Editor’s note: The crew of a Caymanian fishing vessel saved the life of a Dominican man who was found adrift in a 26 foot boat about 180 miles south-west of Grand Cayman in July. Here is the fisherman’s story of the harrowing days.
The story of the Dominican fisherman rescued 180 miles south-west of Grand Cayman may have long been forgotten, but for the lone survivor the ordeal of spending more than a month adrift at sea is a lasting memory.
Percy Evans, 29, said eating the eyes, heart, eggs and drinking the liquid from the back bones of raw fish and a determination to live was all that kept him alive. His two friends Wallie and Redboy, with whom he grew up, were not so fortunate.
They died at sea.
Captain Percy and his two friends left NewTown, Dominica on Father’s Day in June to go deep sea fishing; something they did daily to earn a living.
For the next few days the friends would find themselves drifting aimlessly on the ocean with no water or food.
With expectations to be back in NewTown harbour late evening, they took only 11 gallons of water, two pounds of sugar and about 20 small loaves of bread on their journey.
Leaving port, Capt. Percy said they talked about drinking beer and having a good time when they returned.
They began fishing immediately, but one of the boat’s two engines caught fire. He said they tried to fix it, but it was no use.
He told the others they would have to return to port. But they soon agreed they had another engine and it would be ok.
On the way back things got worse. A couple of hours later, the other engine jammed and would not start.
They assured themselves they would be all right because there was plenty of fresh fish on board and a fishing vessel would soon pass.
Left without a motor, the boat drifted aimlessly as the sea became very rough.
‘For days we waited and waited but did not see a boat. We saw a lot of tankers but because we were so small on the water they did not see us,’ said Capt. Percy.
The days passed with the three friends getting weaker and weaker.
‘We had cell phones, but the ones that were not wet the batteries had died,’ he said.
Throughout the day the friends took baths to cool their skin, which by now was covered with blisters and sores from the sun and saltwater.
Capt. Percy said he encouraged his two friends to eat the raw fish but they would not.
‘I was eating the fish every day to keep my strength up,’ he said.
To keep morale up the friends talked about what they would do when they got back home.
But the time without food and water was taking its toll. There was no rainwater and the friends were using saltwater to keep their throats moist.
‘Redboy died taking a bath at the back of the boat,’ said Capt. Percy.
‘I noticed that he was not moving, his mouth was open and his eyes were closed. I started shaking him and shouting Redboy! Redboy! But Redboy had died. So we both started crying.
‘We kept him on the boat for a couple hours to see if he was really dead, then we said a prayer and put him overboard.
‘Then there was lightening and thunder and the whole sky became very dark and the sea water got very rough.
‘When Wallie saw that Redboy had died, he said, ‘I can’t make it Percy, I am on my dying bed.”
‘At that moment I wanted to kill myself. But I said I am not going to.
‘One week after, Wallie also died taking a saltwater bath.
‘I knew he was taking a turn for the worse because he was not eating the raw fish to keep up his strength.
‘He went to the back of the boat to have a bath, when he finished I put on his pants and shirt because he was unable to do so. By the way he was looking I knew he was far gone and very weak.
‘Wallie just kept saying ‘Percy I hungry, I hungry.’ I said to him eat the fish but he refused.
‘I caught some more dolphins and offered him the eggs but he still would not eat.
‘I took a nap and when I awoke I saw him sitting up. I went over and touched him and said Wallie! Wallie! But there was no answer from my friend. Wallie had died.
‘At that time all I could think about was I am going soon.
‘I again said a prayer for my last friend. It was very hard putting him overboard. I stayed there for a very long time holding, hugging and crying before I let him go.’
After that Capt. Percy said he still refused to give up, he believed a boat would pick him up.
To keep up his strength he caught fish, gutted it and took out the eyes, heart and softer parts to eat so that he could gain strength.
He said the thought of killing himself and not seeing God’s face was too much to bear.
‘I decided if I had to die I would die on the boat, hoping somebody would pick me up one day.
‘Then out of the blue there was a boat, I began waving and calling with the little strength I had left hoping they would see me. When the boat came alongside I said there were three of us but two of my friends died.’
Capt. Percy was rescued by Captain Cawell Bush and crew of the boat Bottom Line from Grand Cayman.
‘I was weak and I told them I was hungry and they gave me rice and meat. At that time I was thinking so much about my friends and wishing they had eaten the raw fish to help them survive.
‘I remember waking up in the hospital but my mind was all confused. The only thing I could think about was my friends.’
A couple days later Capt. Percy said he was able to talk to his fiancée Annfeya Hector who shouted, ‘is it you! Is it you Percy, we had given you up for dead.’
She then contacted his father, Rupert, and his five sisters and nine brothers to let them know he was OK.
Capt. Percy stayed in Cayman with another Dominican friend until the Immigration Department could sort out papers so he could make the journey back home.
Capt. Percy said when he returned to his homeland he would leave fishing alone and concentrate more on his family and working on the land.