ST. VINCENT: – The captain of the Vincentian fishing boat that drifted for 11 days before he and his two crewmembers were rescued in Puerto Rico said he drank his urine, ate corned fish and made several failed attempts to reach land.
He was speaking Tuesday night at a ceremony organised to welcome him and Amron Thomas-Simonette, 22, and Walter “Colonel” Lynch, 41, back to St. Vincent.
“…As the captain, I drank my urine most of the days and the corned fish I had, I ate a little corned fish, dipped it in the sea water,” Mark Denny, 47, said at the E.T. Joshua Airport.
The three men reached Puerto Rico last Friday after their boat ran out of fuel on the way back to port on Fisherman’s Day, May 24, prompting a regional search and rescue operation.
Denny thanked crew, saying that he understood why they were frustrated from time to time.
“My crew, who at some times were disobeying, because they couldn’t see land, I understand how they were feeling. Because it is not easy; it is not easy to hear ‘Pull (row), land is there! Pull, land is there!’ and you can’t see it. It is like pulling in the wilderness,” he said.
“They had the faith to hang on; no food, no water, and the struggle wasn’t easy,” he added.
He said he was surprised when he was told that the island they had reached was the northern Caribbean, Spanish-speaking nation of Puerto Rico. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“When I reached ashore, the first thing I asked the man was, ‘Where are we?’. The man said, ‘Puerto Rico’. I said, ‘Puerto Rico, as in Puerto Rico?’” Denny said.
He had believed that they had arrived in Carriacou or Grenada, to the south of St. Vincent.
“Because, the long beach I saw on that side, I went to Grenada, and I thought it was Grand Anse,” he said.
Denny said he asked the man to contact the Puerto Rican authorities so he could inform them that they had come ashore there because of distress.
“I wanted to make sure that the police knew we were there because of distress and nothing illegal,” he said.
Denny also telephoned his son and asked him to inform Vincentian authorities that he and his crew were safe in Puerto Rico.
“To see what we sailed on, as Vincentians, if you saw us sail … home, you might have felt that it was Columbus coming back to St. Vincent,” Dennie said to chuckles.
He said they had to improvise, using pieces of rags to make a sail.
“We had to cut pieces and do this and do that, just to make it happen,” he said.
“This is why I am very interested in getting that boat back to St. Vincent so I can show the Vincentian public what we sailed on,” he added.
Denny said it was very important that fisherfolk equip their vessels with proper sails, flares, life jackets, and radios.
“It is something that I keep pushing in the Fisheries Department. If we have a fisheries industry and they are not looking at the fishermen, we are going to go down; we are going to lose people at sea time after time. Because, the waters, as old people say, sea water has no back door.”
He was thankful to God, Vincentians and the people of Puerto Rico for their prayers and hospitality.
“Although we were treated well by some people, it is not easy to be away from home; because there is no place like home. And, to be in another man’s country without money and having to depend on somebody else, you have to have a God-sent to look after you.”
He further said that it did not matter that some of the equipment in his boat went missing after they got to Puerto Rico.
“What I need most is to get my boat back to St. Vincent… I will be grateful to have the boat back home to continue my fishing,’ he said. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
Denny further said fishing was his only source of income, having lost his job at the Port Authority.
“I depend on the sea water for my living,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in welcoming the men back to St. Vincent, said that without their faith, solidarity and belief in God and themselves, they would not have survived the ordeal.
He described the men as “heroes” and said that they were an example that regardless of the circumstances one should never give up.
“If we in this in this S.S. [ship of state] St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this motor vessel St. Vincent and Grenadines, have that same spirit of solidarity and discipline and faith and optimism we can work wonders just as you survived and thrive,” he said to the three fishermen.
“We are very proud of you. I refer to the three of you as heroes at sea because that’s what you are,” Gonsalves added.