Boater Stranded at Sea Was Convinced ‘I’m Going to Die’ — Then a Sweet Seal Helped Save His Life
When urchin diver Scott Thompson went tumbling overboard into the ocean while his boat was still in gear, he thought he was about to meet his demise—until a friendly seal showed up and “encouraged” him to swim for his life.
Last month, Scott went out to the Santa Barbara Channel to surf. Before leaving, he called his wife to let her know that he would be camping on his 22’ Anderson boat, Miss Grace, for the night.
At around 3:30 p.m., Scott headed to sea but decided to turn around and head home when he hit a windy gap.
About halfway on his return journey, he throttled back and called a friend, who offered to meet him at the harbor and help him with his boat. He hung up to take a bathroom break but forgot to do one very important thing.
“I was taught by the best urchin divers in the business about safety, but for whatever reason, I was careless, and did not take the boat out of gear,” he wrote in a post on the blog Sour Milk.
A big wave slapped the side of the boat, and as it started rocking and rolling, Scott stepped on something and lost his balance. He saw the rope of his davit and tried to grab it to catch himself, but he missed and hit the water.
Scott, an expert diver and an experienced swimmer, attempted to swim after Miss Grace, which was getting further and further away. But about a minute in, he realized he wouldn’t be able to catch it.
Once Scott realized his ordeal, panic set in. He was around seven to eight miles from shore, and worse, he was only wearing a t-shirt and pair of shorts.
“I was treading water and all I was thinking was, ‘Great! I’m gonna die!’” he recalled.
But Scott got it together and looked around, thinking of his next move. There was no vessel in sight, and swimming to the beach wasn’t an option because it was too far. So, he settled on going toward Platform Gail. Luckily, the current was headed toward it.
While he swam, Scott kept thinking about his family and friends to motivate himself whenever a negative thought came. Despite feeling “very lonely and isolated,” he knew he had to make it for his loved ones.
Suddenly, Scott heard a big splash. He wasn’t even thinking about the many Great White sharks that live in the area at that point, but when he heard that sound, he thought he was about to encounter one.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a shark but a little seal that popped its head out of the water right next to him.
“I had never been so overwhelmed with joy to see another living creature in my life! I was like, ‘Oh my God! There is something out here with me that is alive,’” Scott recalled.
Instantly, that seal became his best friend. The mammal would disappear underwater and pop back up again, looking at him. Scott would talk to the creature, which helped take his mind off his terrifying situation.
Twice, when he stopped swimming and started to tread water to get his bearings, the seal went underwater and nudged the back of his legs and butt, as though it was telling him to just keep going.
The seal eventually went under and disappeared. By this time, Scott was probably four hours at sea. He was getting tired, and it was pitch black because there was no moon that night.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he started to see a light. The sound of a diesel engine rang, and Scott realized that he was about 500 feet from the oil platform. Getting another shot of adrenaline, he swam as hard as he could to the closest tower, which was covered with barnacles and giant mussels.
Finally, he found a ladder that led to a metal grate platform and a set of stairs. He reached the ladder, climbed up, and kept walking until he found a room with a light inside. There, he found a man sitting behind a computer.
He started banging on the glass, and when the guy opened the door, Scott explained that he had fallen off his boat and was hypothermic.
Another man came, and they called a medic to thaw him out and get the medical attention he needed. Scott was taken to the hospital, where an IV was put in his arm. He felt extremely nauseous from all the saltwater he had swallowed.
The following day, a doctor came in to say that Scott’s tests had all checked out and that he could go home whenever he was ready. Luckily, he walked away with only “cuts, slices, and bruises.”
As for his boat, people from TowBoatU.S. worked all night to get Miss Grace off the beach. It suffered minimal damage and required repairs.
Scott is currently home with his family, “sore, exhausted, humbled and grateful…and just so happy to be alive.”
A family friend created a GoFundMe to help repair Miss Grace, which Scott says is his sanctuary and livelihood.
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