Lost at sea for nearly a week, Josh Long and Troy Driscoll huddled together at night for warmth while sharing a wet suit they found in their boat. One wore the top, the other wore the bottom.
They spent their days searching the horizon for help, praying and singing hymns, and Driscoll, 15, resorted to eating raw jellyfish, which made him nauseous. They tried to sleep during the day, when the seas were calmer. At night, the boys were buffeted by 8-foot waves.
“It was the first time I got mad at God in my life,” Driscoll recalled Monday. “I asked ’Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”’
Then they saw a fishing boat on the horizon late Saturday. They were later rescued off the North Carolina coast, more than 100 miles from where they set out off South Carolina to fish.
Long, 17, left the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital late Monday. He had lost nearly 40 pounds. Driscoll, who suffered second-degree burns on his face and feet, was expected to remain two or three more days.
“I can honestly say I never gave up hope,” Long said from his hospital bed Monday. “God had us in his hands the whole time.”
‘Caught in a rip tide’
The boys had set out to fish for shark near a sandbar a couple of dozen yards off Sullivans Island in their small sailboat on April 24. Forecasters that day were warning boaters about rough conditions.
“We didn’t plan on going way out — we got caught in a rip tide,” Long said. “We knew we were in trouble.”
The current and blustery conditions soon pushed their tiny craft offshore. They lost their bait and later threw their fishing rods overboard, feeling there was no use for them.
Long gargled with saltwater to keep his throat from getting dry while Driscoll ate jellyfish, something his friend wouldn’t try.
“I saw them in the water and ate two little strings off of one and the next day I was fine,” Driscoll said. “It was nasty and the aftertaste made me nauseous.”
The Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources searched off the coast for several days but, toward the end of the week, officials started referring to the search as a recovery operation.
“From all the conditions, they were telling us there was very little to no hope they would find the boys alive,” said Josh’s father, Eddie Long. “We never stopped believing. We always held out there was going to be a miracle.”
‘Never gave up hope’
Driscoll’s father, Tony, was first to get a call from the Coast Guard that the boys were all right.
“I screamed at the top of my lungs that they’ve got our boys,” he recalled. “We never gave up hope. That’s the bottom line. God had his angels around those boys the whole time.”
In Driscoll’s hospital room was a red balloon with the word “Survivor.” On the door was a poster signed by family and friends. “Welcome Home,” said one message. “We are so happy you are safe,” said another.
The boys said the ordeal won’t keep them from the ocean.
“I’ll probably go out, but not anytime soon,” Troy Driscoll said.
And it will be in a boat, Long added, “with a motor — or two motors.”