Man Missing Since July Found at Sea
By Bruce Smith
Associated Press Writer
Friday, October 4, 2002; 10:25 PM
CHARLESTON, S.C. As a series of storms ravaged his boat, a Florida sailor missing at sea for more than two months tried to keep his vessel seaworthy with tape and dental floss, a Coast Guard spokesman said Friday.
Terry Watson of Homosassa Springs, Fla., was rescued from the demasted sailboat Thursday evening off the South Carolina coast, delusional and suffering from dehydration and shock, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Carr.
After debriefing Watson, officials said they still did not know many details of his ordeal, such as when his boat became disabled. "I don't think he really knows," Carr said.
"I died a month ago," Watson told The Post and Courier of Charleston after he was assisted off a rescue boat late Thursday in Georgetown, about 60 miles up the coast from Charleston.
Watson spent Thursday night at Georgetown Hospital and was transported Friday to the Medical University of South Carolina for a psychiatric evaluation, Carr said. It was unclear how long the evaluation would take, he added.
The Coast Guard initially thought Watson, 43, must have stopped somewhere after he was seen July 21 near Miami because a disabled boat normally would drift farther north than South Carolina in two months.
But after interviewing Watson, Coast Guard officials now believe Watson was at sea the whole time, Carr said. They eventually will be able to map the boat's path with its global positioning unit, he added.
Watson told officers he was en route to Denmark via Bermuda on his 23-foot sailboat when he ran into bad weather. He apparently turned south, but found more storms when he tried to head north again, Carr said.
His mainsail ripped and "at some point he was able to fix his sail adding some sail tape and using dental floss to try to sew it up," but the repair was only temporary, Carr said.
By the end of the ordeal, Watson had run out of food and water and used his broken mast to build a shelter. He still had a radio, but because a storm tore away his solar panel, he kept the radio off to save battery power for when he might be able to contact another ship, Carr said.
Watson told officials he encountered a commercial ship during his journey, and that he declined the crew's offer of food and water, Carr said. He added that it was unclear whether Watson's boat was in distress at the time.
After Watson was reported missing, the Coast Guard searched 8,000 square miles off Florida and contacted marinas and bridge tenders. The search was called off after two days, the Coast Guard said.
A charter fishing boat found Watson and his battered boat on Thursday, southeast of Little River Inlet near the North Carolina state line. A Coast Guard vessel brought him to Georgetown, where his boat was towed.
He arrived at the Coast Guard station wearing a life vest, a thermal underwear shirt, tattered pants and hiking boots.
"I just need some food. I'll be all right," Watson said upon his arrival. "I wouldn't mind having some chocolate pudding."
Last month, another sailor was found after drifting in the Pacific for three months. Richard Van Pham, 62, left Long Beach, Calif., for an island 25 miles offshore but was found off Costa Rica 2,500 miles away.
© 2002 The Associated Press