Plastic Crate Keeps Fisherman Afloat and Alive in the Ocean for 26 Hours

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Joel Brady-Power / Daily Sitka Sentinel / AP

In this photo taken by a Good Samaritan vessel owner Joel Brady-Power, a U.S. Coast Guard swimmer reaches fisherman Ryan Harris in a 4-foot-square fish bin in the ocean near Sitka, Alaska, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

Who ever thought the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” could save lives? That and a 4-by-4 foot plastic fish bin helped keep 19-year-old Ryan Harris of Sitka, Alaska alive in the waters off Alaska for 26 hours, until the U.S. Coast Guard rescued him.

Harris and his friend, Stonie “Mac” Huffman, also of Sitka, were fishing for Coho salmon roughly two miles offshore in a 28-foot aluminum boat on Friday, according to the Daily Sitka Sentinel. The boat’s hydraulics failed, and although the two were able to fix the problem, while heading back to shore a large wave flipped the boat, spilling the fishermen into the ocean without life vests and before they could send out a call for help.

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Harris and Huffman climbed onto the overturned hull of the boat and, although they had lost the radio and the two survival suits their boat had carried, managed to wrangle a couple of the plastic fishing crates they had brought.

Harris got into one of the totes while Huffman stabilized it, but Huffman had to settle for a lid. When waves separated the two, neither knew the other’s fate.

At one point, Harris lost balance in his crate and was dumped back into the water, hitting his head on the side in the process. But he was able to get back in and stabilize himself, singing “Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to stay awake. He told the Sitka paper, “I never thought I was going to die, but I was worried about Mac. I’m glad to be here.”

Mac, it turns out, was even luckier. He happened upon one of the survival suits floating in the ocean and managed to wrestle himself into it. He spent the night afloat in the suit and washed up on the shore about 25 miles northwest of Sitka, where he was rescued in little more than an hour.

Harris, meanwhile, was still afloat in his plastic crate. “I gave myself a pep talk,” he told the Sitka paper. He kept repeating for four hours: “I’m Ryan Hunter Harris and I’m not going to die here.”

By the time Harris was found, he had spent about 26 hours afloat in the ocean. Both men suffered only minor injuries, even if Harris may never want to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” ever again.

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