. "He had to have enormous fortitude," the skipper told us. "It's a credit to his mental state."
In terms of survival time, consider him an outlier. As a rule, if your boat swamps or capsizes, stay with it. Get as much of your body out of the water as possible to slow hypothermia. Remember, cold water removes body heat about 25 times faster than air. And even capsized, a boat makes a larger target for rescue forces than a person in the water.
And wear your PFD.