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Two men on a life raft

Two men on a pleasure cruise off the coast of Spain’s Balearic Islands found themselves fighting for their lives for three days after their 44-foot yacht sank, according to

British sailor Jayesh Patel, 43, says his escape from his yacht, Umbalika, along with a Belgian crewman (who was not identified) was nothing short of miraculous. They were en route from Majorca to the port of Tarragona on Spanish mainland Nov. 12 when they hit heavy weather that tossed them out of the vessel.

“It was a very, very frightening experience,” Patel says in the report. “There were 40-50 mph winds, waves of two to three meters [six to nine feet]. We had no food. The boat went down so fast — in a matter of minutes. We didn’t have any time to grab anything.”

Patel, who has a commercial captain’s license, says they made a mayday call shortly before they were thrown when he saw the water was about to fill up the cabin, but the call didn’t go through. Patel and the other crewmember managed to clamber back aboard to grab a life raft, but didn’t have time to find flares, food, water or extra clothes. It didn’t help they were in the water for almost 20 minutes when the life raft refused to inflate at first.

Over the next three nights, the men tried to hail down a helicopter, use a pair of sneakers for oars, and steer toward a nearby island, but the prevailing winds were taking them farther and farther out to sea, according to the report. Their lucky break came in the form of a loved one. Patel’s wife Louise contacted the authorities Nov. 13 after she didn’t hear from her husband, stating the trip should have only taken 22 hours. An air and sea search was launched and the duo was found Nov. 15 floating 4.5 miles from the island of Sa Dragonera, off the West Coast of Majorca.

When the Spanish rescue vessel pulled alongside, Patel could hardly move his legs, but dragged himself onto the bridge so he could call his family, according to the report. The Maritime Rescue Centre in Palma, Majorca says it was good Patel’s wife knew so much about the trip and where he was going.

There have been no reports on what became of Umbalika or whether Patel will attempt to salvage her.

— Elizabeth Ellis