MIAMI — A woman who fell from her sailboat at night without a life preserver treaded water for 2 1/2 hours in choppy Atlantic Ocean waters before a cruise ship rescued her, her husband said Monday.
Rachael Pope, her husband, Robert, their two children and three friends were on the Popes' 37-foot sailboat Saturday night when they encountered the 1,000-foot supertanker Chevron South America bearing down on them about 60 miles northeast of Miami, Pope said.
"Those tankers are so huge you can't see the lights on top," Pope said. "We heard it before we saw it. And then it was right on top of us."
Rocked by Wake
Pope was able to avoid hitting the tanker, but the ship's powerful wake rocked the smaller boat and threw Mrs. Pope overboard, he said.
When Mrs. Pope surfaced, she was unable to either see the sailboat or hear desperate calls, Pope said.
"She thought everyone went overboard and she was the only one who had survived," he said. "She told me she feared there would be no one left to look for her."
An immediate rescue call went out to four cruise ships near the site of the accident, and one ship spotted Mrs. Pope and picked her up.
"They were lucky it happened when it did," said Coast Guard spokesman Mike Farkas. "Saturday night is when the cruise ships leave (from Miami). If this had happened any other night, there wouldn't have been so many ships in the area."
Remains of Ship
Mrs. Pope, a flight attendant with Pan American World Airways, suffered no injuries from her ordeal, her husband said. She has remained on the cruise ship, the Caribe 1, and will fly back to Miami today after the ship reaches its first port of call in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Pope said.
"The odds of falling in the wake of a supertanker and surviving have to be close to zero," he said. "And the odds of being found in the open ocean at night have to be even less."