Fernando Llano / AP
MANZANILLO, Mexico — An Australian sailor who was rescued by a Mexican tuna boat after floating at sea with his dog for three months says he is grateful to be alive after stepping foot on land for the first time since their ordeal began.
Timothy Lindsay Shaddock, 54, disembarked in the Mexican city of Manzanillo after being checked aboard the boat rescued by Maria Delia.
“I feel fine. I feel much better than I’ve been,” Shaddock, smiling, bearded and thin, told reporters on the dock in the port city 210 miles (337 kilometers) west of Mexico City.
“To the captain and the fishing company that saved my life, I’m so grateful. I’m alive and I really don’t think I would,” Shaddock said, adding that he and his “amazing” dog Bella are doing just fine.
Shaddock has described himself as a quiet person who likes to be alone in the ocean. When asked why he set off in April from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to cross the Pacific Ocean into French Polynesia, he was at first confused.
“I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but I really enjoy sailing and I love the people of the sea,” he said. “It is the people of the sea who make us all come together. The ocean is within us. We are the ocean.”
Sydney man’s catamaran set sail from La Paz, Mexico but was crippled by bad weather weeks into the voyage. He said the last time he saw land was in early May when he sailed out of the Sea of Cortez for the Pacific Ocean. There was a full moon.
He was well insured, Shaddock said, but a storm destroyed his electronics and his ability to cook. He and Bella survived on raw fish.
He said, “There were many, many bad days and many good days.”
“The energy, the fatigue is the hardest part,” he said. He took the time to fix things and stayed positive by going into the water to “just enjoy being in the water”.
Shaddock said that when a tuna boat helicopter spotted Shaddock’s raft about 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) from land, it was the first sign of humans he had seen in three months. He said the pilot threw him a drink and then flew away, returning later on a speedboat from María D’Elia.
Grupomar, which operates the fishing fleet, did not specify when the rescue took place. But it said in a statement that Shaddock and his dog were in a “precarious” condition when they were found, lacking provisions and shelter, and that the tuna boat’s crew provided them with medical attention, food and water.
Shaddock said the tuna boat became his turf and Bella was an instant hit with the crew. He also explained how he and the dog met.
Fernando Llano / AP
He said, “Bella found me in central Mexico. She’s Mexican.” “She’s a downtown soul and she wouldn’t let me go. I tried to find her a home three times and she kept following me on the water. She’s braver than me, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps for this reason, Bella didn’t leave the boat until Shaddock got away on Tuesday. He had already chosen Gennaro Rosales, a crew member from Mazatlan, to adopt her on the condition that he take care of the dog.
Shaddock said he will be back in Australia soon and that he is looking forward to seeing his family.
There have been other stories of ocean survival, but not all of them end happily.
In 2016, a Colombian fisherman was rescued after spending two months in the Pacific Ocean. Three of his colleagues died. He was rescued by a merchant ship more than 2,000 miles (3,220 km) southeast of Hawaii. He and the others were fishing off the Colombian coast when their boat’s engine failed, leaving them adrift.
In 2014, a Salvadoran fisherman washed ashore on the tiny Pacific atoll of Ebon in the Marshall Islands after being drifted at sea for 13 months. Jose Salvador Alvarenga left Mexico for a day hunting sharks in December 2012. He said he escaped with fish, birds and turtles before his boat washed ashore 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) away.
In other cases, the boats are found, but with no survivors or are lost altogether.
More than 20,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Antonio Suarez, the president of Grupomar, said on Tuesday that this could be the last voyage for Maria Delia because he is modernizing the company’s fleet and the boat is the youngest and is more than 50 years old.
If so, Suarez said, it will be “a wonderful farewell, one that saves human lives.”
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