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Boaters swim for their lives

JULY 31 ? Two New Zealand anglers survived 90 minutes swimming to shore in cold water on July 22 after their 21-foot wooden boat quickly sank in Tauranga Harbour.

“After swimming about halfway … everything started to burn — my lungs and my muscles. I couldn’t feel my legs,” Brendon Thomas, 22, told the Bay of Plenty Times newspaper.

Thomas’ fishing partner, Andrew Crisp, 36, tried to retrieve his cell phone as the boat filled with water, but nearly drowned when he was momentarily trapped beneath a canopy. The boat had no VHF radio aboard.

“It all happened so quickly — we had just seconds to get our boots off and she was gone,” Thomas told the newspaper.

In New Zealand, winter begins in June and summer in December. Water temperature was around 59 degrees F at the time of the sinking.

Thomas says he gave his friend his life jacket and used an oil can for flotation as they swam for shore. Thomas reached shore first and found a house. The homeowners brought the men inside and let them take hot showers and gave them dry clothes.

Thomas suspects the boat hit a log, which punched a hole in the hull. With some help, the men returned to the scene in a neighbor’s boat and managed to raise their submerged boat and tow it to shore.