Four Caymanians and two Hondurans who were stranded in the Caribbean for nine days aboard a life raft spent the past weekend stranded somewhere else.
The men, who left Cayman on 17 July on what could be described as a merchant-marine trip, spent Friday afternoon through press time Monday sitting aboard the oil tanker that rescued them in the Caribbean. The tanker, the CPO Sweden, was awaiting available dock space in the New Orleans, Louisiana harbour since late Friday afternoon.
It looks like the six men will have to wait a bit longer before they can come home.
US Coast Guard officials in New Orleans confirmed Friday the tanker carrying six rescued boaters from Cayman made it safely into the south-western pass near the city with the men on board.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Marcel Rousseau said large tanker craft, like the CPO Sweden can take a while to get through to the dock and will sometimes have to wait for available mooring space.
“Once the boat does make it to dock, they will transfer those people off the ship and take them to the airport,” Lt. Rousseau said.
There will be rooms available for the men to stay in at the airport. They will be processed through US Customs and Border Protection at that time. Mr. Rousseau said contact would then have to be made with their respective countries’ consulates to get the appropriate documentation to send the men home.
The CPO Sweden oil tanker rescued the six men on 26 July in the waters near Belize.
The 37-foot fishing boat the men were on, ‘Miss Janice’, sank on 17 July about five hours after leaving Grand Cayman. The men survived by inflating a life raft and drinking rainwater over the course of several days.
“We give God the credit,” boat captain Travis Welcome said from a satellite phone on board the oil tanker last week. “He helped us.”
Mr. Welcome and his crew, including Caymanians Ernest Rankine, Elvis Welcome, and Chad Ebanks, and Hondurans Ted Woods and Michael Garcia were heading to Roatan with an overloaded 37-foot craft sinking beneath them. Mr. Welcome admitted the boat was overloaded when the weather turned foul and the boat began taking on waves.
Mr. Welcome said two huge waves swamped the boat and it went down “in seconds”.
The 37-foot craft eventually capsized, but the crew was able to take an emergency lifeboat and raft, as well as a small amount of food and water supplies from the sinking vessel. Mr. Welcome said they attempted to tie up to the Miss Janice, but had to cut loose when the vessel completely sank.
They had gone adrift for two days without water when it started to rain. The men collected some water in a two-litre container, Mr. Welcome said, and rationed it until Tuesday morning came. “We made a promise to God, to fast from 6am to noon [on Tuesday, 26 July],” Mr. Welcome said. “We were praying.”
Mr. Welcome said there were several ships that passed by during their days adrift that simply couldn’t see the men. He said they were working signs and using emergency mirrors to try and signal the craft with no luck – until the 26th.
“[On Tuesday] we sat the tanker,” he said. “We thought they were going to pass, but then the ship slowed down and started to turn.”
Janice Welcome, Travis’s wife and the person for whom the boat was named, said she also had been praying for her husband’s rescue.
“I knew in my heart he was alive,” Mrs. Welcome said. “This has been a nightmare.”