Charles Gregory left early on Friday morning for a fishing expedition off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida, something he frequently did.
But more quickly than he anticipated, the tide rose. He was then thrown into the lake by a wave that struck his flat-bottomed, lightweight 12-foot jon boat.
He was swiftly carried out to sea despite managing to board the ship again. According to his father, Raymond Gregory, the 25-year-old “struggled to stay alive” for over two days while clinging to the partially submerged boat in the scorching Florida sun, suffering jellyfish stings and spying sharks.
“He was scared to death,” Raymond said. “He said he’s had more conversations with God in that 30 hours than he’s had his whole life.”
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After an aircrew discovered Charles about 12 miles offshore, boat workers were able to rescue him from the Atlantic Ocean, according to a news release from the US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s video of the daring rescue showed Charles sitting in the swamped boat with its bow submerged in the water before rescuers could get to him.
Around 4 a.m. ET on Friday, everything began. The Coast Guard said that Charles was last seen leaving the Lighthouse Park Boat Ramp in the Jon boat.
Charles struggled to hold on to the boat and maintain his life while exposed to the sun as the tide carried him out to sea, according to his father. Charles made frantic attempts to keep the boat afloat throughout the course of nearly two days, even taking the motor out of the boat. In a desperate attempt to get assistance, his father recounted, the boy removed his swim trunks and waved at passing boats and planes.
But the worst part was the night.
“At night being sunburnt, and the wind would be blowing, he said it was freezing cold out there in that water,” Raymond said.
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Charles is currently relaxing at home. He has rhabdomyolysis, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be made worse by dehydration and results in the breakdown of injured muscle and the release of muscle cell contents into the bloodstream.
He finds it difficult to move and get out of bed because of the severe sunburn, bruises, and bites, but his father expects him to be well.
Raymond expressed his gratitude to the community, search teams, and himself for his son’s safe recovery and expressed his joy at his return.
“At the end of the day, the whole moral of the story is ‘don’t ever give up,’” he said.
Gregory was rescued and met emergency services near the Vilano Beach Fishing Pier, according to the Coast Guard.
“While this case resulted in rescuing Charles from a life-threatening situation, it highlights the importance of having safety gear onboard and being prepared for the worst,” Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Commander Nick Barrow said.
“If you plan to head out on the water, remember to have a life jacket, VHF marine grade radio, signalling devices and an emergency personal locator beacon to contact first responders in case you are in need of assistance,” he said.