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Boater survives long ordeal in dark Gulf waters

July 10, 2014
by CRAIG GARRETT ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

An inflatable lifejacket and the will to survive are credited with a man surviving a July 9 ordeal miles into Florida's Gulf waters.

Peter Whiting told police that he slipped or was thrown Wednesday from his twin-engine runabout into the Gulf some seven miles west of Sanibel. Whiting said one moment he was in the boat, the next moment in the water, his Boston Whaler zooming off into the evening dusk at about 40 miles per hour. He was alone at about 7 p.m. The boat later ran out of fuel and was recovered floating off the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach. The boat is valued at more than $200,000, Whiting told emergency crews. He was not connected to a fuel shutoff switch, he said, which is common for many offshore boaters and anglers.

"If I learned anything from this," said Whiting, 56, "it's use an engine cutoff lanyard."

In the water, his boat racing off and with few options, Whiting said he inflated his lifejacket, kicked off his shoes, and started swimming for shore. He at first swam towards the lights of Fort Myers Beach. He used any number of swim strokes to stay afloat in his ordeal, which later calculated at nearly nine hours. Whiting at one point shifted direction, picking out festive lights in Sanibel that turned out to be a Gulf Drive resort. He waded ashore exhausted at about 4:20 a.m. Thursday. Whiting said an inner strength in the immense and intensely lonely Gulf pushed him through the dark waters.

Whiting, who lives in a private neighborhood in the Punta Rassa Cove area, was still recovering at home on Thursday. His boat was unscathed. He didn't require medical attention, stressing that law enforcement and rescue crews were more than helpful and understanding of his ordeal.

"They all did a great job, and I really appreciate it," he said.



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