Solo boater survives spill overboard

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JULY 14 — A Florida man spent 24 hours in the Atlantic without a PFD Tuesday after a wave — and his dog — knocked him overboard his boat in rough seas.

Brian Wallschlaeger, who is 34 and of New Smyrna Beach, was about 10 miles offshore between the Ponce de Leon Inlet and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station when he went to the stern of his sportfishing boat to get a drink, news reports say. A wave struck the boat at about 11 a.m. and Wallschlaeger’s black Labrador retriever slid across the deck and into the back of his legs. The impact and the pitching of the boat sent Wallschlaeger, who reportedly has two artificial hips, over the side. Seas were said to be at 4 to 5 feet.

Wallschlaeger was able to hold onto the swim platform of his 32-foot Albamarle, Reel Deal, for some time but lost his grip when he tried to wave at passing boaters, reports say. He drifted from the boat and decided to swim to shore. He reached land 24 hours later at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County. Suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and hypothermia, Wallschlaeger was transported to a medical center in Melbourne, Fla., aboard a Coast Guard HH-60 helicopter.

Authorities found Reel Deal grounded about two miles away from the air force station with its engine still running, according to reports. The dog was also found on board but was dead. Authorities did not immediately know the cause of the dog’s death.

— Jason Fell