27 July 2007
While running in at about 25 knots from fishing offshore aboard the “Fast Cast” out of Rudee Inlet, the skipper and owner, Harvey Caldwell suddenly realized his crew of five was down to four. In a flash, Harvey directed a fast search of the boat. While the crew frantically executed his orders, Harvey anticipated a captain’s worst night mare, and wasted no time transitioning into emergency rescue mode. His crewmember was not onboard, and he was going to get him back. Turns out, just a few minutes prior to this startling realization, the crew had been relaxing from a long day of fishing the Virginia Beach Invitational Marlin Tournament. While taking turns at the helm, Ken Gilbert who is no stranger to boats mentioned he would be right back, and asked another crew member to take the wheel for a minute. The crew was unaware that Ken had excused himself to the stern of the boat to relieve himself over the side while the boat was in motion, while the rest of the crew faced forward and continued their conversation. Ken explained that the boat pitched and rolled in a manner which, without warning, tossed him right into the water, head first. A perfect dive. In an instant he was all alone. A few moments later, Harvey discovered that he was missing.
Ken conveyed that he thought he was going to die as he watched the boat continue on over the horizon. As he treaded water all alone in 75 degree water, his thoughts reminisced of his children. With no plan other than the long shot of flagging another boat passing by, he hopelessly began to back stroke.
Meanwhile, his captain had already spun the boat, retracing his course, already plotting his set and drift in his mind. A few minutes later, we were elated to see a tiny speck bobbing between the waves in the distance, arms waving. When Ken saw the bow of the boat, it was the happiest moment he could recall-he was going to live. His boat had returned to save him.
As the boat approached, I could hear Ken exclaiming “I thought I was going to die.” There was also lots of agitated bantering and relieved scolding coming from the crew. We were so happy to see our guy again. The captain maneuvered the boat, and Dave and Doug wrestled an exhausted, but very lucky man into the boat. His time in the water was only about five minutes, but Ken was obviously shaken, tired, wet, and scared….but extremely relieved. He kept repeating, “I was dead.” I told him “You’re so lucky!” He looked at me with a sober expression, and replied “I know.”
Thanks to his proficient crew, and the astute observation, quick reaction and skill of his captain, Ken can now tell his shocking tale. He can describe to his children how the Captain of the “Fast Cast” saved his life that day.
Harvey is a hero.