ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (WSVN) — A 25-year-old man shared his experience of being lost at sea for more than a day after a violent wave swept his small boat away.
Charlie Gregory, who was fishing off the coast of St. Augustine, recounted the terrifying moments and the remarkable water rescue that ultimately saved his life.
“I knew I was going to die; it was a matter of when,” said Charlie in an exclusive interview with Inside Edition.
Charlie embarked on his fishing trip at 3 a.m. on a routine outing.
“I went out to the same spot I always go fish, just right inside of the jetties,” Charlie explained, describing the initial moments of his ordeal.
After he anchored his aluminum boat and cast his line into the water, an enormous wave struck, capsizing his boat and ripping it away from the anchor. Charlie said he lost his life jacket as the low tide receded and pushed him out to the ocean.
“After the first time that the boat flipped, I flipped the boat over, I got in it, it was full of water but I was able to crank the motor and run it for a moment, and it just died out because it was flooded,” he said. “I remember just looking at the land and physically noticing how fast the land is moving away from me.”
Other boaters passed by but Charlie went unnoticed.
“Oh, I was just screaming at the top of my lungs, and nobody ever saw me,” he recalled.
Despite his best efforts to stay afloat, Charlie found himself clinging to his partially submerged dinghy in the scorching sun. He suffered from sunburn and endured jellyfish stings, even encountering sharks that approached his distressed boat.
Back on shore, Charlie’s parents, Deborah and Raymond Gregory, grew increasingly concerned as the hours passed with no sign of their son’s return.
“Around 4 o’clock, I called the Coast Guard,” Deborah said.
A massive search operation was launched, but as night fell, Charlie remained lost at sea, and despair set in for his parents.
“I was trying to reconcile the fact that I might never see my kid again,” Raymond expressed.
Deborah added, “I knew in my heart we were the parents of a deceased child.”
However, in a miraculous turn of events, the Coast Guard’s rescue efforts paid off when a chopper spotted Charlie.
“After watching the plane do about 30 or 40 laps back and forth, they all of a sudden make a half-loop and come straight back towards me,” Charlie recounted. “It was just the craziest moment, and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is it. I don’t have to die out here.'”
After more than 30 hours of clinging to his dinghy, Charlie was finally rescued and brought ashore. His parents, who had been anxiously waiting, embraced their son. He was then transported to a local hospital, where he received treatment for dehydration and sun poisoning.
“I went from my child is not on this earth anymore to — he’s coming back to us,” Deborah Gregory said, expressing her immense relief.
Reflecting on his ordeal, Charlie said if I had to do this all over again, he would start with a bigger boat and put on my life jacket before setting off from shore.
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