FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida couple is sharing their survival story after their dream voyage in the Caribbean Sea took an unexpected turn, leaving them stranded at sea for nearly a month and sailing into one problem after another.

Sven Karrlson is a seasoned captain who has been sailing his whole life. Back in December, he decided to take his girlfriend, Marty Widrick, on her first sailing trip, from Fort Lauderdale to St. Barts.

Karrlson showed 7News their initial trajectory on a digital map display.

“We started here in Fort Lauderdale, and we went down here, and here is the second night. We are here, we hit the storm right here,” he said. “All of a sudden, the wind is really picking up, so I said, ‘We’d better take in some sails.”

When the front sail jammed, they were in 35 to 40-foot waves.

“I just suddenly had the thought, ‘If he goes overboard, not only is he going to die, I’m going to die,'” said Widrick.

The couple waited for better weather, but with a jammed and now shredded sail, they decided to head to Cuba.

Then Cuban officials showed up.

“They said, ‘No, you have to leave,’ so they said, ‘Follow us,’ and almost right away, they led us to a spot, they ran us aground,” said Widrick.

The couple said they lost all their instrumentation soon after.

“We’re coming to a line, and [I said], ‘I cannot see the boat anymore,'” said Karrlson. “I don’t know what happened.”

After three days, the couple said, they were finally able to get out of Cuba, just using the wind, and that’s when they decided to head toward Haiti, sailing around the clock.

When that didn’t work, they decided to just head back to Fort Lauderdale. By this time, they had been stranded at sea several weeks.

The U.S. Coast Guard was already searching for them when they landed in Matthew Town, Bahamas.

“Well, immigration and customs came and said, ‘You have to leave. You haven’t had the COVID test,” said Widrick.

No sails, no fuel, no radio and no COVID test. They were running short on supplies.

Then their engine stopped working.

But the couple said the worst was just beyond the horizon.

“Then, all of a sudden, a waterspout hit the boat,” said Widrick.

“This is at 1 o’clock in the morning,” said Karrlson.

“Hit the boat. Next thing you know, we are going [around in circles],” said Widrick.

“It’s 100-miles-an-hour winds plus,” said Karrlson.

“Next thing I know, I hear this noise, and I look over my shoulder, and there is a wave right at the corner of the boat, so high, I can’t even see the top of it,” said Widrick, “and I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die right here!'”

Karrlson, cool, calm and collected, was able to steer them to safety.

Twenty-eight days later, the couple arrived back to Fort Lauderdale.

The couple said their next sailing adventure will take them to Europe

“I figure, now I’ve been through just about everything, so I think anything is easier at this point,” said Widrick.

The couple made sure to point out they still love each other, even after 28 days out at sea in close quarters.

Copyright 2024 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox