Week at sea filled with fear, boredom, hope
Missing teens prayed for rescue or death
After one of the area's
largest air and sea searches, hope seemed lost that two teens adrift last month
SATURDAY, APRIL 23
Troy Driscoll and Josh Long sweat in the mid-day sun, patching and sanding their new sailboat. They're racing to finish the repairs so they can get the boat out for a test run today.
Josh's uncle from
They break for lunch and eat ravioli with Josh's dad. They plan later that night to drop by a friend's birthday party but hope to get the boat in the water before they go. Then another friend is on the phone. He needs help fixing his car. The boys oblige. By the time they finish, it's time for the party.
The sailboat's test run is canceled. They make plans to meet early the next morning.
SUNDAY, APRIL 24
Josh tells his mother
that he and
Josh's mom heads to a friend's house. It has a pond nearby. Why not fish there, she suggests. The day is windy. She jokes with the boys that they will drift away in that little boat. That won't happen, they tell her.
The plan is to get an
early start paddling out to a big sandbar a couple of hundred yards off
They grab tackle boxes, a cooler and six fishing poles. They pack it all into Josh's black Ford Explorer. Josh adds his two-piece wetsuit and fins. They load the boat, white with a blue hull, onto its trailer. Then they track down two kayaking paddles to power their craft. They can't find any life vests.
For shark bait, they buy a bucket of raw fish at Wal-Mart. It stinks. They don't pack any food or water for themselves. They don't plan to be out long.
It's nearly when they arrive at Sullivan's
As they are set to push
off, Josh remembers they forgot their bait in the truck. He sends
They launch on an outgoing tide. Almost immediately, a riptide seizes the boat. They paddle furiously to stay on course, but the drift is too strong. They drop anchor, but it wags behind the swift-moving boat like a spinning lure.
They'll have to swim for it. Josh won't leave the boat behind so he ties a rope around his chest and loops it to the boat.
Josh climbs back in the
boat exhausted. He asks
They watch helplessly as the shoreline shrinks in the distance. They signal frantically at vessels on the horizon and make a desperate attempt to steer for a sea buoy, but the paddles aren't made for roiling waters.
Josh lashes out when one
of his fishing poles slips into the water. He angrily flings the empty cooler
into the air. The boys stay awake scanning the night sky for a rescue plane
that they are sure is looking for them. The temperature plummets.
They slide underneath a short deck at the bow of the boat and huddle there. Everything below their waists is exposed to the biting wind and soaking wet.
At 10. p.m., Josh's
father, Eddie Long, reports the boys missing. The Coast Guard searches from
MONDAY, APRIL 25
The screech of gulls wakes them at dawn. They wipe sleep from their eyes and survey the surroundings: nothing but ocean in every direction.
For the first time,
Despite their manic
motions, a tugboat 500 yards away never alters course.
Their stomachs growl,
their last meal of corndogs and Honeycomb cereal long gone. Fear is stronger
than hunger. They stay alert for the faintest whirl of helicopter blades or
the hum of a steamship.
Boredom begins to
Their throats are dry; it's as if they've been chewing dirt. They scoop up handfuls of saltwater, gargle it and spew it back at the sea. They hope it won't kill them.
They strategize about
One of them suggests a game of I Spy. They giggle when they realize how absurd it would be to spy "something blue" out here.
The hours drag on. They
go long stretches without talking. They've known each other so long that they
have no need. Darkness draws out emotions. They cry openly with each other
and talk about how much they love and miss their families. "This is
They can't believe it's gone on this long. They thought they might endure one night but not two.
That night, they take turns wearing the wetsuit top. Josh uses his fins to bail water off the deck.
The raging sea bucks the bait and some of the gear off the boat. The boys toss what's left into the ocean.
One kayak paddles also is lost. They disconnect the remaining two-piece paddle to make two oars but see no value in paddling against swells that dwarf their boat.
The sky sprinkles rain. They look like kids catching snowflakes on their tongues as they open their mouths for rain. It's a fleeting drizzle, but the water tingles their taste buds like honey.
When it stops, they lap up puddles on the deck like stray dogs.
Tracking a signal from
TUESDAY, APRIL 26
They are alive to see another sunrise. They pray for the sight of land. The sea drowns their spirits.
Josh dreams of family.
He's glad he hugged his mom before they left.
They sing the same four
church hymns for hours. Anything to ward off the hunger that consumes them.
"We're at sea," Josh says, annoyed. Josh remembers the ravioli lunch he'd shared with his dad.
That night, it's so cold.
The Coast Guard in
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27
Morning brings hope. Maybe today is the day they're found.
But weakness envelops the
He eats just one piece.
If it does not kill him, he'll eat more tomorrow. Josh isn't that hungry.
He's too worried. But he pretends to eat so
They stare at the water,
wondering where the current is taking them.
Josh leaves his clothes
on. His hat keeps the blistering rays off his face. He notices
They cry themselves to sleep.
He may as well be whispering.
Troy sees a flash of red, the hull moving past as its wake casts the boat aside like a piece of debris. Five, maybe 10 seconds, it's over.
The search continues
along a 42-mile stretch between
THURSDAY, APRIL 28
At dawn, they give each
other gut checks, asking each other how they are. The jellyfish
A boat appears to be coming straight at them. Then it turns. They pound their fists.
Rescue workers expand the
search to the entire coast of
FRIDAY, APRIL 29
They alternate between
prayers for rescue and prayers for peaceful death. Conversation is hard
because it veers to family and then the boys break down.
Most people doubt the boys are alive. Family members refuse to give up. Rescuers vow to keep looking so that the families will have closure.
SATURDAY, APRIL 30
Both boys wake surprised to be alive. A rainbow appears. It seems out of place in this hell.
They drift in and out of sleep. There's nothing to do but wait for death and hope it comes soon.
The boat, seven miles off
They are going home.