There are countless stories where life jackets have proven to be a life-saving investment, but for 51-year-old Michael Watkins, it was a cooler that saved his life. The Texas angler had planned on a pleasant fishing trip with a friend in Galveston Bay last Monday, but rough waters instead caused his boat to capsize. The stormy weather had caught Watkins and Raymond Jacik by surprise, throwing both men into the water and in separate directions. Not knowing whether Jacik was alive or dead, Watkins clung to a floating cooler and paddled his way towards the only other thing that he could hold onto: an oil rig. According to the US Coast Guard, both men were found on Wednesday and rescued after having already endured hours of being adrift on the water.
“After last night, I had a long talk with God,” Jacik told Click2Houston. “You get out there, the middle of the night, holding onto a pipe that feels like it’s full of nails, or razor blades, and don’t know how long you’re going to be bear-hugging that thing.”
From his hospital bed, Jacik recalled that a rogue wave struck the ship and caused it to capsize so quickly, there was no time to grab the life jackets.
“Me and Mike grabbed the cooler and said on three, jump in. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was just trying to help us,” Jacik told CNN.
Inside was little more than a sandwich and some water, which the two men shared before the waves eventually pulled them apart. Watkins stayed with the cooler while Jacik ended up half a mile away on a different oil platform. Both men were later rescued by Coast Guard helicopters. Miraculously, they were perfectly healthy except for being somewhat dehydrated and a little sunburnt.
You can watch a video of the rescue below:
“We never gave up on these two gentlemen, and bringing them home safe to their families is what Coast Guardsmen live to do,” said Capt. Brian Penoyer, the commander of Sector Houston-Galveston, in a press release.
“Especially as the boating season starts, it’s important to remember you may not have time to put on your life jacket in an emergency,” Penoyer continued. “We were all very lucky this accident happened where it did and they could climb up on a nearby platform. Check that your life jackets are serviceable, and wear them — it could mean the difference in surviving.”
After all, coolers are not the most reliable flotation devices.
Image courtesy US Coast Guard