"No negative thoughts, he told himself. Stay positive. Stay strong."
January 2, 2014 1:15 PM   Subscribe

A Speck in the Sea []: John Aldridge fell overboard in the middle of the night, 40 miles from shore, and the Coast Guard was looking in the wrong place.
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

These boots were made for floating ...

Truly an amazing story. Not just the boots* but his constant assessment, reassessment, and adjusting of what he was doing based on where he was, what he had in his pockets, and what was likely going on.

Yes, other people saved him, but he did, too.

*My boots never saved my life, but they made a freak snowstorm during a destination wedding easier to handle so I wasn't cooped up in side pregnant and cranky for three unplanned extra days. No one snickers when I pack my 0o boots anymore ...
posted by tilde at 1:23 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]

Small things: shoes, a knife, a piece of rope, a bottle, etc. There's always that little thing that finds a way to save your life in stories like this. Amazing.
posted by Fizz at 1:26 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

Every time I read stories like this, I think, fuck yeah, taxes! So glad he made it (and no, I'm not discounting the fact that his actions played a large role in ensuring his own survival - I'm in awe of his ability to think on his feet as well).
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:33 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]

Gah, I just came here to post's is a very well-written story that touches on culture, fishing, being lost in general as well as lost at sea. Great read.

And yes! Fuck yeah taxes!
posted by nevercalm at 1:38 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of Touching the Void
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]

Stay tuned for the major motion picture. There is so much going on here besides the survival tale. Friendship, identity, community, earning one's place, family, childhood, nature, politics, military, technology.
posted by bleep at 1:47 PM on January 2 [7 favorites]

This is how to tell a story. Almost faultless.
posted by Devonian at 2:21 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

Stay tuned for the major motion picture

A Perfect Storm: Part II
posted by KokuRyu at 2:24 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

There's always that little thing that finds a way to save your life in stories like this.

Except when there isn't, but not surviving doesn't make a very good story.
posted by walrus at 2:31 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]

Sure it does. Into The Wild is still incredibly popular.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:43 PM on January 2

And A Perfect Storm.
posted by nicwolff at 2:49 PM on January 2

This is my second worst nightmare next to being stuck in orbit around Jupiter.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 2:51 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]

This is my second worst nightmare next to being stuck in orbit around Jupiter.

posted by Fizz at 2:55 PM on January 2

Lotta old sailors never bothered to learn how to swim. Boats are a pretty safe place to be all in all, but go over and the chances go way down. Wearing a life-vest you have a chance, no flotation, unless it's clear and calm and someone is looking right at you, bye.

Lot's of folks have a safety line shackled to the boat at all times outside offshore. I can't find the link just now be last summer a veteran on an amazingly safety equipped sailboat was washed over board from a freak wave in the second between stepping out of the cabin and hooking in. Hmm, making myself nervous now, I've stood at the bow on a calm night under sail, no one for miles and miles. Amazed I've not met Davey Jones.
posted by sammyo at 2:56 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

I want a pair of those boots.
posted by sammyo at 3:00 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

That's a hell of a story. Anyone have a link to the boots?
posted by professor plum with a rope at 3:11 PM on January 2

..and don't leave shore without your PLB ($250 personal EPIRB)
posted by sammyo at 4:20 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

In Navy boot camp many years ago, we were instructed to use boots as John did, along with 5" shell casings et al. and our pants. The pants would be taken off, knots tied in the legs then grasping the waistline swung over your head forming two connected sausages filled with air. Periodic splashes keep the material wet and air proof. Another technique was to hold your collar so that your submerged mouth could blow bubbles that would be caught by the back of your shirt making an air sausage over you shoulders. All of these were practiced in the pool and were used by many sailors forced into the sea..
posted by shnarg at 5:54 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]

Sure it does. Into The Wild is still incredibly popular.

And A Perfect Storm.

A well-plotted tragedy can make a good story. "He fell off the boat and drowned", not so much.
posted by walrus at 6:33 PM on January 2

Excellent story.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:28 PM on January 2

Wow. That's some incredibly good thinking on his part. A hell of a story.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:40 PM on January 2

Poon Lim, 133 days adrift in the South Atlantic on an 8 ft. square wooden raft, 1942-43: "At first, he counted the days by tying knots in a rope, but later decided that there was no point in counting the days and simply began counting full moons."
posted by cenoxo at 8:36 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]

I'm really glad Aldridge did not die, but it's hard for me not to feel angry that it was his own selfish actions that nearly killed him and caused his fellows and family incalculable grief.

He doesn't wake his shipmates at 11:30 pm as scheduled. He attempts to move a 200-pound cooler by himself when protocol dictated that at that point in the routine at least one of the others be awake. He did not have a GPS location device on his person. Etc. etc.

The guy is a menace to himself and he's lucky to be alive. I feel sorry for his poor father and hope his father will not one day have to learn that his son's foolhardiness finally did him in.

And when Tough writes
“I always felt like I was conditioning myself for that situation,” [Aldridge] told me one day in September while we were sitting in the Dock. “So once you’re in it, it’s like: All right, I can do that. I did it. I had that sense of accomplishment. I mean, thank God I was saved, yes. Thank God they saved me. There’s no better entity than the U.S. Coast Guard to come save your ass when you’re on the water. But I felt I did my part.”
I'm thinking Aldridge has learned nothing from his near encounter with death. Too bad for those who depend on him.
posted by mistersquid at 9:04 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I couldn't help but feel mildly annoyed with the guy for being so reckless. The stupidity of what he did reaches Goofus and Gallant levels of obviousness.
posted by triceryclops at 11:24 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]

I had the same reaction. Not really angry at him, but that the article is completely letting him off the hook for a situation entirely of his own making.

By the time he fell off the boat, he'd already been awake almost 24 hours, he had two people asleep below that he was responsible for while he piloted and worked the boat in what was obviously a kind of mental fog, which was made clear by his extremely poor decision to move by himself the chest that normally took two people to move and which he then rigged to pull on the plastic handle while he had his back to completely unobstructed water.

He made bad decisions for his crewmates and he made worse decisions for himself. If he'd displayed the kind of careful and deliberate thinking he used overboard before he fell overboard, he wouldn't have fallen overboard.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:48 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

Amazing, inspiring story.

But "...what seems to go mostly unspoken in their lives is the inescapable risk of their jobs..." Inescapable, yes, but reducible, as discussed in the comments above. But any additional safety rules might lead to more discussions "about the loss of a way of life — the government regulations that make it harder to make a living as a commercial fisherman."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:13 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Doesn't sound like they need additional safety rules. He just needed to do what he said he was going to do and use common sense.
posted by bleep at 8:59 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

The stupidity of what he did reaches Goofus and Gallant levels of obviousness.

The guy's a Jonah, it'll be interesting to see if anyone will want to go out with him again.
posted by Floydd at 1:47 PM on January 3

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