(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) — Two men spent more than a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, surviving on a small raft and rations after their barge sank during Tropical Storm Debby.
Gerald Chessher, 57, and Vance Bryan, 48, were moving cargo on a barge from Captiva Island in Florida to Cancun when they got caught in the storm.
“The rain was so tremendous. It was like a zillion marbles,” Chessher said in an exclusive interview on Good Morning America.
As waves crashed against their boat, it became clear the duo had a problem.
“We’ve lost power,our filters are clogged,our engines are running at less than half throttle and we had to abandon our load and find help because we are headed for the center of the Gulf of Mexico,” Bryan said.
The men evacuated to a raft,where they would spend the next nine days being “tossed around like rag dolls” while the U.S. Coast Guard searched for them.
When rescuers found their capsized barge, they feared the worst. Chessher’s mother began to plan her son’s funeral.
Meanwhile,the men fought to survive in the blistering heat. They rationed their water – just ten ounces a day – and ate fish they caught from the sea.
“We were dazed. We were extremely rattled. We had lost our whole flotilla, almost our lives, we were in a storm that wasn’t supposed to be there,” Bryan said.
On Thursday, the men were spotted by a Good Samaritan on a passing boat, which notified the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Our time was up. Thank god for those guys. They come through,” Bryan said. “They did save our lives.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tom LoBianco, CNN
Polo Sandoval, Melissa Gray and Holly Yan, CNN
Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN