Lillian Ruth Simpson admits there were times when she thought she was going die. The 49-year-old former drug and alcohol counselor from Alaska was camping on the Hawaiian island of Maui when she capsized in a canoe a mile from shore Oct. 18, spending 19 hours in the water, according to an ABC News report.
Simpson was rowing out to a pair of yachts anchored off her campground to invite the owners to a fundraising event she had coordinated when she capsized in a glass-bottom canoe she borrowed from the campground. Winds were gusting to around 29 mph, according to a report in the Maui News.
Simpson tried calling out to boats to no avail. After spending six hours trying to right the submerged canoe, she decided to swim ashore. As darkness fell and the temperature dropped, she tied her tank top to her head to keep warm and tied a “buoy bag” — an inflated sack designed to keep a capsized canoe afloat — to the tank top, slipping it around her neck to stay afloat, according to ABC News. With one arm around the buoy bag and swimming with the other, Simpson headed toward land in 5-foot swells, spelling out her three children’s names — Danny, Bobby and Alisa — with each stroke.
“Growing up in Alaska, we know that 90 percent of your heat comes out of your head,” Simpson told The Maui News. “There were times I thought, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. I would say, ‘No, I have three kids, and you’re not taking me anywhere.’ ”
Salvation came around 7:30 the next morning, when Joseph Carvalho, captain of the sportfishing boat Strike Zone, spotted her, according ABC News. Crewmember Dana Klingman swam out and brought her back to the boat.
“She was definitely happy, real weak, real thirsty, real hungry,” Carvalho told ABC News. “Everybody got lucky. We were in the right place at the right time.”
Simpson was treated for dehydration at the MauiMemorialMedicalCenter emergency room, according to The Maui News. She is grateful to the Strike Zone crew and has vowed never to go out on the water alone again.
— Elizabeth Ellis