Home, at last! Fishermen drifting at sea for days rescued and returned home
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Sunday Gleaner Writer
"I'll be home for Christmas." That was the mantra of two Jamaican fishermen while they drifted at sea for days without any idea of how they would get back to friends and family in St Thomas.
But, yesterday, they were indeed back home just in time to spend Christmas with their families and friends, many of whom believed they had died at sea.
Flocked by these families and friends as they arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport yesterday afternoon, 54-year-old Everton Gregory and his 58-year-old colleague, John Sobah were overjoyed.
"I just want to go kill mi goat and eat him right now. It was rough, but it's good to be back with my family," said Sobah.
Gregory couldn't stop smiling as he told The Sunday Gleaner how happy he was to be home.
"A pure niceness. I'm looking forward to the Christmas. Feeling so good right now; happy to be back," said Gregory.
Patricia Williamson, a good friend of Gregory, said the entire community of Lyssons in St Thomas was looking forward to his arrival.
"The whole community was under stress and dem waiting on him right now; can't wait to go give him his nice beef soup," said Williamson.
The two men had embarked on a one-day trip to sea which became an almost month-long ordeal.
The two fishermen from the Food For The Poor fishing village in Lyssons left for sea on November 24 in a 28-foot fishing boat, with their tackle and just enough food and water for a few days.
When the time came to head back, the boat's motor failed.
After a day, when the men did not return and efforts to contact them by radio failed, Food For The Poor sent out a search team that included a chartered plane and scanned the waters near Jamaica.
When days turned into weeks and efforts by the search party failed to find them, family and friends started to fear they were forever lost at sea.
The boat drifted for more than 20 days and more than 500 miles with the two men reporting that they survived by eating dried fish and sipping melted ice from their cooler.
Felt like giving up
Gregory explained that he felt like giving up at times; however, he remained strong.
"Mi did feel like give up at the last part because it did get really rough, but we just dry the fish dem and eat dem and keep strong," said Gregory.
"The sea was so rough; I don't eat for eight days; I thought I was going to die. I really don't know how I manage, but mi just glad mi reach," said Sobah.
Before they were finally rescued by the crew of a Colombian naval ship off the island of Quitasueño near San Andrés - one of the Colombian islands in the Caribbean Sea - they went six days without water.
The two Jamaicans were taken to San Andrés where they received food and medical treatment.
The matter was reported to the Jamaican Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, where the paperwork was processed for the fishermen to return to Jamaica.
The fishing boat was towed to Providencia, which is one of several islands in Colombia's chain of Caribbean islands.
Last week, Food For The Poor completed plans for the men to be flown back home via Panama.
Asked if they would go back to sea, Sobah responded with a resounding "NO!"
"I don't see myself going back at all, I give all my things to some of my other friends. The experience was terrible; this is it," he said.
Gregory, however, said he will not be giving up the sea because it is his livelihood.
""No man, mi caa give up man; is my job. A so mi eat. Just have to hope for the best next time," declared Gregory.